. . .~*~. . .
"Good morning!" Mrs. Byrne's voice called heartily from the hallway. Jo slowly sat up, still groggy with the late night she'd kept. "Breakfast will be on the table in a trice."
She untangled herself at last from the unfamiliar heavy gown and dressed, glad that the smell of coffee was wafting from the kitchen. She would probably need it.
"Would you like eggs?" her hostess asked as she came into the room. "I do wish I had bacon to go with it, but at least we have fresh scones."
"Oh, no thank you," Jo yawned. "Just coffee, please. The scones do smell delicious."
"You were out last night in the orchard with that Doctor, weren't you?" she smiled as she poured a cup of coffee and set it on the table. "Oh, I miss those walks with my man. Enjoy them while you can, dearie. And don't you worry, I kept my eyes inside my own house, far be it from me to interrupt a bit of billing and cooing!"
Jo opened her mouth as if she would say something, thought the better of it and took a bite of hot scone instead, blowing at the heat of it. It tasted of butter and honey. "You didn't tell the Doctor that, did you?" she finally managed to ask.
"Oh no," the lady laughed. "Women's advice is best for women's ears only. But it's good sound advice, my dear. Starlight is one of the quickest ways to the heart, you know. Starlight and good home-cooked food." She poured another cup of coffee and added cream, then sipped at it. "But it's those little shared moments together every day that really are the sweetest. They are. He's a good man, isn't he?" She looked over at Jo for confirmation almost a touch anxiously.
"Well, yes," Jo said. "But…"
She clucked with approval. "Of course he's a good man, the bees knew."
Jo smiled hopefully at this, hoping the topic could be turned to bees instead. "Oh yes, they liked him very much."
"Not the only ones?" the woman quickly hinted, making Jo inwardly sigh. "Though of course I wouldn't presume to dictate to him how he really ought to be giving some thought to planning a properly respectable future for... Oh, hush hush!" she suddenly fluttered, as if Jo had been the one doing the talking instead of her. "Here he comes," she added in a stage whisper. Turning back to the kitchen, she busied herself with pretending to find a spoon for the jam.
Jo looked up gratefully as the Doctor entered the back door, looking fresh, awake and typically impeccable. He set down the canvas bag with all that was left of the household goods they'd borrowed. "Good morning, Mrs. Byrne, Jo."
The lady bobbed cheerfully. "Good morning to you, sir. Help yourself. Coffee and scones. A lovely bright springtime morning it is, bright as a lady's eyes after a kiss under the apple trees, ey?"
Jo sunk down in her seat, completely horrified. Thankfully the Doctor only nodded as if this were a perfectly normal way to be greeted in the morning and picked up one of the scones, pulling up one of the chairs as she set a cup of coffee down in front of him.
"I do believe our work here is done, Mrs. Byrne," he announced casually after a moment. "I'd like to thank you for your warm hospitality to both myself and Miss Grant." Jo nudged the sugar-bowl towards him and he spooned some into his coffee.
The woman looked pleased. "Oh, 'twas no trouble at all, no trouble. Anytime. A pleasure, to be sure."
"I'll be filing our report once we're back, and you should be receiving compensation for the supplies you so generously shared. You'll be pleased to know your bees are entirely healthy and all your equipment is in working order."
"It's all the way done then, is it?" she said in mild surprise and something like disappointment. "So you'll be off? And will you leave me a number to ring you if those ruffians or whoever it was comes 'round again or my bees go missing?"
"You shouldn't have to worry about this type of honey thievery happening again," the Doctor assured her. "And the local constabulary would be better able to serve if anything else untoward should occur, I'm sure."
"Well… well, that's nice to hear. Good news is best. And I'm sure my bees will be happier as well," smiled the woman, bobbing slightly. The marigold cotton apron she was wearing that morning made her look a bit like an oversized honeybee herself. "But you'll have to come by in the autumn, Doctor, you know freshly spun out honey is so nice and more hands are always welcome to the work."
