"Don-naaa," the Doctor whined, hopping from one foot to another as he waited impatiently near the door of the TARDIS. "Come on! Hurry up!"
"God, you really are awful when you don't know where you're going aren't you?" Donna remarked, trying and failing to hide a very large bundle behind her back.
"Ooh!" The Doctor rose up on his toes to peer over her shoulder and then around her. "Is that a present?"
"Pah!" Donna rolled her eyes in her most scornful manner. "What do you think this is, chum - Christmas?"
"Is it something for me?" demanded the Doctor, his enthusiasm not noticeably dampened by Donna's response.
"You really can't do 'patient', can you?" she asked, exasperated. "Now," she pushed him gently in the direction of the door, "are you ready?"
Donna smiled as she reached past the Doctor and turned the doorknob. Before opening the door, however, she stopped and stifled a chuckle at the shocked and horrified look in his eyes. The fact that he had no idea what was outside the TARDIS was clearly torture for him.
It was almost a week since they had left Martha back home after their time on Messaline, and most of their adventures in the intervening period had been both brief and tense. Truth to tell, neither of them had been in the mood for much fun. There had been several long conversations in a variety of rooms in the TARDIS about all manner of topics, and Donna felt that she understood her companion better than ever before.
This new knowledge was the reason, when she woke up that morning, that she decided it was time for a change. She thought the Doctor deserved a holiday. To that end, while he was making her a cup of tea - she'd gone off coffee ever since Lance - she'd snuck into the console room and used the lesson the Doctor had given her to program a destination into the TARDIS and start up the ship.
It had taken the Doctor a surprisingly long time to get up to the console room, and he had an almost empty cup in his hand when he arrived. Donna suspected that there was coffee splashed along the various hallways between the two locations, and she hoped the TARDIS would forgive her for the mess and not provide only cold water the next time Donna wanted a bath.
“Oh, come on, Donna!” the Doctor begged, trying to push her out of the doorway, but her sturdier frame prevented him. “What are we waiting for?”
“We-ell,” she began, teasingly, “I was going to tell you why I chose this place, but if you’re going to be like that…”
She dropped the bag — it fell to the floor with a resounding ‘clang’ — and flung open the two doors, glancing up at the Doctor’s face in time to see his eyes widen and his mouth, which had been ready to respond to her comment, drop open to its fullest extent.
The landscape outside was worth staring at. In front of the TARDIS was a view of huge snow-covered mountainous slopes, which stood out sharply against the brilliant blue sky behind them. A very chilly breeze blew into the TARDIS and ruffled the Doctor’s hair. The air carried the faint cry of a bird that could be seen wheeling around the crest of a distant hill. Donna could smell the slightly bitter tang that she had come to associate with the arrival of snow.
While the Doctor continued to stare at the outside scene, Donna reached into the large bag behind her and pulled out the thick coat she had worn on the Oodsphere, shrugging it on with a shiver. A thick pair of mittens completed her attire and then she turned to look at the Doctor once more. He was still staring in front of him as if unable to believe his eyes.
“Not like you to be speechless, Spaceman,” she teased, nudging him with her elbow.
“Donna…” He turned to stare at her in silence for a moment before speaking again. “But you hate the cold.”
“Yeah, but you love it,” she told him. “And I’ll survive this once.”
He slid his arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “You’re brilliant,” he said fondly. “So where are we?”
“A very small, very private bit of Switzerland.” After reaching down to pick up the bag again, she grinned and took his hand, stepping out onto the crunchy snow and pulling him with her. “I told the TARDIS what I wanted and she found this place for us. And the first place we’re going,” she looked around before nodding in the direction of a small log cabin that stood nearby, “is there.”
“Because I want to put this down!” She laughed and lifted the bag slightly to draw his attention to it. “It weighs a ton!”
The Doctor turned and waved his free hand in the direction of the TARDIS. “Or we could just leave it here…”
“Nope!” She popped the ‘p’ in imitation of him and tugged his hand. “The TARDIS is having a holiday from us, too. Come on! You were the impatient one a moment ago.”
