Humbugs and Sugar Plums
I don't own Doctor Who or anything else. This is for caedmonfaith for this year's DW Secret Santa. They wanted fluffy holiday shenanigans, so that's what they're getting. This is my first Twelve/Rose but I'm going to give it my best shot.
He didn't hate Christmas, of that he wanted to be very clear. His dislike was entirely centered on the commercialism of the holiday. He also didn't understand the obsessive lengths some people went to in order to 'celebrate' the holiday.
"Why are the trees every color but green?" James Noble frowned at the display before him. "What's wrong with green?"
"Nothing's wrong with green," Rose assured him, trying and failing to hide the smile on her face as his eyebrows scrunched together. "Some people just like something more unique." She pointed towards one tree near the center of the display. "I like that one."
"It's a pretty blue."
"Rose Tyler, you really want a blue Christmas tree?"
"Yes, I think I do." She used their joined hands to tug him towards the tree in question. "I think it's even the right size for the living room."
James sighed, knowing he would give in. Eyeing the tree in question, he reconsidered his first thoughts. Up close, it wasn't nearly as garish as some of the others on display. It would certainly be different, and also less clean-up than the tree he would normally be forced to procure by his cousin.
"I think we might need a size smaller," he eyed the tree, "or were you…never mind." His partner would scale the tree in order to decorate it.
"Make you do the top?" She teased him, knowing where his thoughts had gone. "Don't worry, Mum broke me of scaling Christmas trees when I was six."
"You mean she stopped catching you," James teased her back. He had seen her scale a wall in her coffee shop that physics said should have been impossible. He'd witnessed her do the same in their shared apartment. Rose liked climbing and balancing on things, even when said objects weren't meant to be used in such ways.
Rose hummed, trying to look as innocent as she possibly could. "That or she gave up," the woman admitted. "So, we're getting this one?"
James sighed, a small smile playing on his lips. "Yes, we'll get the blue tree." Admittedly, the color had grown on him as he observed it. Plus, it made Rose smile. He enjoyed seeing her smile.
They found the location tag on the display and made their way over to the shelves where the boxes were kept. It appeared that blue trees weren't a very big seller as there was an abundance of them to choose from. Rose located the most beat up box she could find and loaded it into their cart. James frowned at it, but refrained from saying what he wanted.
Knowing Rose, she wanted something she could tailor to them and buying something that might be a little damaged allowed her to do just that.
"Lights or ornaments?"
"Lights," James quickly claimed. If he chose the ornaments, they would never get to leave the store. Lights were easy. He could do the lights.
Rose left him looking at boxes of lights while she took the cart to wander the aisles dedicated to ornaments. Looking over the selves, he swallowed.
Since when were there so many choices for lights? Looking over the options, he winched at the prices listed. The tree he could understand being pricey, but why did a box of string lights that were only going to be used once a year need to be over ten pounds? And why, he wondered, did they come in so many different sizes? Who needed lights the size of basketballs for their tree? Who could even decide what to get when they had so many displays winking and flashing at them?
Closing his eyes in frustration, he tried his best not to jump when an overly cheerful store clerk appeared at his elbow to ask if he needed assistance. He bit back his first response, remembering Rose's reaction to anyone treating minimum wage workers as less than human. That included talking down to them as if they didn't understand basic speech.
"I need lights, for the tree," he motioned towards the box in his cart. "Where in this hellish mess would I find it?" He was well aware of his sharp tone, but at least he wasn't yelling.
"I'd go with white, frosted, or clear," the clerk suggested. "Third bay, second shelf is where the regular sized ones are. Were you going to want any to hang outside?"
He had to give the young woman credit. She toned down her cheeriness and went with a more business-esque cadence to her speech. She walked ahead of him to present him with a box of each of her suggestions, finding them quickly in the chaos.
"Possibly," he admitted. Rose would most likely want to decorate their small balcony. She hadn't said anything yet, but perhaps he could surprise her.
"How large an area? Any neighborhood restrictions?" At his confused look, she elaborated. "Some neighborhoods have limits on how many and what kind of decorations can be put out."
He nodded his understanding. "Just a small balcony, hardly big enough for the table and chairs we have out there." He thought about the way some of his neighbors had already decorated theirs. "I doubt we have any restrictions so long as we don't burn the building down."
The woman nodded. "Right, our outdoor lights are in the last two bays and the aisle in front of them. Any idea how you want it to look?"
"Simple," he replied. Rose could add in all the tinsel she desired, but he was happy with simple.
"I can work with that. How many of these would you like?"
