By Jesse Nickerson
“Sure you don’t want to come with?” asked Donna. “Mum could feed half of Chiswick the amount she cooks. Could finally put some meat on those skinny bones of yours.”
“Nah.” The Doctor shook his head and gestured toward a panel near the center console. “The gravitic anomaliser’s acting a bit wonky. Been meaning to take a look at it. Probably take me a couple of hours to get it fixed and recalibrated. You go on, though. Have a nice visit with your family and I’ll take care of this.”
Donna cut him a knowing glance. “You’re scared of my mum, aren’t you?” She shook her head. “Nine hundred years of space travel and you’re scared of a fifty-nine-year-old woman. Some scary spaceman you are, eh?”
“I’m not scared of your mum,” he protested. “Mums just get a bit...slappy around me is all.”
“I can’t imagine why,” replied Donna wryly. “Stealing their daughters away to see the universe and face monsters all day. What mother doesn’t want that for their daughter? Mind you, my mum would probably be more cross that you’re unemployed and single.”
The Doctor raised a sarcastic eyebrow. “Well, at least she has her priorities in order, then.”
“You’re telling me. I’m sure I’ll be getting an earful of it the moment I walk in. ‘Donna, tell me, why is it again you’re not—’”
“Wait, what do you mean I’m unemployed?” he interrupted indignantly. “I do things. I save the universe all the time. That’s work.”
Donna crossed her arms. “How much money do you have on you right now?”
“Em...” The Doctor checked through his pockets and then held out his findings. “Three shillings, a bit of wampum, two grotzits, a clockwork frog, and—wow, a jelly baby. Huh. That’s gotta be ancient. Would you like to have it?”
“You did not just offer me jelly baby that’s been collecting lint in your trousers for God knows how long,” said Donna with disbelief.
The Doctor shrugged and popped it into his mouth.
Donna shook her head as she gathered up her souvenirs. “I don’t know what’s scarier: that, or the fact you’re walking around with shillings in your pocket. Honestly, when do you expect to be able to use those?”
The Doctor inspected the coins for a moment before depositing them back into his pocket. “Early 20th century, by the looks of them.”
“And what can you buy in the early 20th century with three shillings? Three more jelly babies?”
“Oh, lots of things,” the Doctor hedged. “Sweets, pies. Bananas for sure. I could get bunches of them. They’d have just gone down in price then.”
“And yet he’s nothing but a skinny stick of skinniness,” muttered Donna. She stood up and peered past the leaves of the large plant in her arms. “You’re absolutely positive my mum won’t wake up one night with this plant trying to telepathically convert her as part of its plan of world domination or anything?”
“Nah, the Minisusr is harmless. It can’t even propagate without a swarm of burrowing lornases.” The Doctor rubbed the back of his head. “Well, mostly harmless. Just, em, make sure she doesn’t spill any Marmite on it and you’ll be fine.”
“And just what will happen if she does spill Marmite on it?” Donna demanded, the effect of her glare somewhat diminished by the large orange flowers pressing against her nose.
“Oh, you know. The yeast will bond to the Minisusr causing chemical reaction that results in a teeny, tiny...explosion.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“It’s a relatively harmless explosion, though,” the Doctor offered. “Worst case scenario it’ll stain the carpet.”
After a moment Donna shrugged. “Why not. I don’t have time to get her something else and God help me if I bring Gramps a gift and not her too. She doesn’t even like Marmite anyway.” She shouldered open the TARDIS’s door. “You’re sure you’re all set?”
“I’m fine. Go and have fun, would you?” the Doctor replied. Just as Donna disappeared through the doorway he added, “And remember to watch out for wandering Marmite eaters on the way!”
The nuances of Donna’s reply were lost before they reached him, but he caught enough to make him grin.
Smile wide on his face, the Doctor hunkered down and set about preparing the TARDIS for Donna’s return.