“All right!” He grinned and stepped out with her. “Allons-y!”
Donna’s shoulder in her thick coat brushed the Doctor’s arm as they walked. He smiled at her, but not with the manic grin she knew so well. Instead it was an understanding and gentle smile that made his eyes twinkle. Or was it the light reflecting off the snow?
"Thanks," he said, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
"You're welcome." She stepped ahead of him and reached out to open the front door. "Come on, Doctor, this is ours."
"Donna?" The Doctor's voice stopped her. "How do you - um...?"
Donna tried to hide it, but she couldn't help the smirk that appeared on her face. "You mean, why am I not demanding the psychic paper from you in order for us to get inside?" She raised an eyebrow and then chuckled. "It's called a reservation, Doctor. I called with my phone and made one. This whole area is ours for as long as we want it."
"Oh, that's just cheating!" the Doctor complained. "Takes all the fun out of things."
Donna chuckled and then opened the door, leading them inside. She stopped on the threshold, putting down the bag beside her, and waited until the Doctor moved next to her.
"Oh, very nice, Donna," he said in satisfied tones as he looked around their accommodation.
"Well, it's my holiday, too," she smiled, moving the large bag so that she could shut the door.
Immediately the room seemed warmer, although that may have had something to do with the massive fire that burned in the huge hearth. All light in the room came from the leaping flames. The upper half of the walls showed the stones from which the cabin had been constructed and the lower halves were layered with rough-cut timber. All of the furniture in the room - couches and armchairs, tables and chairs - were made of the same coloured timber, but the chairs were well padded and looked very comfortable. Several closed doors clearly led into other rooms and a small kitchen could be seen around the corner. More warmth came from that area and a familiar small made the Doctor lunge for that section of the room.
"Banana cake! Brilliant!"
Donna chuckled and flicked a switch by the door that turned on dim lights above the fireplace. Settling into an armchair, she hauled the bag over the floor and began fishing around inside, looking up as there was a yelp from the kitchen.
“You should probably wait until it cools if you don’t want to burn your hands,” she called knowingly, and heard muttering from her companion.
Chuckling, she pulled a small case containing a change of clothes and toiletries out of the larger bag and carried her belongings into one of the bedrooms that led off the main room. Footsteps crossed the timber floor behind her and then a hand slipped around her waist.
“Crumbs down my neck and you’ve had it, chum,” she warned.
He chuckled and rested his head on hers. “Nasts mit,” he mumbled.
There was a definite swallow in her ear. “Last bit,” he said, more clearly.
“You mean you’ve eaten a whole cake?” She slapped the hand that was resting on her stomach. “Greedy!”
“There were two,” he replied, sounded offended. “I thought we could share the other one later.”
“Generous of you.” She slipped out of his grasp and walked into the centre of the room, putting her case down on the large bed. Looking around, she grinned. “Not as nice as my room on the TARDIS.”
The Doctor chuckled. “You’re just saying that so she won’t give you cold water next time you want to have a shower. You know she’s going to be furious about the coffee all over the place.”
“Well,” she folded her arms over her chest, trying not to laugh, “nobody made you run like that.”
“You started up my TARDIS!” The Doctor looked indignant. “Actually pressed buttons and… and things!”
“'Things' that got us here.” Donna waved in the direction of the huge window that looked out over the nearby mountains. Then, when the Doctor still looked stern, she pushed out her bottom lip and looked as sad as she could. “So you didn’t like my idea then?”
He crossed the room in two strides and wrapped his arms around her. For a moment, she thought she'd persuaded him, but then she heard a soft chuckle in her ear.
“Almost believable,” he laughed. “You need to try and get a couple of tears glistening in the eyes, though. Now,” he moved her so that she was looking up him, “what are we doing here exactly?”
“Come here and I’ll show you!” Donna gave up the pretence, grinned and grabbed his hand, dragging him out of the room. The large bag still sat beside the armchair and she pushed the Doctor onto the couch.
“Ow! Hey! Watch it!”
“Oh, pipe down, Spaceman.” Donna placed the bag between them and reached in, but then looked up. “Eyes closed and hands out — wide.”
