Title: A Glorious Mess
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Ten-II, Rose Tyler
Series: Talk to the Hand
Beta: None. Some day, I shall have one. And a Britpicker. Which I really wouldn't have minded, because I'm sure my American-ness is showing…
Disclaimer: Not mine. Obviously.
Summary: Set between Crossed Wires and Straight Up With A Twist, the Doctor and Rose share
their first Christmas together. This, of course, uses the 'first Christmas' fic cliché.
A/N: I know… I'm not finished with Romantic Entanglements yet, for which I apologize. But I wanted to do something for the holidays. And when I realized that, based on the Doctor's age and the date RE takes place meant that Christmas would fall sometime soon after the Doctor's arrival in Pete's World, it seemed like a great opportunity to sneak another story in while I try to remember what I was doing with RE. And don't worry; this one is actually almost complete, so no waiting for longer than a day for the next chapters! Also, I apologise for how erratic this chapter is. Apparently, when I write from the Doctor's perspective, things get a bit jumbled. Also, it's a bit of a rush job, so it's not the greatest thing ever written.
One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly. ~Andy Rooney
Part One – The Doctor's Christmas
Three weeks into his short, part-human life, the Doctor realises it's nearly Christmas. It isn't really his fault he's slow to catch on; he's been busy learning about human things, like shopping (which is no longer as much fun now that Rose expects him to pay for things himself) and cleaning (which the flat doesn't do on its own; reason 427 it's not better than a TARDIS) and shagging and job-hunting and hygiene (which he has to attend to every single day – this is entirely the fault of Donna and her genetics) and gossip and more shagging, as well as doing part-time consultation work at Torchwood. Which has also involved shagging, usually on Rose's desk. He likes that word, shagging. Even though there's nothing shaggy about it. It's more… sticky, he's decided. But Rose refuses to let him call it 'sticking.'
The point being, he has so much to take in that he's missed all the signs of the impending holiday.
He's home alone when he finds out; Rose is on a mission out of town that could take several days. It's his first time since his birth that he's been alone for longer than a day, and he'd rapidly come to the conclusion he doesn't like it. This incarnation is a social butterfly, and the addition of 'human' – a naturally social species – into his makeup has only made him feel his loneliness more acutely.
He tries to fill his days with human things like job-hunting, which is easier now that Rose has edited his CV so it no longer reads like an epic science fiction novel. He'd submitted it, along with a couple of samples of his writing, to various gossip magazines. He also tries cleaning, which he isn't quite so good at; the appliances are too slow and inefficient, the chemicals make him woozy, and he seems to be allergic to dust bunnies. Despite his promise to Rose that he'll clean up after himself, he decides the dishes don't need cleaning right away.
He's even putting more effort than usual in practicing 'normal' human quirks, for when he's in public, such as working on remembering to keep the toilet seat up. Apparently, this is Normal Bloke Behaviour and both Rose and Jackie had stared at him like he'd grown another head when they learned he put the seat down without scolding. He's quite proud of himself; he'd managed to leave it up a full hour before his inner Donna yelled at him to put it down NOW.
But there's definitely something wrong, and it takes him 25.7 hours to finally come to the conclusion that he's bored with playing at being human. And more than a little lonely.
He then decided then it's the perfect time to work on his little 'special project.'
He's sprawled across the living room floor, Rose's laptop in pieces before him. At his side, wrapped in a fuzzy pink blanket he'd picked up earlier that day, is the TARDIS coral. He keeps up a steady babble as he picks through the computer's components, and feels her contentment in return. She hasn't reached the point yet where she can really connect with him mentally, but he can pick up on her basic emotions, and she loves listening to him talk.
The fish-bowl nutrient vat he'd constructed to help the coral grow is sitting in the corner, nestled amongst equipment that he's mostly sure Torchwood won't mind that he'd borrowed. After all, he figures, he's going to make sure it's back in place before anyone notices. It's just that she's at a crucial stage of her development, and he wants to be on hand for it.
That, and he doesn't like talking to himself.
