Characters: Harriet Jones, Mr. Copper
Word Count: 1,545 per Google docs
Edited by: My best beloved dr_whuh
Summary: There's no accounting for taste ....
Author's Notes: Written for the redoubtable wendymr in fandom_stocking 2011. This story was the direct result of a discussion about whether or not eggnog is known, drunk, or appreciated in any corner of the British Isles and environs. Said discussion took place over at dw_britglish; it turned rather more lively than one might have expected a discussion of holiday drinks to turn, but was loads of fun. As you might discern from the story,wendymr and I stand on opposite sides of the question, and I couldn't resist writing this up. For those interested, this follows on the heels of my AU Copper Armour for Miss Jones, which predicates Harriet's last minute rescue from Daleks by Mr. Copper. (It's also over here at Teaspoon.)
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement, and take no coin. I do, however, love them all, and thank the BBC for letting me play (and create the occasional original character) in their sandbox.
She couldn't help but notice, as she handed him his drink, that Mr. Copper look a little — just the vaguest, tiniest bit — disappointed. He smiled though, and took it from her, and made an extremely polite show of savoring the contents. Which, Harriet Jones couldn't avoid noticing, consisted of taking a rather noisy sniff of the contents (probably not very rewarding, given its excess of sound over subtlety) and nothing more.
"Ah, Christmas!" he said, with a smile that somehow managed to be a tad wistful. "Such a traditional time for ... this ... this, uhm ..."
"Mulled wine," she said. "It's mulled wine, Mr. Copper."
Harriet looked across her own mug at her guest-cum-landlord and felt sympathy and irritation all bound up in one unsettling new emotion. How could the man not know mulled wine? It was like not knowing Christmas!
Her little sitting room was cozy and bright with Christmas ornaments. She'd put a live wreath in the window, and it was still fresh enough that the green aroma made her a little giddy when she bent in to smell it. There were no cards to put up this year, since no one she'd once known actually knew she was still alive, but she'd decorated anyhow.
Christmas, she'd thought, a Christmas blessedly free of bureaucratic paperwork or worries about Mother, or blandly non-specific government seasonal parties. Or Sycorax, either, or world-stealing Daleks, or bloody Saxon, or, indeed, the bloody Doctor.
Christmas, she'd thought; it's what I need, and what I shall have. Time enough for the challenges of The Copper Institute, and a new life lived secretly and under the radar, once Christmas is over and the New Year has come and gone.
So there was holly, and there were red velvet ribbons, and candles and shiny baubles strung in front of the window and around the wee tree she'd found, and fruit cake and all the makings of a very lovely Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and Christmas midday dinner.
And there was, of course, her sweet and slightly officious savior.
It was inevitable, she supposed. She'd felt she had to make Mr. Copper part of her Christmas, just as he had made her part of his household after her own home exploded. That he'd pressed his carriage house on her with almost embarrassing fervor mattered, of course, but it wasn't why she had made certain to invite him. It was something she wanted to do. She liked him.
She had been pleasantly surprised by his enthusiastic acceptance. She had been more than slightly taken aback by his decision to help her prepare for the great event.
Of course he'd help her decorate, he'd declared expansively. Of course he would accompany her to the shops to get everything on the menu. Of course he would stuff everything into the boot of his ridiculous little car and ferry her home with the air of a wizard transporting her via magic carpet. Of course he would.
And of course she had agreed because, after all, how could one refuse the person who had almost single-handedly rescued one from homicidal armoured aliens in one's front parlour?
Mr. Copper had done it all. He'd taken it all in, had shopped and helped her pick out the tree, had chosen ornaments and eyed wreaths and delightedly hidden packages of his own from her, with inordinate glee; an almost childlike glee, she'd thought. In fact, he'd practically been overcome by it at points.
It was, she thought, as if Christmas was something entirely new to him.
Well not new, she amended silently. More like it was something rare and wonderful, far more wonderful than it was to the stressed and harried people outside their neighboring doors.
Harriet gave an infinitesimal shake of her head. And what was wrong with that, she chided herself. Surely being overly excited by the purchase of Christmas decorations and dinner preparations and wrapping tissue and the like was a better way to go than the currently popular weary midwinter cynicism?
She looked up to see Mr. Copper gazing silently into his wine. He looked forlorn.