He shot her a look of exasperation, but then complied.
Donna eased a large wrapped package out of the bag and then lifted it up onto his arms.
“Ooh, it’s heavy!”
“Yup,” she agreed, moving back to sit on the floor in front of the fireplace, the now-empty bag underneath as a makeshift cushion. “Well, go on, you prawn,” she added after a moment, as the Doctor stayed motionless, “open it!”
“I’m trying to work out what it is first,” he replied.
They sat like that for several minutes before the Doctor shrugged, lowered the large item to his lap and began running gentle hands over it. Finally he shrugged again and opened his eyes, gazing at the red and green wrapping paper.
“You know,” he said slowly, glancing out of the window and then back to the present “evidence would suggest that this might have something to do with snow.”
“It might,” she agreed with a grin.
“Brilliant!” And with that he tore off the wrapping paper to reveal a brightly coloured disc with a small deflated rubber bladder underneath it. His eyes widened and he looked up to stare at Donna. “An aeolonivosus? A snow hover board? Donna, these won’t be discovered on Earth for centuries!”
“Then we’d better not leave it behind or we could create one heck of a paradox,” Donna joked. “What do you think? I thought it was your style.”
“It’s fantastic!” The Doctor lifted it and pulled away the paper from underneath, but then stopped abruptly, his eyes fixed on the red and green stripes, which were decorated with little Santas and candy canes. “What day is it?”
Donna chuckled. "Four o’clock local time. December 24th. Two thousand and seven..."
"In other words, somewhere in the Universe, you and I have just met in the TARDIS," the Doctor interrupted, putting down the hover board and then crossing the small room and stopping in front of her, his lips quirked into a grin. "Don't tell me you've gone all soppy and romantic, Donna Noble."
“You like Christmas,” she reminded him.
“And you don’t.” He sat down on the floor in front of her, taking one of her hands and drawing it into his lap. “Why are you doing this, Donna?”
She shrugged. “I thought you could do with a holiday. And since I didn’t remember hearing about any alien invasions or other strange happenings after we drained the Thames, I thought it’d be a nice, safe place for us to come.” She grinned. “Unless time is in flux or something and we’re about to be met by the abominable snowman.”
The Doctor laughed. “That would only happen if I got my big white coat out of the dressing room, and since we’re not going back to the TARDIS…”
Donna placed a finger on his lips to silence him. “I don’t and won’t believe that you’re the yeti, so don’t start. Now, why don’t you go and try out your new toy while I start making Christmas dinner for tomorrow?”
“Don’t you want my help?” the Doctor asked with big, sorrowful eyes.
“Not unless I want to spend all of Boxing Day cleaning the kitchen,” she teased, standing up and pulling him to his feet. Bundling the aeolonivosus into his arms, she gave him a gentle push in the direction of the front door. “Now git!”
Donna watched out of the window, busy mixing the stuffing for the turkey, as the Doctor soared up and down the snowy slopes on his new toy. The double-glazed window was too thick for her to hear anything, but the fact that his mouth was open suggested to her that he was howling with joy. She was pleased to see such a look of absolute delight on his face again and thought that her idea had been very successful indeed.
As she was sliding the finished turkey into the oven — it was enough for half a dozen people, but she knew the Doctor would be able to eat everything without a problem — there was a dull slap against the window. She looked up just in time to see another snowball splat against the pane of glass and then the Doctor’s grinning face peered in at her.
“Come on,” he called, but she could only tell what he was saying by reading his lips and by the vigorous waving of his hand.
“Too cold,” she said, shivering and rubbing her upper arms in demonstration before closing the oven door.
“Bah!” He waved a hand in the air and appeared a moment later in the doorway of the cabin. “It’s gorgeous out here! Come on, we’ll make snowmen!”
“You really are only five, aren’t you?” she asked rhetorically, but wiped her hands on her apron and then stripped it off before getting into the coat that the Doctor was holding for her and joining him outside, where light snow was now falling.
Late in the evening, when the dark sky was dotted with stars and a positive army of snowmen stood around the small hut, they walked hand in hand through the darkness and looked up at the brilliant heavens above them.
