A Proper Christmas
The Doctor tugged on his collar and inspected his coat sleeves for the twentieth time, as he paced back and forth in front of the center console.
"Donna," he called out. "Will you be ready any time soon?"
"Listen, Time Boy,' Donna's voice called back irritably from down the hall. "I would have been dressed a long time ago if you hadn't insisted on this silliness. Do you have any idea how many hooks this thing has?"
Donna walked into the control room of the TARDIS, adjusting a confection of black velvet, gossamer lace and feathers on her ginger pipe curls. "So what's the big..." She stopped in amazement and said, "Oh. My. God!"
"What?" the Doctor asked, looking around in confusion. "What?"
"Look at you!" Donna replied, walking over to him quickly. "You're wearing a cravat! And tails!" She circled him, taking it all in from every angle.
Alarmed, the Doctor asked, "Is there something wrong?"
"No, not at all," she said quickly. "You look quite dapper, actually. I just never thought I'd see you in anything but pinstripes! Now I don't feel quite so silly in this," she said, twirling the emerald green velvet skirts.
He smiled and said, "You don't look silly at all. In fact, you're beautiful."
Donna felt herself blush at his compliment and turned away, a little embarrassed. Noticing this, he grabbed the top hat that had been sitting on the console and said, "Well then. Tempus fugit."
"Wait just a bit," Donna said. "Are you going to tell me where we are?"
He grinned and replied cryptically, "Haven't left Earth. Or England for that matter."
"Smart arse," she responded. "Okay then, *when* are we?"
"So what happened in 1891?"
"Not a thing, as far as I can tell."
"Then why are we here?"
He just grinned at her and said, "You'll see. Allons-y!"
The Doctor led her to the door. Opening it, he stepped through quickly and turned back to her, taking her hand to help her out of the TARDIS.
Donna gasped as she took in the sight before her. It was early evening and the TARDIS was parked in a snow-covered park. In the lane stood an open landau carriage in dark green and ebony, with a driver and two matched bays. The Doctor grinned at her reaction and, offering her his arm, said, "Miss Noble, if I may have the pleasure?"
"Certainly, Doctor Smith," she answered.
They walked to the carriage, snow crunching under their boots. He opened the side door, assisted her onto the bench seat, and slid in beside her, adjusting the lap blanket across their knees.
The driver turned his head and said, "All set there, sir?"
"Yes, Robert. Please proceed."
"Very good, sir."
As they traveled along the countryside in the crisp evening air, the Doctor kept up a running commentary, pointing out local sights. Donna was content to let him ramble, to just sit back and enjoy the ride. She was still a little overwhelmed by it all. She was touched that he had gone to all this trouble and intrigued to see what else he had up his Victorian sleeve.
Soon they made their way from the countryside to the outskirts of the great city of London. The carriage pulled up in front of what looked like an upper class home. The Doctor got out, helped Donna down and handed the driver some coins, instructing him to take the horses and carriage to a nearby stable, and then to get himself some supper.
"We'll meet you at the stable later. No need for you to sit out here in the cold," the Doctor told him.
"Kind of you to think so, sir. Good evenin' to ya, Ma'am," the driver said, tipping his hat to the pair and driving off.
Taking her arm again, the Doctor opened the great oak door and ushered Donna inside. What she had assumed was a home was actually a private gentlemen's club, where "Doctor Smith" seemed to be well known and respected. They were shown to a table in a secluded section of the dining room. They spent the evening eating sumptuous food and sipping very good wine.
They talked of everything and nothing. The Doctor told her about the winter festivals of his youth on Gallifrey, and Donna spoke with a touch of sadness of previous Christmases before her father Geoff had passed away. She shared the story of the year that she had saved up her wages to buy her grandfather Wilf his telescope, and how he had danced around it like a two-year-old.
Seeing her face light up at the memory and hearing her laugh warmed his hearts. When they had finished their trifle, the old clock in the lounge struck the hour of midnight, and the Doctor rose, pulled out Donna's chair, and escorted her out of the club. The manager himself met them at the door and wished them a "Merry Christmas".
As they walked back to the carriage, they began to hear faint music. Turning a corner, they came upon a small church where midnight services had just commenced. Turning to Donna, the Doctor asked, "Do you mind if we stop a moment?" When she nodded her assent, they walked in and stood in a dark corner in the back.
