Rose noticed the older man, standing with his back to the rest of the marketplace, watching the first of Trillium’s three suns set. The man was leaning heavily on his cane and didn’t look properly dressed for the crisp chill in the air. He seemed so alone, and maybe it was because there was something about him that reminded her of the Doctor back when she’d first met him, but her heart went out to him.
Making a snap decision, she reached into her pocket for the credit stick the Doctor had given her. She browsed through some vendors until she found a ridiculously long, striped scarf and a blue, knit hat. On her way back to where the gentleman still stood, she bought a cup of hot cocoa, or what passed for cocoa in this sector. Still it was warm and only slightly sweetened, just enough as not to be too bitter, similar to the way it used to be consumed in its early days.
Rose walked silently up to the man, and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the view. The second sun had begun its descent and the golden hour was in full affect. The soft light blanketed the valley in reds and yellows. “‘S beautiful.”
The older man glanced briefly at Rose. “That it is, m’dear. Young people rarely stop long enough to enjoy the bounty of nature.”
She gave him a teasing smile. “Guess I must be an oddity then, ‘cos that’s my favorite part of travellin’.”
He turned and got his first full look at Rose, somewhat taken aback that she appeared to be non-native to the planet, he stammered, “Qu...quite right.”
Rose took his hand and led him to a small bench nearby. “Come, share a cup of cocoa with me. You looked a bit cold out here on your own.”
“Did you know drinking cocoa together has it’s own special meaning in some cultures?” They sat down and Rose handed him the steaming cup. “Thank you, m’dear.”
“You’re welcome. Tell me about the cultural differences of hot chocolate.”
The man took a sip of the cocoa. “Well, let’s see. On Sol 3, in the 15th century, Mexico, sharing a cup would be akin to a betrothal.”
A wide grin broke over Rose’s face. “Oh, is it now? So are we engaged?”
The man giggled delightedly and clapped his hand on his knee. “No, no.” The old man’s eyes danced with glee. “Firstly, we’re not on Sol 3.”
“I am from Earth though.”
His eyebrows shot up at that. “Well, then secondly, and most importantly, one must prepare the cocoa for their beloved. Imagine my surprise in finding that out! Told a friend once, ‘I made some cocoa and got engaged.’”
Rose puzzled over whether the man had meant to sound as if he’d actually gotten engaged over cocoa 16 centuries ago on a planet 450 light years away. There was no way...unless the Doctor wasn’t the only one who had access to time travel. He can’t be another Time Lord, but maybe there’re others… Rose bit her lip and studied him. He could just be a nutter. But then again…
Rose shook her head. “Sorry. Was just thinkin’ of a friend of mine, well, bit more than a friend actually.” Rose blushed as she admitted, “You remind me of him.”
“Is he your young man?”
Rose poked her tongue from between her teeth. “He would laugh to hear you call him that, but I guess the sentiment’s the same. Not really sure what to call him, truth be told. He’s my best mate, you know? And we’re...together, but boyfriend is so…well, it’s a rubbish way to describe him. He’s so much more than that. So much better. An’ he’s not exactly young, not old for his people, but still, older ‘n me.”
The old man smiled at Rose kindly. “Not older than me though, I bet.”
Rose’s eyes sparkled mischievously. If he only knew.
“Is he here with you?”
“Yeah, my…young man…” Rose’s lips twitched. “...is off runnin’ an errand. He wanted it to be a surprise, so I’m waitin’ for him here. Oh! I almost forgot. I thought you might like these.” Rose stood to wrap the scarf around the man’s neck and to place the cap atop his head. “It’s a bit chilly. Don’t want ya to catch cold.”
The man stared in wonder at Rose and stroked the fabric of the scarf.
Rose sat back down. “Are you here alone?”
The older man looked off into the distance. “No. I’m travelling with some companions. But they’re off exploring the markets.”
“But not you?”
“I prefer to take in the sights.”
“I don’t mean to pry, but you seem a bit...sad?”
The man took Rose’s hand and patted it. “I’m missing my granddaughter. She used to travel with me, but recently met a young man of her own. I only wanted her to be happy…” He sighed and rose from their shared seat. “My dear, I’m afraid I must be on my way, but it was lovely meeting you. Thank you for the cocoa and the gifts and your company.”
“It was lovely meetin’ you, too. An’ remember, just ‘cos your granddaughter’s settling down, doesn’t mean you’ll never see her again. It just means you’ll have more family next time you see her.”
The man smiled. “You’re very wise and quite right. Good luck with your own beau. I hope he treasures you as you deserve to be treasured.” With a tap of his can, he left to find his companions.
Rose settled back against the bench and watched as the planet’s final sun kissed the horizon. A warm body in a black leather jacket plopped down next to her. Rose turned and leaned into the kiss the Doctor bestowed upon her. He handed her a hot beverage. “Here, love, I brought us some hot chocolate.”
Rose sipped slowly. “Mmmm. This is delicious and much sweeter than I was expectin’.”
The Doctor swung an arm around her shoulders. “I went back to the TARDIS for it. I know you don’t like the bitter stuff here.”
“You made it?”
Rose peeked at him through her lashes and grinned. “You know, in some cultures, sharing a hot cocoa you made is like proposin’.”
The Doctor sat stock-still and slack-jawed. “I...er…what?...How’d--?”
Rose sat forward suddenly and turned to face the Doctor. “I didn’t mean...I wasn’t tryin’...I...Blimey.”
The Doctor started laughing at her flustered state. “I was just surprised that you knew that little fact. I didn’t think you were anglin’ for a proposal.”
She giggled and cuddled into his side. “Good.”
Her gaze shot to his. “Although?”
“It was part of it.” The Doctor kissed Rose and untangled himself from her.
“Part of what?” She gasped as he dropped to one knee. “Doctor!”
“I do want to marry you, and always be the one you share your xocolātl with.” Rose cupped the Doctor’s jaw and tried to fight back her tears with a watery smile. “Rose Marion Tyler…” He pulled a small box from his pocket. “When we met, I was a broken man. Tried me best to push you away. But like you have a habit of doin’, didn’t listen to a word I said.”
“Oi! I listen when you say somethin’ worth listenin’ to.”
He huffed a laugh. “Well, I’m glad for it this time. Rose, you made me whole. You took all the fragments of my battered soul, and you fixed them. Made me believe in life. In love. In the beauty of the universe again. I don’t know what it is you see in me, but I’m grateful. And I would be honored if you’d consent to be my wife. Marry me?”
Rose’s tears began to fall when the Doctor opened the box and presented her with the most beautiful sapphire she’d ever seen. “‘S TARDIS blue.” At his daft grin, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Yes. Yes, of course I’ll marry you. Love you, Doctor.”
“Fantastic!” He winked. “Did I ever tell you about the time I was among the Aztecs and accidentally got engaged over a cup of cocoa?”
Rose’s eyes went round. “What?”
“Don’t worry, this time I plan on goin’ through with it.”
He laughed at her stunned expression before losing himself in her kiss.