"I'm sure it's a busy time," he replied noncommittally.
Leaning forward on the table she confided, "You really ought to start some bees. Your fiancée here says you aren't a beekeeper, but I know a natural when I see one. And I fully expect you to set a wedding date before then so you'll come visit together!"
"My…" he coughed as Jo spat crumbs and sent a variety of incomprehensible signals to him with her facial expressions over the woman's shoulder. "Well, we'll see. Thank you for the kind invitation and the… helpful advice."
She shook a finger at him. "Well, no offense, just speaking as someone else who isn't getting any younger either, pardon me, you know what's the right thing to do for this pretty young lady of yours."
He stood, setting aside a folded napkin. "The years do rush along, don't they? Come along, Jo, you know, I think it's time we were going."
"Yes," Jo said also standing with great relief, though she hadn't even finished her breakfast. "It is a long drive. Thank you, Mrs. Byrne," she added as the Doctor swept an arm around her and steered her across the parlour and right out the front door, grabbing up her coat from the settee as he went. They'd barely made it down the steps and to the car before the woman was on her front stoop waving a jar over her head.
"Oh! Wait! You can't go without some honey!" she called.
"Can you fetch it?" Jo asked in a desperate voice. "I can't face her."
The Doctor didn't comment, he just opened the car door for her and strode back to take the proffered amber jar. Jo gratefully dropped onto Bessie's familiar seat, her cheeks still burning.
"I'm so sorry," she said as he came around to the other side and started the car. "She was just determined to think…well, anyway…"
He handed her the glass jar of honey and looked back, guiding Bessie out onto the road. "She's a most determined individual." He glanced over at her as he shifted gears. "I admit I was surprised, but not offended if that's what you're worried about."
"Oh, I know she's just being old-fashioned. I mean, in the way of thinking that says all young women ought to be married and if they aren't they just have to play matchmaker with whoever is convenient. It's not the first time I've had it happen; my Aunt has tried to match me up with the most awful men."
"I hope I don't fall into that category at least," he said mildly.
"Oh no! That's not what I meant. I was just… I think…well," she said all in a rush. "I think you'd be a very nice catch. If you were human, of course, and, I mean…"
"And not so old?" he smiled.
She laughed. "No, that's not what I was thinking either."
"What were you thinking?" he asked curiously.
She looked out at the passing countryside with its trees and flowers and neat little hedges now rolling past, trying to gather her thoughts into a more coherent pile while he patiently waited. The trees were brilliant with new leaves and the few clouds were high and streaming in mare's tails. She finally spoke again. "I guess I was thinking it was like what you said about the honey, about something being too complex. Someone like you would be the one that's so complex he doesn't fit in. Someone like me would be the one that didn't match up because she wasn't complex enough." She looked down at the jar of honey in her hands.
"But still sweet," he observed.
"Was that a compliment?" she asked after a moment.
"I was afraid you were still thinking that you were mundane and boring as well, which you're decidedly not," he said, wanting to be very clear on that point. "You do realize you don't have to be momentous and dramatic to be important."
"I know," she nodded. "I had that on a poster in my room once. It's the little things that count. It had a daisy on it."
"Here, I've an idea: when we get back to UNIT, I'll finish fixing that transducer and we'll go out and find someplace completely different, something to lift your spirits. A good change of scenery. There's a planet I know of where all the plants are oversized, flowers as big as this car; you can wrap yourself up in the petals. Or maybe you'd like something more like a fancy dress party? There was a fabulous one back in the 1700s I'm thinking of, we could just pop in..."
Jo listened and smiled to herself at the complexity of it, watching the morning sun reflecting off of Bessie's polished bonnet. She couldn't help but think the beekeeper's words did have a bit of wisdom tucked away in them though; those little shared moments together every day, those were the sweetest.
The amber glass glowed in her hands, the sweet, unique product of countless faithful hours, each little bee contributing its simple lot to the greater good. Perhaps her future could be brighter than she'd thought.
. . .~*~. . .