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Secret Ingredient

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“Can’t sleep again?”

The Doctor, sprawled on the sofa, looks up from the book he’s reading— A Christmas Carol , for about the thousandth time—a wistful smile on his face.

“Sorry, love. You know I don’t like leaving you alone. But I wake up and my brain goes round and round and…” He shrugs.

“Come with me,” Rose says, walking past him toward the kitchen. “I’ll let you get back to your book in a minute, wouldn’t want you to miss anything important.”

She hears his muffled chuckle as he follows.

Rose gestures toward their table, and the Doctor sits. When she pulls two mugs out of the cupboard he asks, “Tea? It’s after midnight.”

“Not tea, Doctor,” she says, kissing the crown of his head. “When I was little and couldn’t sleep, Mum used to make me hot cocoa. ‘It warms up your belly and chases away your bad dreams,’ she’d say.”

“I’m not having nightmares,” he protests.

She flicks a dishtowel at him. “Don’t argue with me.”

“Aw, how could I ever,” he says, twisting in his chair to watch her making their treat. When the milk is hot she adds the chocolate, and when it’s all mixed in she sprinkles something else on top and stirs again.

“What’s that?” the Doctor asks, curious.

Rose grins. “Secret ingredient. Cinnamon.” After one last stir she splits the chocolate between the two mugs and plunks them onto the table with a flourish. “Here you are. Drink up.”

He clinks his mug to hers, says, “Cheers!” then wraps his hands around it to warm them before he drinks.

Rose sits opposite him and sips her cocoa, eyelids drooping lower and lower as the warmth spreads through her.

“This is brilliant,” the Doctor sighs, temporarily jolting her awake. “Nine hundred years, I’ve never once thought to put cinnamon in my cocoa.”

“Don’t tell Mum, she’ll want a parade.”

The Doctor snorts a laugh and Rose smiles a sleepy smile. Before too long her arms are folded on the table in front of her, a pillow for her head.

“She sleeps,” the Doctor says softly. He swallows the last of his cocoa, then takes the mugs to the sink to rinse them out. “Time for bed, you,” he says, then gently scoops Rose up and carries her to their bed.

He settles her, brushing a few stray hairs out of her face and pulling the blankets up over her, then heads back to turn off the lights in their little house. Surprisingly, the cocoa did the trick, or he just can’t stand the thought of Rose being in their bed without him again. Either way, he knows he can sleep now. Dickens can wait for another sleepless night. Rose is his now, his always.