The Doctor sat bored in the 1970s (or possibly the 1980s), toying with his broken dematerialisation circuit as he tended to at times like this. He'd never have guessed that Earth could be so dull, and yet dull it often was. There just wasn't much to do in between adventures. He looked at the ceiling and sighed dramatically.
There was a knock on the door. Finally something might be happening! The Doctor leapt to his feet and struck a pose.
“Post for you, Doctor,” said Benton, holding out a letter in a light pink envelope.
Sometimes it seemed like Benton was the most real person in all of UNIT. He was just so... realistic, somehow. “Thank you, Sergeant,” said the Doctor, because he'd never bothered to learn Benton's first name. If he had one. Which seemed likely, all things considered.
The Doctor held up the envelope and examined it.
“I should think it's a Valentine's card,” said Benton with good humour.
“Well, it smells very exotic for a bill,” said the Doctor. “I wonder who it's from?” He stuffed it into a pocket and promptly forgot about it.
“Aren't you going to open your letter?” asked Benton, clearly disappointed.
“Oh, I expect it's for Jo. I'll give it to her when she gets back.”
“It didn't have her name on,” said Benton with that almost-annoying patience of his.
The Doctor shrugged his velvet-clad shoulders. “She sends off for things in my name, you know. Healing crystals and pamphlets about homoeopathy, that sort of thing. She does try but she gets confused about what is and isn't science.”
“Science is whatever the government pays me to believe in,” said Benton promptly.
“Yes, quite. Close the door on your way out, if you don't mind,” he said, being subtle.
When Benton was gone he reached into his pocket and pulled out the mysterious envelope. Was it really a Valentine's card? His common-sense fought with his substantial ego as he tried to narrow down the suspects. It could be from Jo, but she could just have handed it to him. Besides, he thought rather sadly, she'd only give him such a card out of compassion.
Yates clearly only had eyes for Benton, who in turn seemed oblivious to any sort of romantic overture. The Brigadier probably didn't know it was Valentine's Day, deliberately even. That left one person, and the Doctor wasn't even sure if he wanted a card from him.
He wondered what it would say inside. Roses are red, Violets are blue, I wish you were dead, Mwahahaha? Would it even have words, or just a picture of a dead puppy?
It could be a bomb, thin as the envelope was. The Doctor held it to his ear to see if it was ticking. It wasn't, but that didn't really prove anything. He stood and went to fetch a letter-opener from his desk.
Jo opened the door and slipped into the room, all go-go boots and shiny rings. Her wide eyes shone with vague contentment and her skirt was just short enough for the Doctor to decide to pretend he hadn't noticed.
He held up the pink envelope. “I appear to have a secret admirer.”
“I should think it's from Margaret,” said Jo.
The Doctor frowned at her. “Margaret?”
“You know, the cleaning lady. She's ever so careful not to interfere with your experiments.” Jo jumped up to sit on the edge of a laboratory table, legs swinging. “She really likes you.”
“Oh,” said the Doctor, feeling somewhat guilty that he still hadn't the slightest idea what Margaret actually looked like. He must have seen her occasionally, surely? He shook his head to clear it and to communicate with Jo. “I'm fairly certain it's from the Master.”
Jo's mouth dropped open. “The Master!” she gasped. “Why on Earth would he send you a Valentine's card?”
Well, nothing on Earth, thought the Doctor, but there had been quite a few wild nights back on Gallifrey. Not that he had any intention of mentioning this to Jo, as the girl was quite innocent all things considered and would doubtless judge him for his youthful (and, he admitted to himself, less youthful) indiscretions.
“I haven't the slightest idea,” he lied, easily. “But surely you recognise his rather twisted sense of humour?”
Jo nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose he might do something like this. Just to get your back up.”
The Doctor thought that the Master probably had other anatomical parts in mind, but he picked up the letter-opener and went to the window. He held the envelope up to the light.
“Looking for booby-traps,” said Jo, knowledgeably. “Oh, that'd be just like him, trying to kill you on a day of love.”
He couldn't see anything through the envelope, so the Doctor carefully slipped the blade under the seal and cautiously drew it along. It opened silently and without exploding. The scent of a familiar aftershave wafted into the room. Definitely him, then.
He looked at Jo. “I'd get ready to run if I were you. Just in case.”
