Author’s Note: Inspired by a Victorian-style social dance I was lucky enough to get to attend last November. Set immediately after “The Chimes at Midnight,” hence the Christmas setting. Hope you like!
Now, this was a good deal more like it, Charley thought happily.
Around her swirled the sights, sounds and other sensations that brought back so many happy memories. Gaslight lent the wooden floor and the colour of the ladies’ gowns a warm, golden glow. The ballroom smelled of cinnamon, gingerbread and mulled wine. Violins played a sprightly Polka in harmony with the chatter of voices and laughter.
It was a proper Christmas ball, of the sort her mother might have attended when she was a child. The Doctor must have known Charley needed this after everything that had happened at Edward Grove. Well…or he was simply trying to distract her from asking questions he didn’t want to answer. Either way, she was grateful for the result regardless of motive.
For once, the Doctor in his velvet frock coat fit right in: the perfect Victorian gentlemen. He was wearing the green one tonight. Alongside Charley, in a gown of deep burgundy silk, they looked rather like a matched pair of Christmas ornaments as he whirled her round the floor. The music stopped and they spun breathlessly to a halt, both laughing hard. If Charley was a little more breathless than the Doctor, well, that was only to be expected, what with the corset and all.
There was a brief lull between songs, whilst the band checked their instruments and the dancers caught their breath. Charley followed the Doctor into a small antechamber, where refreshments had been laid out. She helped herself to a cup of punch and a few small biscuits.
“So,” the Doctor asked with a twinkle in his eye. “Is it everything you could have hoped for?”
“Oh, Doctor,” Charley gushed, her heart swelling with affection for him. “You know it’s all perfectly splendid. Except…”
The Doctor frowned. “Except what, Charley?”
She smiled ruefully, looking around at the crowd, and dropped her voice so no one else could hear. “These people. They must think we’re simply dreadful, monopolising each other as we have.”
He shrugged it off with a delighted grin. “Nonsense. They’ll all think it’s terribly romantic. Look at more traditional versions of the story of Cinderella: the prince danced every dance with her, and when anyone else tried to cut in, he told them ‘this is my partner.'”
“That’s a fairy tale,” Charley admonished. “In real life, it’s considered quite rude for a proper gentleman to just ignore ninety percent of the eligible young ladies at a dance.”
The Doctor laughed. “Then I suppose it’s a good thing I’ve never claimed to be a proper gentleman.” As the music started again, he took her hand and spun her out onto the floor for another waltz. “Besides,” he added with a melting smile. “I always did prefer fairy tales to real life.”