“What’s out there, Doctor?” Rose asks, hopping up and down in excitement as she follows the Doctor around the console. His excitement, infectious as always, lures her to his side, and she can’t help but mirror his smile.
“Open the door and see for yourself!” he answers, clapping his hands together. “Mind your step, though. We’re not on land!”
Rose skips down the ramp and flings open the door, gasping when she looks out onto the planet below.
It’s not terribly large, the planet, but it’s spotted with several decent sized areas of land that she thinks are probably classified somewhere between island and continent. Each island appears to have uniquely different physical characteristics, which are visible even from their vantage point in the atmosphere.
“Oh! It’s beautiful. What’s it called?”
The Doctor shoves his hands in his pockets and leans back on his heels, giving her a satisfied grin before answering. “It’s the planet ‘Olympus,’ named so after the founder of the planet formed twelve tribes based off the original Greek gods and goddesses. Do you know them, Rose?”
Rose scrunches her forehead together in thought. “Err, Zeus. Ares. Uhhh… Aphrodite?”
The Doctor nods. “Molte bene. And Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Hestia, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus.”
Rose’s eyes widen. “Blimey, that’s a lot.”
“The twelve Olympians. The planet developer titan who originally acquired this planet formed twelve island worlds that resemble the traits of the gods. For example, that one there?” He points at one island in the shape of a horse, and Rose cranes her head to study it. “It’s the strength of the sea faring people on the planet, and as you can see, there are several of lakes and rivers that span the countryside. Oh! And Dionysus, there,” he gently turns her head to face another island, “is known in the galaxy for its wine. We’ll have to pick up a bottle.”
“So where’re we going first? We’re going down there, yeah?” Rose looks down upon the planet, her heart already beating with the breathless anticipation of a new adventure to come.
“I thought we’d start with Athena,” the Doctor announces, pointing at the island. “Wonderful craft markets, or so I’ve heard, and given your penchant for shopping, I think you’ll enjoy it.” He pauses a moment, and studies Rose with a fond (or what she likes to imagine as fond) gaze. “You’re a lot like her, Rose.”
Rose turns away from Olympus and stares at the Doctor. “Wait, you’ve met her? The Greek goddess. They’re real?”
“I’m very old, Rose,” the Doctor says with mock seriousness. “I met millions of people in my universal travels. You’ll never know.”
“Oh, come off it.” Rose studies the Doctor, still not believing him, and watches for any of his obvious tells. “Really, though, Doctor… Did you?”
The Doctor simply gives her an enigmatic smile and spins around to stalk toward the console.
Rose just shakes her head and follows him back up the ramp.
“What about Aphrodite?” she asks.
The Doctor pauses in his dance around the console, and if she’s not mistaken, the tips of his ears turn a bit pink. “Naaaahhhhhh, it’s a year round Valentine’s day extravaganza! No need for hearts and cupids when you can go shopping, eh?”
“Cupids? Actual, real cupids?”
With a frown, the Doctor shakes his head. “Yes, nasty little interfering buggers, too. The worst sort of matchmakers.”
Ah. Well, that at least makes sense. Rose brushes of a sharp sting of something akin to disappointment as she decides to change the subject. “Ah, well, can’t have that. Can’t have me getting paired with Grog.”
The Doctor’s brow furrows. “Who’s Grog?”
“No one, I was just… Never mind,” Rose says with a laugh. “Just take us to Athena.”
The Doctor raises his left eyebrow in curiosity before slamming down the lever. “As you wish. Allons-y, Rose Tyler!”
A few minutes later, the TARDIS lands with her typical bumpy landing, sending both the Doctor and Rose flying to the grating. Laughing with joy, she takes the hand the Doctor offers and skips down the ramp again while he puts on his coat.
Without hesitation, Rose opens the door and walks confidently out onto Athena. Or what should be Athena. Something about the frothy pink fountain bedecked with angelic (except for the one with his teeth bared) cupids suggests the TARDIS once again landed… not where the Doctor instructed her to.
“Uh, Doctor?” She turns around.
“Hmmm,” he answers, facing the door as he locks it.
“I don’t think we’re on Athena.”
“What do you mean– Oh. Oh blimey.” The Doctor swallows nervously and stares at Rose with wide eyes. “Rose, back to the TARDIS. Now.”
“What’s the big deal, Doctor? Why don’t we explore here for a while and then go to Athena?” She smiles, trying to show him she doesn’t mind, but his reaction worries her. It’s as though Aphrodite is the very last place he wanted to visit, and… “Why isn’t your key working?”
She’s distracted by the Doctor rattles his key in the keyhole several times, but the TARDIS remains locked. He bangs his head against the side of the door. Rose walks over, pats him on his back in consolation, and tries her key with no success. They’re still locked out of the TARDIS.
“I think the TARDIS wants us here, Doctor. Must be trouble afoot.” Rose can’t keep the gleeful tone from her voice.
“But we have to leave.” The Doctor looks properly panicked, now, and is voice is just short of a whinge.
“Doctor, what on earth? You’ve never had a problem with this before. What is going on?” She’s suspicious, now, wondering if there’s something big he left out about Aphrodite.
The Doctor sighs and cards his fingers through his hair, focusing his gaze somewhere over her shoulder. “Erm, well, if one wants to fall in love or celebrate love, they come to Aphrodite. There’s a plant here that releases a pollen that… enhances … existing feelings for another individual. It works best on existing couples, of course, when those feelings are already well established. But the entire point of Aphrodite is love, sex, fertility. The celebration of carnal pleasure. The longer one stays here, the more they are affected by the pollen.”
Rose’s eyes widen in shock, and her heart clenches with dread. “Yeah, we need to go.”
The Doctor’s eyes flash briefly with some unspoken emotion, and he tries his key again. It remains a useless piece of metal.
“I don’t think we’re allowed back inside,” Rose says, stating the obvious and chancing a glance at the Doctor. The expression on his face is… odd. Almost like he’s torn between wanting to stay and wanting to leave. With a pounding heart, knowing the revelation of her feelings for him are at risk if they stay, she takes the Doctor’s hand. “Maybe we’re here for a reason.”
They stare at each other for several moments before the Doctor brushes his thumb gently over hers. “Maybe.”
Rose huffs out a laugh, letting the tension of the last few moments go. “Come on,” she says, pulling him forward. “Let’s go meet cupid.”