He has the television on, and is only half-listening to the news in hopes of a juicy piece of celebrity gossip. Or an alien invasion. Mostly, he just wants a hint of what Rose is up to, which could fall into either category. It isn't until what must have been the fiftieth repetition of the word 'Christmas' that he finally catches on, and his head jerks up.
He stares at the images of lights and trees on the screen. "Christmas?" he repeats. The date is displayed on the screen, and he gapes. The 23rd of December? His gaze darts around the flat, which is decidedly un-Christmas-y. There's no tree (though, now that he thinks about it, he seems to recall Rose asking if he wanted one, and he'd thought the idea was a bit silly since the flat didn't have ideal growing conditions) or decorations, or even presents.
His heart skips a beat. Presents. He's supposed to give some of those, isn't he? Isn't that what boyfriends do?
That Rose hadn't said anything more was worrying. Did she just not expect much from him? Or was this some sneaky test, which he'd probably failed miserably?
The Doctor shoves the laptop to the side after separating out the components he'd wanted, and hops to his feet. Humans like Christmas, he knows, so there has to be something around, right? He scoops ups the TARDIS coral and begins to poke around the flat, checking every closet, ever box, every nook and cranny for some sign of Christmas.
All he finds are dust bunnies, which cling to his hair and suit in an insidious plot to smother the life out of him. As he frantically brushes down his suit while struggling to hold in his sneezes (because Time Lords do not do anything as undignified as sneezing) he reflects on how odd this is. Rose doesn't seem to own much beyond the basics, which is rather odd for humans.
It's a surprisingly simple life for the heir to a huge fortune. Of course… she hadn't expected to come back to Pete's World. Still, her lack of Christmas décor is very telling. Had she not celebrated at all while they'd been separated?
And… why didn't she want to celebrate them now? Sure, she'd asked him about a tree, but it hadn't been with much enthusiasm, and she hadn't pushed the issue. He sometimes wonders if she still regretted ending up with him and not the Time Lord Doctor, and this seems to support that.
No wonder she'd accepted the Christmas mission.
He drops onto the sofa, the blanket-wrapped coral resting on his chest, and thinks. After a few minutes of having a good sulk, which he only lets himself do when no one is around to see it, he decides that this has nothing to do with Rose not wanting to spend Christmas with him; after all, if she didn't want him, she would have tossed him out, and he's fairly certain that they wouldn't be shagging. So, Rose's place is the Flat That Christmas Forgot for another reason.
Maybe she thinks he doesn't want to celebrate it? His other self had compared him to his previous incarnation, who hadn't liked domestic. Maybe she figures he's the same way? Or maybe she thinks that, because he's still an alien, no matter whose DNA is mixed with his, he won't want to celebrate a human holiday. Maybe she mistook his obliviousness as a lack of interest in the holiday. Maybe she went on this mission to forget the fact that it's yet another Christmas she won't be celebrating. Hell, for all he knows, this 'mission' is actually a huge Torchwood Christmas party that she didn't think he'd be comfortable attending.
His shoulders slump at the thought. He wishes she'd given him the chance to prove that he would love to celebrate the holidays. Then he straightens. Why can't he prove it? There's nothing stopping him from bringing Christmas to their home. He's brilliant, after all. How hard can it be for him to put something together for the holidays?
Rose may not be back in time for Christmas, but he can at least give her a holiday to remember when she comes back.
Besides, it's his first Christmas as a half-human, and he wants to have the full Christmas experience.
The Doctor pulls on his jacket and tucks the TARDIS coral into an inner pocket by his chest. She's still small enough that he only looks slightly like he has one breast, but he doesn't notice. She likes being this close to him, and he absently strokes the bump as he heads outside.
Going by the weather, it would be impossible to tell it's nearly Christmas. The environment is still suffering the effects of dimension hopping, and it feels more like a warm fall evening than a wintry one. According to his calculations, it could take years before the environment returns to normal.
Even knowing what he'd see when he stepped outside, he can't help but pout. It's been years since he'd had a Christmas with real snow, and the streak obviously isn't going to end any time soon.