"Mr. Copper?" Harriet was worried. Was he allergic to cloves?
"Madame Prime Mini—" He stopped at her warning glare. "Ms Jones?"
That was better. One thing she'd promised herself when she got a second chance at life was that she would never, ever again identify herself by title. Or let anyone else. "Is there something in your drink?"
He looked at her, then at the wine, obviously wrestling with himself. "Oh, no, no ... it's ... just lovely." He sniffed at it again as if to reinforce how lovely he thought it was. "Exquisite."
"You haven't even tried it," she pointed out with some asperity.
Mr. Copper looked about himself helplessly, looking for succour from the wreath and the red velvet bows. "I'm afraid I was rather hoping for eggnog," he finally said in a very small voice.
Eggnog? Eggnog? That vile, sickly-sweet stuff the Americans apparently consumed by the gallon at Christmas? She remembered having to sip on some at the American embassy, smiling and pretending it wasn't just liquefied custard gone off until she could dump it in some luckless nearby potted fern ....
"Eggnog," she repeated. She was quite mild.
"Oh, yes!" There was the fervor, all over again.
"Something from your childhood?" She certainly didn't want to insult some family tradition. She'd never really asked him where he was from. Dorset, perhaps?
A shadow crossed his face. "No. No, we didn't have Christmas where I came from."
Came, not come, she thought. As if it was in the far distant past, some place he never expected to see again. Or perhaps hoped he never would. "But something you ... like?" She managed not to shudder.
He heaved a sigh, and for a moment Harriet didn't think he was going to answer her.
"I don't know," he finally admitted. "I've never had it. I almost did, and I thought it was going to be splendid, but the ship—" She must have looked as nonplussed as she felt, because he quickly interrupted himself. "But I've read all the stories, and I've seen all the films, and it just seems so ... so Christmasy, you see. Eggnog."
Hollywood has so dreadfully much to answer for, she thought, and she couldn't keep herself from asking, a shade too sweetly, "Surely a nice hot mug of mulled wine wouldn't be just as ... Christmasy?"
"I — I'm not very fond of alcohol, I'm afraid." He looked ashamed of himself.
She blinked. "You do know that one normally puts brandy in eggnog."
The look on his face — like a child told that Father Christmas was really Mr. Norman from down the street — made her feel ashamed of having said it. "Of course, there are plenty of people who drink it without alcohol, I imagine."
He looked relieved.
Harriet felt a rush of baffled affection for this strange little man, making up his own Christmas from the rags and tags of things he'd turned into romance.
She thought quickly. Yes, she probably had most of the ingredients, and could puzzle out the ratios. She'd been almost as clever in the kitchen as she'd been in economics and editing, after all.
She smiled. "I think — I know — I'd be delighted to accommodate you, Mr. Copper. Would you care to accompany me to the kitchen?"
His answering smile was beatific, and she was reminded of the night he'd told her the Daleks had vanished. "Really? You can make eggnog?"
She stifled a moment of irritation. Just because she could run a country didn't mean she couldn't do other things, and he should know that by now. "Yes indeed."
"And could you teach me?"
"Certainly." She felt a warm glow.
"Oh, this is really too kind of you!" He looked at her with shy admiration.
"Well mine won't be as (viscous, gelatinously ropey) creamy as the American type," she said, anxious to avoid too crushing a disappointment.
"I wouldn't know," he replied almost giddily.
It took 15 minutes to find everything. She hadn't realized how little nutmeg she actually had, and she had to top off the milk with some cream to reach the proper amount. Still, she managed to make the stuff — two eggs were quite enough for a one batch, she decided — and Mr. Copper bustled about happily cleaning up after her. And she had to admit that the end product looked quite extravagantly, and festively, frothy in the glass she poured for him.
"You're going to have some, aren't you?" He looked hopeful.
"Of course." She hid her wince with a smile that was more genuine than she'd expected.
They carried their glasses back to the parlour.
He took a first tentative sip, and Harriet found herself holding her breath.
"Oh. Oh! That's wonderful!" And this time his praise was completely unforced.
She let her breath out, and sampled the eggnog herself.
It was still rather awful, she decided. But it really didn't matter. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Copper."
He beamed. "Merry Christmas, Ms Jones."
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