Charley, for several reasons, wasn’t familiar with the conventions of American 1950s teen romance. So sharing a milkshake with the Doctor just seemed like a perfectly natural response to the fact that they were about half the size of the Zeranno (“the pan-universal masters of ice cream, Charley!”) and accordingly the chocolate-strawberry they’d ordered was twice the size of any reasonable dessert. The Doctor had a terrible sweet tooth, of course, but she didn’t think he had the attention span to make it through a whole one. It would melt.
As they spooned up whipped cream (she had claimed the maraschino cherry), Charley asked how an alien species that had seven eyes, tentacles, and apparently no mouth had become the galaxy’s finest purveyors of Earth-style ice cream.
“A couple of different reasons,” the Doctor explained. “First of all, they mastered spacefaring refrigeration technology well before your species did.”
(She bit down on a frozen strawberry and felt an unpleasant twinge—not unlike the reminder that the Doctor, her best friend, was in fact totally alien to her.)
He went on, waving his spoon to emphasize his points. “Secondly, they’re huge fans of it. You see, their tentacles are used for taste and smell as well as touch and thermoception—detecting heat and cold,” he explained. “So a sweet, creamy, chilled food is a real treat for all the senses to them. When they discovered Earth ice cream it caught on immediately.”
“How nice,” said Charley unenthusiastically. She was happy for the Zeranno, she supposed, but she’d sort of been hoping that the Doctor had taken her here because he thought she would like it, not just because it was next on his list of Must-See Tourist Traps Throughout the Galaxy.
“In fact, when I introduced them to it on Zeran’s Top Chef, I took second prize for the season and shook the hand of Chef Pontigi herself. Well, her tentacle I should say.”
Charley sighed. So it wasn’t just a tourist trap—it was a tourist trap he had a ridiculous name-dropping story about. She couldn’t help smiling at just how typically Doctor-ish it all was. People across thousands of planets saw him as a hero and benefactor, and so did she, but she was the one who got to see his fussy little vanities, his piqued resentments and his irrational preferences. And she loved him all the better for it.
Much good it was doing her.
“I like it,” she said, gesturing to the milkshake, to fill the silence. “It’s certainly rather sweet.”
“Like you,” said the Doctor, absent-mindedly, around his straw.
Charley froze, silent. But he didn’t say anything else, didn’t seem to notice he’d said anything at all, as he slurped at the melted milkshake.
He really drove her mad sometimes.
She shoveled a spoonful of milkshake into her mouth to cover her silence, and gave herself a brainfreeze, and the Doctor taught her the trick of pushing on the roof of her mouth to cure it.
But even full of frozen dessert, she could still feel the warmth of her blushing cheeks.