A/N- Alright, just a VERY IMPORTANT HEADS-UP before we begin here: Sometime in the next week or two, I'll be changing my FFn pen-name to match my Teaspoon and LJ accounts. It's not necessary, really, but I'm just OCD enough that the difference bothers me. I will be either Ace of Gallifrey or Ace on Gallifrey, depending on whether my preference is free for my use.
Anyway, as for this, I would have had it posted much sooner, but I had to choose between Advancing The Plot and Higher-Level Character Development. As you can see, I went with the former and tried to work in just a bit of the latter, and I'm not positive yet that this was the right choice, but we'll see... Also, for the record, it's not included, but the conversation in which Donna explained how she and Lance met still happened. I could have transcribed it (which would have solved this chapter's length problem), but frankly, I'm feeling really lazy, not to mention time-strapped since the semester has started again.
"Have you found your way around the down and out?
I know it must seem long, so long.
I'm still trying to keep this time from running out.
Head down, always moving on and on and on..."
"Are you seriously going to just leave her there?" Donna demanded when she caught up with the other two in the tilting console room.
"What?" The Doctor looked up from whatever he was fiddling with.
Donna planted her hands on her hips and glared at the Doctor and Rose. "I don't know what's going on, or who you people are, but I do know that that poor girl just found out that her entire planet is gone! She's obviously devastated, and you nutters are just going to leave her there to handle it all on her own? I don't think so!"
"You walked out too," Rose pointed out.
"Yeah, well, at least I'm giving it a second thought, Peroxide!"
"Now, now, let's not get testy!" the Doctor interjected hastily. "Donna, believe me, I know better than anyone what Romana's going through right now, and believe me when I say that there's nothing that can be done to help her until it really sinks in. Rose couldn't possibly know what to say-" He studiously ignored the harsh look the blonde shot his way. "-And trust me: she really doesn't want to see me at the moment. Probably not for awhile. While we wait for her to sort through it, we may as well get on with figuring out what's happening with you."
Donna shot the pair a last withering look, but conceded with a sigh. She kept her posture rigid, however, as she crossed to the door, to show that she wasn't happy with this course of events.
"You had the reception without me?"
The Doctor winced internally, deeply glad that this particular diatribe was, for a change, not directed at him.
"You had the reception without me?" Donna's voice grew even louder and lower in pitch as her rage built, standing there in her wrinkled wedding gown. She turned to look at the Doctor and Rose, her face a curious mixture of horror-struck and furious. "They had the reception without me!"
"Yeah, noticed that, thanks," Rose said, crossing her arms in an unconscious defense against the violent energy buzzing in the taller woman before them.
Then the questions started, her mother and her friends and family and fiance all shouting and demanding to know what had happened. Everyone talking at once created a din that even Donna couldn't shout over. Suddenly, the redheaded bride broke down in unexpected tears, and a chorus of sympathetic noises came from the onlookers as Lance embraced her.
"Bit of a false strong front, that one," Rose murmured softly in the Doctor's ear, rolling her eyes and completely missing the conspiratorial wink Donna threw them.
After that, the party settled down and the dancing resumed, with Rose and the Doctor standing against the bar, watching Donna and Lance as they made a weak attempt at a tango. Rose glanced up at the Doctor, who was staring intently at Donna, eyes narrowed and a quizzical expression on his face.
"Doctor, what are we still doing here?" she asked. "I mean... Donna's back with her family, the TARDIS has probably settled down by now... everything's happy and good now. Can't we go?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No, not yet. There's something wrong here. We can't leave until we find out how Donna wound up on the TARDIS in the first place, and what they want from her..."
Rose glanced across the dance floor. "Could it be more Sycorax? Last time those pilot-fish things showed up, that was what was happening."
"I don't think so," he said, at least partially to himself. "It's a good thought, but this doesn't seem like their style. I mean, what's the motive? Kidnapping a woman who's apparently not special or connected or important... it doesn't make sense."
They lapsed into companionable silence for a few moments as the Doctor allowed himself to become absorbed into his own thoughts and Rose contemplated her next move.
"Well, as long as we're sticking around," Rose said coyly, "There's no harm in a bit of dancing, is there?"
The Doctor's eyes snapped to her face. "W-what?"
Rose reached down and took his hand, then began backing away onto the dance floor. In her fuzzy aqua sweater and comfy jeans, she was wildly out of place against the background of well-dressed people that filled the room, but she didn't seem to mind, and he found himself following her.
"Are... I... what?" he asked again.
She gave him a bright grin as she pulled him after her, and with a firm grip, guided his free hand to her waist.
He swallowed heavily.
"What's the matter?" she asked with a coy smirk. "It's not as though we haven't done this before."
"Nothing," he said, a little too quickly.
Feeling pleased with herself, Rose placed her free hand on his shoulder, and together they began to move across the floor in time to a quick-tempo swing-tune. Rose lost herself in the music (and made a mental note to find out who the Nobles had hired as a DJ, in case she should ever have need of one- the man clearly knew what he was doing) and in the feel of the Doctor's body so close to hers.
Two dances later, a softer waltz came drifting across the dance floor, and Rose thought it was time to step things up. She stepped closer to the Doctor and leaned in a little, lips slightly and ever-so-slightly parted, close enough that she could see his dark eyes dilate. He made a slight forward motion, coming just a little closer. She leaned forward a little more...
And suddenly, a tinkling music-box tune interrupted the sound of the song, and the Doctor looked up, shocked, as the ornaments on the Christmas trees decorating the space whirled up into the air, in a charming aerial dance that Rose suspected was about to turn deadly.
"Rose, run!" he whispered to her. "Take cover!"
"I'm not leaving you," she said stubbornly.
He let out a groan of frustration. "I will be fine," he said firmly. "Rose, I need you to do what I say! Now go!" He turned away from her and began shouting at the Nobles about the ornaments.
As Rose took the first away from the Doctor, the shiny Christmas balls increased the speed of their frenetic dance and began dive-bombing the room, exploding in showers of fire wherever they landed.
A/N2- Yeah, it's short. I'm sorry. I'm time-strapped, and my brain is obsessed with a DW/Phantom of the Opera crossover, starring Eight and Nyssa (because Nyssa + Phantom = PURE WONDERFUL and you know it), and when I get a plunny as insistent as this one chewing at my leg, it's kinda hard to shake it off for awhile.