He decides to take the Torchwood SUV, which he'd 'borrowed' under Rose's name so he could bring home the TARDIS coral's equipment. Christmas, he recalls, requires a lot of Stuff, and he wants to make sure he has room for it all.
He heads to the biggest shop in London (there are just some things that little shops can't handle) and is immediately overwhelmed by crowds of last-minute shoppers. He prides himself on being an excellent shopper (no matter what Rose says) but this is too much for even him. He stops dead when he sees just how much stuff there actually is for Christmas, and wonders if it's too late to scream and run. His Ninth self, he decides, had the right idea.
His panic is observed by a pair of shop associates, who had been hovering at the edge of the crowd where they can help when needed, but still have a clear path to flee to the exits if things get out of hand. He rather wishes he'd had the foresight to do that; already, the crowd has closed in around him, and he's starting to feel a little claustrophobic.
The Doctor pushes his way over to the salespeople, a man and a woman who immediately put on false smiles. "Can we help you?" the woman asks.
"I don't know what I'm doing," the Doctor says. "I need to buy a lot of Christmas stuff, and I don't know where to begin. I need a tree and decorations and presents - and do I really need a five foot tall stuffed snowman?" he wonders as a pair of customers walk past, carrying one between them.
The woman raises an eyebrow. "So, you don't have anything for Christmas, then?" Her expression is calculating. "
"Not a thing, and I have no idea where to even begin. It's just… all this." He gestures helplessly in the general direction of the seething mass of humanity (and some non-humans, he notes, but they seem to be of the tourist type rather than the take-over-the-planet sort that he'd actually welcome now). "I don't know what to do! I've never actually celebrated Christmas before," he finishes weakly.
"How can you not know anything about Christmas?" the man blurts out, and the woman elbows him before he can say more and lose a potentially big commission.
"I do know about Christmas," he says indignantly. "It's just that this is my first Christmas as a human. Ish."
The look this earns makes the Doctor realise he's dangerously close to spending the holidays in a mental ward.
"I was… raised by wolves?" the Doctor hazards. "But don't worry," he adds hastily, seeing their alarmed expressions. "I don't bite anymore. This is the first time I'm celebrating Christmas with my…" he hesitates. 'Girlfriend' just doesn't seem appropriate. And he utterly refuses to say 'better half', no matter what Jackie says. "Companion," he says finally.
This earns him matching strange, knowing looks from the salespeople, but he's oblivious to them.
He's given a crash course on Christmas by the woman, who'd won the right to be his holiday tutor via a coin toss. After about ten minutes of exposure to , he suffers from a sensory overload and everything becomes a blur of sound and colour. He's probably going to wake up tomorrow morning with a huge headache and a number of purchases he doesn't remember making that will offend his tastes. But he wants to give Rose the full human Christmas experience, and make up for what she'd missed when she'd been trapped here without him.
He does have a few clear memories, including examining all of the fake trees to make sure they aren't remote-controlled killing machines, tasting a number of different bathing oils and lotions to identify the particular brands Rose favours (much to the horror of the saleswoman), and enthusiastically modeling lingerie before being told that maybe he'd be better off with a different gift and being dragged away.
He also recalls handing over his credit card. A lot. He hopes Rose forgives him for again maxing out his card for the second time in a month. He also hopes Pete will pay the bill again. This money thing is really a pain, now that he has to rely on it.
In the end, the Torchwood SUV isn't enough, and he has to arrange for his purchases to be delivered to the flat. As two brawny men unload the boxes, the Doctor wonders absently if he might have gone overboard.
Then he dismisses the thought. He was just showing Rose that he could do Christmas as well as any human. Better, really. He'd make sure that he'd give her a holiday she'd never forget.
He smiles at the towering stacks of boxes, and gets to work.
Do the holidays in the UK get anywhere near as crazy as they do in the US? I tried to look it up, but it's not like anyone has conveniently done a comparative study. That I've seen, anyway.