Mere seconds passed
‘tween the click of the door
And the TARDIS appearing
Behind me once more.
Yet I wondered, inside,
As I hurried to meet
The blue box sat on
The far side of the street
How many adventures
He’d had in each year;
Just how much the Doctor
Had lost to be here.
Another new body;
New tweed, new bow tie.
The Doctor stepped out
And looked me in the eye.
“You know,” he began,
“I’ve had friends. Girlfriends. Wives!
But no-one has known me
In all of my lives…”
“Except me,” I replied.
“Nice bow tie, by the way.”
He grinned in delight.
“You’re the first one to say!”
Then he held up some
Silvery, shimmery thing,
And apologetically said
“This might sting—“
I didn’t hear him.
I didn’t hear anything, because sound was sight
and sight was smell
and smell was memories all the autumn mornings
and I grasped at the birds but there were too many arms
and not enough hands
and I was
I crumpled, and the universe caught me as I fell.
When I stood up, the world was better.
Blackpool, with all the illuminations lit.
The chill of a grandparents’ living room transformed by a real fir tree.
Songs sung by someone you love.
Swirls of dark matter moved through the air,
Dancing and sparkling, wafting and waving, but they weren’t
Dark. They were the lightest thing I’d ever seen.
As I moved to the manhole by my house, I left shimmering footsteps.
I felt the Doctor at my side.
“It’s beautiful…” I murmured, and my words added to the Dance.
I moved through the caves like a dream.
I barely felt the frost-covered metal beneath my hands.
When my hand passed through the bottom rung of the ladder, I just smiled.
I saw the Sh’karri, waiting for me.
I’d thought them monstrous.
They were Christmas angels; their ethereal wings caressed the air. They sang.
They’d thought that I could power their spacecraft.
They were right.
But that was only the start of what I could do.
I sank into the ship. Its walls flowed aside to grant me passage.
All that they had seen, all that they knew, it changed the shape of the ship.
Its memories recorded as an intricate lattice.
The ship was its journey. The ship was pain, and loss, and fire.
Christmas Day eased itself around the world. The Doctor was standing in my room, as I knew he would be. In one hand, he held my childhood blankets, neatly folded. In the other, he’d found a glass of eggnog from somewhere and was sniffing at it with distaste.
I’m not sure how he sensed me; “me” was a series of probing tendrils, snaked up incorporeally through the cold and dark. Perhaps it was another gadget or gizmo. Perhaps he’d become old enough and wise enough to know that a teenager always goes back to his room.
“I had to know,” he said softly, indicating the blankets. “There’s a polytrinium web woven into the fabric. Probably traded hundreds of years ago, before Earth was off-limits. It’s a perception filter, of sorts. These blankets did keep you safe.”
“My Gran gave them to me,” I said proudly, and somehow he heard me, and smiled.
“A very wise woman, your Gran.” He paused. “You’re not staying, are you.”
It wasn’t a question.
I took one last look around my room; brushed through the dancing air to examine my things, distant as they now seemed, for one last time. Under the deepest and dustiest corner of my bed, I spotted the candle that the Doctor had given me all those years ago, and with some minor effort – I was learning fast – I slid it out to him.
“Take the blankets, too,” I suggested. “Call it a Christmas present.”
“If I ever see your Gran, I’ll be sure to pass them along,” he said airily, then grew deadly serious. “You know, I’ve come here all these times. I’ve spent so many Christmases with you. Sometimes I forget the little things.” He coughed. “What’s your name?”
“Noel,” I admitted, then added shyly “Today’s my birthday.”
“It certainly is,” the Doctor agreed, stooping for the candle and then moving to the door of the TARDIS, that wonderful blue box of his. “Happy Birthday, Noel.”
“Merry Christmas, Doctor.”
I watched in rapt attention until the TARDIS had dematerialised completely, scattering the dark matter. The Sh’karri, who were watching, shifted uncomfortably. It would take time for them to overcome their fear of the light.
After all, it had been the Time Lords who’d hunted them to near extinction.
But that was the Past, and you could only hide under your blankets for so long. Now we had our own Christmas Star to follow. I retracted, condensed myself fully into the ship, and we rose silently through layers of rock and snow.
Once we’d cleared the ground, the Sh’karri captain drew my attention to a binary star cluster where, he’d been told, the songs were unmatched in their beauty and complexity. Their voices raised in a Christmas Carol of longing, and of joy as we sped away from our tiny blue prison.
My monsters and I went free.