Chapter 8, Invitations

Once the waters had receded from the underground complex, the Doctor, Rose, and Donna climbed back down into the corridor, looking for the TARDIS.

"It's not gonna be flooded out or anythin', right?" asked Donna as they approached the ship.

The Doctor patted the frame affectionately as he opened the doors. "The TARDIS? Naw, she'll be alright," he said, ushering the ladies in ahead of him. "So, where to?" he asked Donna, as she and Rose took their seats.

"Home," Donna said with a sigh, then gave him the address.

--

They exited the ship, the Doctor pleased to note that the TARDIS had materialized in just the right location, across the street from Donna's parents' house. "There we go. Told you she'd be all right. She can survive anything," he annouced proudly.

"More than I've done," muttered Donna.

The Doctor scanned her with the sonic screwdriver, gauging the effects of the Huon energy. "Nope!" he told her happily. "All the Huon particles have gone. No damage; you're fine."

"Yeah, but apart from that," she said, "I missed my weddin', lost my job, and became a widow on the same day. Sort of."

"I couldn't save him," the Doctor told her.

"He deserved it," retorted Donna, dismissively.

"You don't mean that," said Rose.

"No, he didn't," agreed Donna. She looked over at her parents' house. "I'd better get inside," she told them. "They'll be worried"

The Doctor smiled. "Best Christmas present they could have."

Donna shook her head. "I really think I hate Christmas," she said.

The Doctor thought a moment, then reached up to work some hidden switches on the TARDIS. "Even if it snows?" he asked, innocently.

Rose and Donna laughed with delight as a fireworks shower of snowflakes fell around them.

Rose playfully slapped him on the arm. "I can't believe you did that!" she yelled.

"Oh, basic atmospheric excitation," he casually explained with a grin.

"Loony, you are, the pair of you," laughed Donna. "Merry Christmas."

"And you," said the Doctor.

"So . . . what will you do with yourself now?" Rose asked Donna.

"Not gettin' married, for starters," she said. "And I'm not gonna temp anymore. I dunno, travel . . . see a bit more of planet earth . . . walk in the dust. Just . . . go out there and do somethin'."

"Well," said the Doctor at Rose's encouraging smile, "you could always . . . ."

"What?" Donna asked.

"Come with us?" Rose finished for him.

Donna smiled. "No," she said.

"Well, we asked," said the Doctor to Rose.

"No, but really," continued Donna, "everythin' we did today--do you live your lives like that?"

"Not all the time," defended the Doctor.

"I think you do," Donna contradicted him. "And I couldn't."

"You might think that now," said Rose, "but I used to be like you. I was just a girl who worked in a shop before the Doctor came along. And you've seen it out there. It's beautiful."

"And it's terrible," Donna put in. "That place was flooding and burning and they were dying and you," she pointed at the Doctor, "were stood there like . . . I don't know. A stranger, passing judgment. And then you made it snow! I mean, you scare me to death!"

The Doctor was a bit taken aback at that; he always was when people didn't understand his life the way Rose did. "Well then," he said after a moment.

"Tell you what I will do, though," offered Donna, lightening the mood. "Christmas dinner." The Doctor winced. "Oh, come on," she pleaded.

"I don't do that sort of thing," he said.

"You did it last year," put in Rose, squeezing his hand.

"Ha!" exclaimed Donna. "Thank you, Rose. And you might as well, because Mum always cooks enough for twenty."

The Doctor looked between Donna and Rose, and knew he'd been beaten. "Oh, all right then," he conceded. "But you go first; better warn them. And . . . don't say I'm a Martian?"

Donna went on ahead, as the Doctor locked up the TARDIS. Then, hand in hand, Rose and the Doctor followed after her.

--

After a very satisfying dinner, Donna said her goodbyes to Rose and the Doctor outside of the TARDIS. A few hugs and exchanged mobile numbers later, Donna had gone her way, and the TARDIS was once again floating in the vortex.

Rose thought the Doctor was unusually quiet. She was just about to ask, when he spoke.

"I'm sorry," said the Doctor quietly from his place at the console.

"For what?" Rose asked him.

"That we were having Christmas dinner with Donna--"

"Donna's great!" she said. "I'm really hopin' she changes her mind about comin' with us, someday."

"I mean," said the Doctor, uncomfortably, "that we were with her family, rather than yours."

Ah. So that's it, huh? He was still blaming himself. Well, we can put a stop to this. "Did you, or did you not, try to send me to Pete's world with Mum in the first place?"

"Yeah, sorry 'bout that," he said, meekly, hand on neck.

"You should be, but not the issue right now," Rose told him. "Did you, or did you not, harness a super nova just to let me say goodbye through the very last gap between our universes?"

"I suppose--" he began, but she cut him off.

"And did I, or did I not, tell you that I've made my choice, and you're it?" she asked, with a pronounced poke at his arm.

"You did," he said, looking right at her.

"Okay," said Rose, suddenly a bit uncomfortable under his scrutiny. "Done with the guilt complex?"

A moment's pause, then, "Done."

"Alright."

He still looked like something was bothering him, but this time Rose didn't need to wheedle it out of him. "But speaking of your Mum," he said at last, "what's so funny about me getting slapped?"

Okay, not what she'd expected.

"Did you laugh when she slapped me, too, or just Donna? Only I couldn't tell because my head was ringing."

Rose bit her lip as she answered, "Well, let's just say I've wanted to shut you up a few times myself."

"You've never slapped me!"

Rose blushed. No, slapping hadn't occurred to her, and she'd been too chicken to act on the first thing that had come mind.

To her horror, the Doctor seemed to read her thoughts on her face. He grinned. "How have you wanted to shut me up?" he asked.

"Badly," Rose evaded, refusing to inflate his ego.

He ignored the comment, and stepped closer, feigning innocence. "We established early on that I've got quite a gob," he said, hands in pockets, slowly but steadily advancing. "And I admit I can get going when faced with insolent invaders, threatening the annihilation of peaceful worlds; arrogant, thick-headed, single-minded destroyers, dooming desperate denizens to desolation . . . ."

He was getting into his groove, she could tell. The alliteration always came out when he was on a roll.

"Or, like earlier with Donna, trying to solve a mysterious occurrence that by all rights should not ever have occurred, running through the possibilities, trying to hit upon the one clue that will reveal the truth . . . .

"Or," he continued, moving even closer, so that Rose began to retreat backwards, "I suppose I can get a bit carried away by discovering the solution to a problem with the TARDIS' systems . . . ."

No, thought Rose, biting her lip. Not the technobabble. Anything but the technobabble!

But he did. He intentionally launched into a long and complicated spiel, detailing his most recent exploits with something-or-other spanners, whatsit-doohickey temporal modulators, intra-dimensional thingamabobs, and on, and on, and on--

And she gave up.

Rose grabbed him by the hair, and pulled his mouth down to hers.

She really would have let him go once he was quiet, but by then the Doctor was quite enjoying himself, so who was she to deny--oh, who was she kidding? He'd won. He'd gotten her to give in. But as she tangled her fingers more deeply in his hair, pulling slightly even as she held him more closely to her, eliciting a moan from him that had nothing to do with pain, she knew she couldn't care in the least.

--

The end.

Up next, "The Smiths and Miss Jones" :)