A group of young choir boys had begun to sing: "Once in royal David's city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed. Mary was that mother mild; Jesus Christ her little child."
Donna glanced over at the Doctor and saw his eyes brimming with unshed tears. Feeling her gaze, he looked over at her and said, "I've always loved the music. It's so full of joy and hope." Smiling at him, understanding the emotion, she took his hand and gave it a little squeeze. He held it more tightly, and they stood that way for while.
Finally, he led her back out the door and they continued to walk with hands joined to where the carriage was stabled. Robert saw them and jumped up, ready to go. They settled themselves again on the bench and made their way back to the park. On the way, they both were quiet, each deep in their own thoughts.
As they approached their destination, Donna suddenly turned to her escort and said, "Doctor. This has been the most wonderful night. And I really am grateful. But I have to ask. Why?"
The Doctor looked at her, confused. "What do you mean, why?"
"Why all this? Why did you go to so much trouble?"
Smiling at her tenderly, he said, "I just wanted to show you a proper Christmas. The last few have been, well, dodgy, to say the least." Squeezing her hand, he continued, "I wanted to give you a better memory."
It was now Donna's turn to blink away tears. She gathered him into a tight hug and said, "Oh, you dear, dear man! I mean, alien! Oh, you know what I'm trying to say!" He laughed heartily as he returned her hug with equal intensity.
They reached the TARDIS and descended from the carriage. The Doctor handed Robert an envelope and thanked him for his time and trouble. Looking in the packet, Robert exclaimed, "Oh, thank *you*, sir! And a very Merry Christmas to you and the missus!" They just looked at each other and laughed.
Donna stopped him as he was about to unlock the TARDIS door. "Thank you so much," she said quietly, "This is a night I will never forget."
Smiling back, he unlocked the door and they entered. And they both stopped in their tracks when they saw what had become of the control room. Coloured lights blinked on and off all around the central console. Garlands of fresh greenery hung from the rafters and circled the arms of the coral struts. There was even a small evergreen tree in the corner near the hallway.
Donna's head whipped around and she stared at the Doctor. His eyes were as wide as hers. "I didn't do this," he said quickly.
Donna smiled as the answer came to her. She walked over to one of the struts and, stroking it said, "Thanks, love. It's beautiful." The TARDIS crooned her "you're welcome".
The Doctor came over to where she stood and said, "I have something for you." Taking a small box out of his coat pocket, he handed it to her with a shy smile.
Opening it slowly, her breath caught. Inside were a pair of earrings and a matching pendant, made of volcanic stone that sparkled like opal and fluctuated in colour with changes in body temperature. She had seen them a few trips ago to Anterium. Looking up at the Doctor, she said, "When did you get these? I know you weren't anywhere near the marketplace before we left!"
He grinned his lopsided smile and said simply, "Time. Space. TARDIS."
She hugged him tightly and said, "Thank you so much. They're gorgeous."
But her eyes became misty and she turned away. Immediately, the Doctor went to her side and said, quite concerned, "What's wrong? Don't you like them?"
Brushing away her tears, she explained, "Of course! I love them. It's just..."
"What? Tell me."
"It's just, well, I don't have anything for you," she whispered.
He put his arms around her and gently pulled her to him. "Oh, Donna. You have already given me the best gift anyone could have. You. Having you here on the TARDIS, sharing our adventures. That's all I ever want or need."
As they stood in each other's arms, suddenly there was a small "pop". They stepped apart and glanced around, concerned. Finally, looking up, the Doctor saw a large sprig of mistletoe that had appeared out of nowhere. "You cheeky little thing!" he laughed.
Donna followed his gaze and blushed. Looking up at him, she saw that he too was a little uncomfortable, but still smiling. He took her hand and said, "We can't very well go against tradition, can we? That would violate the spirit of Christmas!"
"I don't suppose we can," she replied. They came together, under the mistletoe, and gave each other the chastest of kisses, a kiss between two closest friends.
It was, however, a kiss that contained a promise and a potential not yet imagined by either of them.
Merry Christmas, everyone! All of the joy of the season! And in the words of the immortal
Tim Cratchit "God bless us, everyone!"