James picked up three boxes of the frosted lights. Those wouldn't clash with the tree or whatever ornaments Rose picked out. He followed the clerk to the end of the row and tried not to winch at some of the things available for outdoor decorations.
"Here, these are about as simple as we've got." She held up a box of plain icicle lights. "We've also got ones that shift colors that aren't hideous or ostentatious." She held up another box.
When he saw the second option, he knew which one Rose would like. Frowning at the box, he realized he would most likely need more than one. Their balcony was small, but it wasn't that small. Color-shifting icicles would be subtle for his tastes and colorful for Rose's, so he picked up three boxes of those as well.
"Zip-ties work best," the clerk told him, "and they're cheap, so I wouldn't bother trying to figure out which light clip would work best."
"Isn't it part of your job to get me to buy the expensive stuff?"
"Nope," she grinned at him, "my job is to assist you with your project. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
James shook his head. "No, thank you." He paused. "Where would I find zip ties?"
"Aisle 39, last bay on your right."
"Thank you," he quickly went to fetch them, leaving the now genuinely smiling clerk to her position among the chaotic decorations. At least he hadn't left anyone crying in his wake this time.
He located Rose debating between several different boxes of ornaments. One was multicolored glass orbs in various shapes while the others were all monochromatic color schemes. He tugged the box from her hand and placed it into the cart.
"Get the ones you like my Dear," he told her.
Rose smiled at him. "You sure? I've seen the pictures you've got of past Christmases. Your trees are always neat and precise."
"Humbug," he muttered. "This is your tree as well love. We'll decorate with sugar plums if you wish."
Rose giggled. "I'm not even sure what sugar plums are supposed to look like, but I don't think they'd make very good ornaments." She placed another box of ornaments into the cart to join the first.
Strings of silver beads, packages of white tinsel, a blue and white tree skirt, and several boxes of candy canes soon joined everything else in the cart. That brought them to the final piece: the tree topper.
Rose frowned at the rather obscene amount of choices available, the majority of them some kind of angel. Most of them weren't even all that appealing to begin with. She had no idea where to even begin.
"Perhaps she could help?" James nodded to the same clerk who had assisted him with the lights. "She looks like she might be in need of a rescue."
Rose's focus swung from a particularly gaudy angel to where James was looking. Her frown deepened. As the owner of a café, she abhorred the way people treated customer service people. She had been there, having worked her way up throughout secondary and college. James had heard her rant more than once over the attitude of some people, and she had snapped at him more than once when he forgot politeness in his irritation.
The clerk (Rose noted the name on her vest as 'Bill') was trapped between displays as the man she was attempting to assist yelled at her for not having something in stock.
"Not her fault mate," Rose stepped in, standing at her full height and wearing the same no-nonsense look she always had when at work. "Why not take her suggestion and look online?"
"Do you work here?" The man snapped at Rose. James bristled, but remained with their cart as Rose's grin turned wolfish.
"No, so I can tell you to your face that you're being a boorish arse." Rose, despite being shorter than the man, looked down her nose at him. "Now, you're going to stop your obscene behavior and ask Miss…" she looked at the clerk.
"Potts, Bill Potts," she quickly filled in; stunned that someone had come to her aide.
"You're going to ask Miss Potts politely where else you might be able to find what you're looking for." Rose finished.
The man snarled. "You can't talk to me like that! Stupid bint, ought to mind your own business."
"And you," James stepped in now, angry that anyone dared to insult Rose in any manner, "are exactly the reason clerks hide from people actually requiring help. I suggest you take my partner's advice and move on."
Faced with uneven odds, the man threatened to report them to a manager before stomping away. James snorted in derision.
"And people complain that I can be unpleasant." He muttered to Rose, who only shook her head at him.
"Thank you," Bill told them. "Was there something I can help you with?" She'd much rather help her previous customer and his partner then risk another person ready to take their frustrations out on her.
"Actually, do you have any other toppers?" Rose motioned towards the angels. "These are rather…"
"Grotesque?" Bill suggested. "My girlfriend said the same thing when they were first displayed. Come on, the stars are this way."
James watched as Rose and Bill chatted away. He had no real opinion about what went on top of their tree. He trusted Rose to pick something to suite them both. When she held up the glittery white star, he nodded his agreement.
"Are we done?"
"Yep, that's everything." Rose assured him.
They left Bill helping another couple searching the Christmas displays and made their way towards check out.
"Come on Doctor," Rose held up another sweater. "It's one time a year."
"Why do people even like these things?" James glared at the growing pile of rejects. Who on Earth had actually thought up the trend of ugly Christmas sweaters? They had been touched in the head, that's what.
