Everything had been perfect for their picnic. The whole plan had started when Peri had found a wicker picnic basket and an honest-to-God red checked blanket in a TARDIS cupboard. The Doctor had no idea where they came from (she did worry sometimes that she’d uncover some kind of cursed artifact and he’d be just as clueless!), but he’d suggested taking them for a spin.
Of course, he knew the perfect place. The planet’s orbital conditions, he said, had earned it the nickname “the Planet of Eternal Summer,” and the blue sky and warm sun, just slightly yellower than Earth sunlight, certainly fit Peri’s idea of what a perfect summer day should be. A few spots of yellow-white drifted on the wind; at first she’d thought they were butterflies, but when one spun near her she saw that they were more like incredibly light fluffs, like floating dandelion clocks.
“Catch one if you like,” said the Doctor.
“Won’t I crush it?” said Peri. “It looks fragile.”
“It’s tougher than it looks,” he answered. So she plucked one out of the air. She had to cup it between her hands, or else it would fly away with each tiny breeze, but the Doctor was right that her fingers did not harm its incredibly fine filaments. As she felt their tiny tickling ends against her thumb, they just bounced back.
“See? Aren’t they wonderful?” said the Doctor with that infectious smile—not the winning one he put on when he wanted to charm you, but the much softer one that crept out when he was totally immersed in something. He stared at the little creature, his bent head next to hers.
“What is it?” said Peri.
“I don’t know that it has a name,” said the Doctor. “This planet won’t be colonized by a sentient species for a few centuries.”
“No, I mean—is it an animal or a plant or what?”
“Neither,” said the Doctor. “Or both. Its cells have membranes rather than walls—that’s why it’s so soft—but it photosynthesizes, although the chemical process isn’t exactly the same as what you would find on earth.”
“Cool,” she breathed, and stroked it again.
At last Peri let the fluffball fly away, opening her hands so that it escaped on the breeze. They spread out the blanket and were unpacking the picnic basket when her face fell.
“I said we should have lemonade,” she said, “because it’s summer, you know?”
“This is lemonade,” said the Doctor.
“No, this is Sprite,” said Peri.
“It is not. It says lemonade.”
“Yeah, and the TARDIS says police.” She sighed. “I know what this is; it’s British lemonade, right? Fizzy stuff.”
“That’s what lemonade is. Fizzy sour stuff.”
“It didn’t occur to you that when an American said lemonade she might mean American lemonade?”
“It’s not my fault that you can’t use your own language properly!” he snapped.
She stood up abruptly. “How was I supposed to know you were going to be stupid about it?”
“It was obviously stupid of me to assume you would be using standard English,” he said, not even looking up.
She swallowed tears, hoping her voice would come out cold and reproachful, not whiny and childish. One of these days. “It’s not as if you’re from England. You’re an alien. Don’t make fun of me!”
“Peri!” And now he was doing the hurt and innocent look. “What’s all this fuss over a simple drink? I thought you liked soda, anyway.”
“It’s not about the drink. It’s about you being rude, and—and—oh never mind,” she broke off. “Forget the picnic. I’m going back to the TARDIS.”
She’d heard him trailing sadly behind her as she stormed through the console room and into her own bedroom. He had enough sense of self-preservation, apparently, to know the meaning of her slammed door—no, her firmly shut door—so for a bit she just sulked. She might have cried a little, too. Not because of the lemonade at all. No, just because life was hard and confusing, and she was alone in the universe with someone who liked to make fun of her. Why did everything have to be such a production with him?
At which point she admitted to herself she was also making something of a production, and spent a few minutes staring at her ceiling trying to think about literally anything else. Then she organized two of her drawers. Then at last she ventured back into the console room.
The Doctor was already there, wearing that hangdog look that was definitely funnier than he realized. “Peri, about the lemonade—“
“It’s not about the lemonade.”
“I just wanted us to have a nice time,” he said, hovering over the console.
“And we ended up fighting.” She laughed ruefully. “Typical. Seriously, though, what is it with you and English?”
He turned away from the console, toward her. “I care about English usage because—I just do. It’s worth getting things right. And I’ve lived in England more than anywhere else on your planet.”
“Well, I talk like a normal person,” said Peri, a little edgily, “a normal American person. There are hundreds of millions of us, you know.” And you can deal, she didn’t add. Partly because she wasn’t sure he would grasp the idiom.
“I shall endeavor to respect your linguistic particularity,” he said, which she suspected worked out to something like an apology if you bothered to parse it out. “Now, about that lemonade.”
“I told you, it’s not—“
“Not about the lemonade,” he finished with her. “But it was about something.” There was a little hesitation in his voice.
“Yeah,” she said in a small voice. “It’s just—when I was a kid we would always make homemade lemonade in the summers. It’s like, what’s it called? A sense memory. I just felt a—a little homesick, and it would’ve been so perfect...” She trailed off.
The Doctor didn’t say anything for a moment, focused instead on something at the TARDIS console. If he was in another one of his moods already...
But then he turned his bright smile on her. “Miss Brown,” he said, “will you do me the honor of accompanying me to the great lemon groves of Heroxia VI, the finest in the known universe, and instructing me in the art of homemade lemonade?”
A slow smile crossed her face, followed by a laugh that took her by surprise. “Well,” she said, “if you insist.”