“How many of those are we going to visit?” Donna asked, waving a hand at the sparkling silver points of light.
“Those are the suns, Donna,” the Doctor pointed out. “We can’t visit them. But the planets orbiting them — all of them!”
She smiled and pulled his arm through hers.
“You’re going to hate me for saying this,” the Doctor said softly, after a long moment of silence, “but you really do look beautiful right now. And,” he added quickly, before she could speak, “if you could skip the obligatory snappy and sarcastic comeback right now, it’d be good.”
“Says the king of snark,” Donna replied, before adding, after a moment, “but thank you.” She smiled. “Is that better?”
He squeezed her arm and then they headed back for the warmth of the cabin. Inside, they divested themselves of the thick coats and settled down in front of the fire. The Doctor nibbled on the remains of the banana cake while Donna tried not to think of the large box of chocolates she had tucked into her bag for them to enjoy on Christmas day.
The Doctor suddenly glanced at his watch. “Ooh, eleven o’clock. You know what’s happening in London right now?”
Donna laughed. “We’ve just drained the Thames, haven’t we? And you’re about to make it snow in an attempt to persuade me to come with you.” She got up and opened a large cupboard to reveal a television. Picking up the remote control, she pointed it at the machine and flicked through the channels. “I wonder if — yes, they’ve got BBC news here!”
She was about to return to her armchair when the Doctor patted the cushion next to him on the couch. She sat down and his arm stretched behind her, his hand resting gently on her shoulder. Almost without thinking, she tucked her stocking feet beneath her and rested her head on his shoulder.
“There seems to be no explanation for what has just taken place,” the news announcer said, the image on the screen showing a dry riverbed with boats stranded in the thick mud.
The Doctor chuckled, the sound reverberating in Donna’s ear. “Well, I suppose a nest of giant spiders in the Earth’s core isn’t the best explanation.”
“And you said you life wasn’t always like that.” She poked him in the stomach. “Fibber.”
“What?” He spread his spare hand out in a gesture of demonstration, his face assuming a look of innocence and hurt. “It’s not! Not right now, for instance.”
“Hah!” She prodded him again. “Still,” she added thoughtfully, “you were right about one thing — it is beautiful out here. Out there. Everywhere.”
“Yes, it is.” He tightened his arm around her shoulders in a gentle squeeze. “Donna, I — thank you.”
They never did make it into the bedrooms that night. Donna woke up to find that she was still curled beside next to the Doctor on the couch, and he was asleep — actually asleep, the man who boasted that he didn’t need sleep! — with his arm around her shoulders and his other hand wrapped loosely around the remote control on his knee.
She eased herself gently up off the couch without waking him and went into her bedroom to get a change of clothes. Ten minutes later, she’d showered and washed her hair, reappearing in the living room to find the Doctor sitting at the breakfast bar, a steaming mug in his hands and a rack of toast in front of him. He waved a slice of it at her and she grinned at the chocolate spread on his cheeks.
“Morning,” she greeted him, fishing out a warm slice of toast and spreading it with apricot marmalade, adding, with a teasing smile, “Sleep well?”
“So what’s the plan for today?” he asked, pointedly ignoring her question.
“Doctor, it’s Christmas day,” she reminded him. “You don’t have to have a plan!”
“Plans are good.”
“And when was the last time you followed one?” she asked with point. “Or do you just like having them so that you can see how far away you can stray from it?”
He tilted his head sideways in a gesture that she guessed was an admission of guilt. Then a grin crept slowly across his features.
“I almost forgot,” he said, leaning across to kiss her lightly on the cheek. “Happy Christmas, Donna Noble.”
“You, too, Doctor,” she said with a smile.
He pressed something into her hand and she looked down, the smile dissolving into a faint frown.
“Christmas present,” he said, shrugging slightly. “S’the best part of Christmas — presents.”