"Because it's silly and can be fun when you've got the right one."
"The right one isn't going to be a meme." He scowled at another rack that had images of Grumpy Cat on them.
Rose held in her giggles. They had actually officially met at an UCS party thrown by a mutual friend. Donna, his cousin, had forced him into one of their Grandfather's sweaters and dragged him along. Before that, he'd been a near constant customer at her café but aside from some idle chit chat and pleasantries had never had much chance of deeper conversation. Mal Lupo was always busy, and she had purposefully gotten the Latin wrong.
"It's also our anniversary. You really want to spend it at Jack's dressed in horrid sweaters?"
Shaking her head, she threw a blue sweater decorated with Santa caps and snowmen at him. "They aren't all bad, and no. I want to wear them while we decorate our tree."
"You want to put up the tree on our anniversary?" Typically, James only bothered putting up a tree a few days before Christmas if he even remembered to do so. The only reason he was even putting an effort in was because it made Rose smile.
He liked making Rose smile.
She was smiling at him now.
"Yea, I thought it'd be a nice way to celebrate. A way to start our own traditions."
James found himself smiling back at her; a small, gentle smile that rarely appeared. Rose liked getting the smile to come out. Small as it was, it always softened his face and there was never any room for guile when he smiled like that. James was so rarely genuinely happy that being able to bring out that emotion in him brought it out in her.
"I think that sounds like a wonderful idea." He held up a blue sweater covered in fluffy white snowflakes and silver threads. "Even if it means wearing these."
Rose loved Christmas. The lights, most of the music, the snow, the smells of peppermint and gingerbread; all of it just filled her with a child-like joy. Growing up, it had been one of the few times of the year where her tiny family had indulged themselves. Jackie had always gone all out even if their decorations were nothing more than paper and the lights were a mismatched jumble of strings her mother had gotten second or even third hand.
She had instilled that same love of the holidays into Rose along with the understanding that being together was the important bit and not what was under or even on the tree. Rose tried to carry that into every relationship she had, with mixed success.
James, she knew, acknowledged the holiday mostly for her benefit. It touched her that he was so willing to try, even when it had his cousin laughing at him and his thoughts bent more towards Scrooge than Saint Nick. Right now was a perfect example.
Her partner was currently dressed as a very skinny Santa and seated in a corner of Mal Lupo with a gaggle of children surrounding him. He had a bag containing little treat bags she and her staff had made to hand out. He'd already sat through all of the photos and listening to them tell him what they would like and now had the children completely enraptured as he lectured them on holiday history.
"If anyone else had asked him to dress up he'd have cursed them into forgetting about it," Donna (the cousin who had mercilessly teased James earlier that day) said to Rose.
"Oh, I know." Rose replied. "But he's having fun, and so are the kids."
Donna just shook her head. When she had dragged James to Jack's Christmas party last year, she had never expected him to interact with anyone beyond the minimum. It had been to her pleasant (and pleased) surprise to find him utterly enamored with the young woman currently beside her. She and Jack had had to track them down after the party was over to tell them it had actually ended. Donna still had no idea where they'd gone after or what they'd done, but it had resulted in this.
She hadn't even seen James this pleasant around the holidays. Or any other time of the year. Rose was a good influence on him.
"Yea, although I don't think any of them are ever going to view Santa the same way."
Rose giggled. "You can take the Doctor out of the lecture hall, but," she shrugged. She liked that his brain held so much information. She was always learning something and teaching people was what James was good at. Letting him lecture on whatever came to mind made him happy and this was far from the first time he'd commandeered a corner of her café to do so.
Admittedly, his audience was usually much older but the current crowd certainly wasn't dampening his spirits.
"…and that's how one person can deliver gifts in one night." He finished.
"But Doctor," one little girl asked, "Why can't he do that to be at all the malls and Christmas parties?"
"Because it only works one night of the year," James explained, "that's why he has people to help him. Even with time travel, there are only so many places a person can be at once."
The kids were all nodding as if that made perfect sense.
"Plus the reindeer would probably get really sick doing it all the time," one of the little boys commented, nodding to himself as if he had solved a problem of great importance.
"But how can his bag be bigger on the inside?" A particularly stubborn child asked.
"Magic," James answered with all the seriousness of it being a perfectly reasonable answer. "Now, who would like a treat bag?"
That got their attention and soon his bag was empty.
Seeing he was done, Rose made her way over to him.
"That was sweet," she told him, pecking him in his cheek. "Ready to head home?"
"More than," he replied. "What were you and Donna talking about?"