She slid off the table and moved towards the door.
The Doctor held the envelope upside-down and shook out the contents. A card. It really was an actual card. A card with a kitten holding a red love-heart in its little paws. Maybe it exploded when you opened it? Gingerly, he opened the card at arms-length.
“Mwahahahahahahaaha!” Insane laughter filled the room, somewhat tinnily, from a chip inside the card.
Jo paled. “That's horrible.”
“Just his little joke, I imagine.” The Doctor read the words inside the card.
“What does it say?” asked Jo.
The Doctor hurriedly closed the card and shoved it into a pocket. “Oh, nothing important. Roses are red, Violets are blue, This planet is doomed, And I hate you.”
“What a terrible poem,” said Jo, unaware of the actual rhyme in question.
The Doctor shrugged. “He never was one of the universe's great poets. Too much ego and not enough emotional insight.”
Which was the real surprise. The poem in the card was actually any good. It was romantic, and thoughtful, and only slightly obscene. Surely not the work of the Master? Probably he'd threatened the Poet Laureate into coming up with something suitable. He sat down at his workbench, slightly dazed.
Jo came over and patted his shoulder. “Maybe next year,” she said, brimming with compassion.
“What?” asked the Doctor, only half-listening to her.
“You might get a real card next year.”
The Doctor stood up. “My dear, I have no intention of being stuck on this awful planet for another year. And I certainly don't need to celebrate manufactured holidays when there's work to be done.”
“There isn't any work to be done,” said Jo rather primly. “The Brigadier says it's the most boring month in UNIT's history. He said I could take some leave if I wanted.” She looked uncertain. “I don't know if I get holidays in this job. I never thought to ask.”
The Doctor patted her arm absently. “I don't even get paid.”
“You said you didn't want to be paid for doing what you always do anyway. You said you'd feel like a...” she blushed slightly, “...like a prostitute.”
The Doctor looked at her. Sometimes he wondered if she could possibly be as innocent as she appeared to be. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn't like to be working for the military.”
“You do have an expense account,” said Jo. “And they do pay for things like fuel for Bessie. And your lab equipment. And that holiday-home in Scotland. And-”
“Yes, yes, quite,” said the Doctor, attempting to cut off her flow of truth.
“And,” said Jo, continuing anyway, “the Brigadier has to keep telling those awful Torchwood people that you don't exist. Not that they're very bright anyway,” she added, “if they haven't noticed that you're on Earth.”
“What's Torchwood?” asked the Doctor.
“Oh, I'm not entirely sure myself,” said Jo. “I think they might be some sort of fan club.” She prodded the Doctor's arm. “See?” she said, “you do have people here who genuinely care about you.”
The Doctor wondered if she was trying to tell him something. Probably not, he thought only slightly miserably. She probably didn't mean it like that. She meant friendship and mutual admiration. She could never like him in the way that the Master did.
Which, all things considered, was a good thing. He'd never get any work done if he had to deal with Jo trying to kill him just to get his attention. Unconsciously he touched the pocket with the card in. Jo would never do anything outright evil to express her fondness for someone.
“At least,” he said, looking for the silver lining, “he didn't send me a human heart in a box.”
Jo looked disgusted. “What a horrible thought!”
“And he didn't blow up a star-system to write my name in the debris.”
Jo gazed at the Doctor with pity in her lovely wide eyes. “I'm certain that someday, sooner or later, you'll meet someone nice who doesn't keep trying to kill you. I mean,” she went on, “that's very off-putting behaviour. Who could fall for someone who wanted to kill them?”
“I don't know,” lied the Doctor. “It's not exactly attractive.”
“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked gently.
“I wouldn't say no,” he replied, thinking of the Master.
“I'll go and put the kettle on.” She smiled. “And you can have two sugars, to keep you sweet.”
“Thanks, Jo,” he said, almost paying attention this time. She left the room, having learned her lesson about improper uses of a bunsen burner.
When he was alone again the Doctor pulled out his Valentine's card and read it over once as the tinny laughter mocked him. He probably shouldn't keep it. That would just be silly, and slightly pathetic. Best to get rid of it.
So he decided to hold onto it for a bit, to throw it into a supernova next time he had the chance. Which might be a while, but... well.