“True,” she conceded, gently easing off the silver paper. A small green jeweller's box appeared as she removed the wrapping and for a one brief moment she wondered if she would see a diamond ring when she opened it. Her brain was trying to come up with ways to let him down gently as she eased up the lid and she sighed in relief as she realized that the box held not a ring but the most gorgeous necklace she had ever seen.
She couldn’t tell what metal it was made of, but it was a dull bronze in colour, a variety of beads strung on the chain.
The Doctor reached over and gently removed the necklace from the box, getting up from the stool and walking behind Donna, sweeping her hair aside to place it around her neck. The metal and the Doctor’s fingers were cool against her neck. She reached up to finger it as he did up the clasp.
“It’s — just gorgeous,” she told him, looking up with a smile. “Thank you.”
“Matches your earrings,” he said, nodding at the large hoops in her ears as he resumed his seat.
She dotted a quick kiss to his cheek and then finished her toast and began to clear away the breakfast dishes in preparation for the main meal of the day.
They were still dawdling over Christmas dinner when the light faded from the sky.
“I’d offer to do the dishes,” the Doctor said, with a grin, “but I don’t think I can move.”
Donna chuckled. “I feel rather the same way myself. I did not need that last piece of pudding.”
“I’ll make sure our next destination has plenty of running, then, just to make sure you work it off,” the Doctor joked.
“I bet you will,” she shot back, getting out of chair with a groan and offering her hand to the Doctor. “Come on, Spaceman. If we don’t do the dishes now, it’ll be impossible to get them clean tomorrow.”
He echoed her groan, but allowed her to drag him to his feet. As Donna turned on the taps and added detergent to the sink, he piled up the plates and bowls before rescuing the large pots and pans.
“If this was the TARDIS,” he remarked, “we could just leave it and she’d take care of it for us.”
“I’ve often wondered if she actually cleans them, or if she just shunts them off to some distant room that you’ll stumble over one day.” Donna chuckled. “If the old girl has any sense, she’ll lock you in there with every dish you’ve ever left unwashed until they’re all clean.”
The Doctor looked appalled. “Don’t say that, she’ll hear you,” he hissed.
Donna laughed. “Then don’t be so heavy-handed with the mallet,” she suggested, pulling on a pair of rubber gloves. “You’re drying, Doctor. That cupboard there,” she said, pointing, as he looked around vaguely for something to dry the dishes.
“Right.” He pulled out one of the brightly coloured tea-towels and waited for her to finish washing the first plate. “So,” he said, leaning against the bench as she scrubbed remnants of gravy off the plate, “are you allowed to have plans for Boxing Day?”
“Oh, I think so.” Donna put the plate on the rack and turned for the next one. “Actually, it depends on you a bit. Have you had enough holidaying or would you like to stay here for longer? I mean,” she grinned, “I did drag you off here without even so much as a ‘by your leave’, so I suppose you should get a say in how long it lasts.”
The Doctor carefully finished crying the plate and placed it on the counter before looking at Donna, and she thought she knew what he was going to say even before he began to speak. Much as he might claim that he had no choice about the lifestyle he led, Donna had a strong suspicion that he loved it, and that the idea of being in one fixed location made him very uncomfortable.
So she only nodded understandingly and smiled when he said, in tones that showed he was afraid she would be offended, “Let’s go back to the TARDIS.”
The Doctor bounced into the TARDIS console room and watched as Donna followed him with a smile. She leaned against the jumpseat and slid her hands into the pockets of her blue jeans. For the first time, he noticed she was wearing the necklace he had given her for Christmas. It sat neatly above the neckline of her pink shirt and was a perfect match for the buckle of her wide belt.
“So, Spaceman, where are we going?”
That was certainly the question. The Doctor grinned as he considered the answer. Donna had put up with all manner of things she hadn’t really liked for the past few days — snow, cold, Christmas — to give him a good time, so it was his chance to return the favour.
Somewhere fun, the Doctor decided. Perhaps a party. Yes, he was sure Donna would like a party, but not an ordinary one.
Definitely something she hadn’t done before.
Something like a party in the 1920s.
He grinned at Donna over the console and then punched the co-ordinates into the TARDIS, grabbing his best friend's hand as he released the handbrake.
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