"You," Rose answered, "and how adorable you are at playing Santa."
"Humbug," he grumbled. He smirked when she laughed at his response.
The day of their anniversary dawned dark and cold. James was yanked out of their perfectly warm bed by an exuberant Rose because it was snowing outside. Once he actually managed to pay attention, his grumpiness faded in the wake of his partner's joy.
"I think now would be a good time to show you your surprise," he told her.
"Surprise?" Rose turned to look at him. "What, you didn't make it snow?" A smile teased the edge of her mouth.
He chuckled. "No, sorry my dear, but I think you'll like it anyway."
"Do I finally get to see what you were doing on the balcony last night?" Rose had been forbidden to go out there for the last several days. She had set the tree up instead, letting the branches spread out before they tried to decorate it.
"Yes," he answered, taking her hand and leading her to the large sliding door.
He opened the curtain, letting the dim daylight filter in. Between the storm and early hour it was still dark enough that they would be able to see the lights he had hung up. He reached to the side and flipped the switch that would turn on the balcony outlet.
Rose gasped, covering her mouth as the strings of icicle lights lit up and faded between white, blue, purple, red, and back again. They covered the top and sides of the door, wrapping around the balcony railing to hang down in an array and stately color. It reflected off the already gathering snow and the stick on snowflakes the curtain had been hiding.
"Those I can take credit for," he told her, pleased at her response.
"I love it," she told him, kissing him hard. "It's wonderful, thank you."
He gave her one of his soft smiles. "I'm glad you like it." It had taken far longer than he thought it would to get everything hung up the way he wanted it. The current snowfall was a surprise, but perfect.
"Wanna start on the tree?"
He laughed. "Don't you want breakfast first?" He looked at the clock, but it being just after 5AM didn't surprise him. Rose was always up first, the hazard of owning a café.
"The eggs!" Rose dashed back into the kitchen just in time to get the pan off the stove before her food could burn.
James followed after, smile still on his lips. He watched as Rose finished breakfast for both of them, including tea, before joining him at the table. He couldn't help his grin at her exuberance. She was one of the few adults he knew that still held snow in the same regard as most children did.
Soon enough they were done. He was able to convince her that getting dressed before they started anything, but only by virtue of tugging on his new sweater first.
He had gone with the dark blue sweater liberally decorated with fluffy white snowflakes and silver tinsel. Rose's was the color of warm caramel, a black coffee cup decorated with multi-colored puff balls meant to be lights on the front. There was a small white puppy sitting in the cup, part of the light string in his mouth and paws on the rim. Once sufficiently dressed, they dragged out their newly bought decorations.
James struggled with the lights, winding them around him more than he did the tree.
"Here, Doctor," Rose took an end and untangled them. "I'll hold it, you wrap."
Lights on, Rose did the same with the strings of silver beads and white tinsel. James placed the star on top, connecting it to the end of the light string so that it would glow with the rest.
"Pick a side and see who gets finished first?" Rose held up the two boxes of ornaments they had chosen.
"Alright," James took one of the boxes. Rose had already made sure all of the hooks were in place.
Willing to indulge her to a point, James wasn't going to let her have all the fun. He haphazardly hung up the glass balls as quickly as he could. His boxes of candy canes were next and he was a little neater with those but not by much.
"Done," he declared.
Rose stuck her tongue out at him. She giggled at the mess, forgoing her own original pattern to join in his chaos. The lights, tinsel, and beads were ordered enough. Finished, she plugged it in and let him drag her onto the couch.
"Perfect," James declared.
"Not quite," Rose pulled out a box she had had hidden for just this moment. "I thought of something else we could turn in to a tradition for our holidays."
Taking the box from her, James smiled widely. "You aren't the only one my dear. Wait here." He got up and went to retrieve a similar box. Rose laughed when she saw it.
Opening them, Rose shook her head. "Sugar plums?" She held up the ornament made to look like a pair of plums crystalized with sugar and tied together with a green and white ribbon.
"Well, I did say you could put them on the tree if you wished," he reminded her.
"You did, open yours." She pecked his cheek and went to hang her ornament. She smiled softly when she took in the 'Rose Tyler and James Noble 2018' written in his neat cursive on the flat back.
"Ha!" James burst out. "I see this is what I get for using that phrase." He held up the Scrooge McDuck ornament. In Rose's sharp print was written 'RT&JN 2018' on the soles of the character's feet.
He kissed her cheek after hanging his ornament. "Happy Christmas Rose Tyler."
She kissed him softly. "Happy Christmas Doctor."
I hope you enjoyed your gift caedmonfaith! Happy Holidays!