On Christmas Eve morning, Father Mike Dahl had a blue police box parked in the parlor of the rectory, and nothing was happening. Last year was the spidery star in the sky. The year before that was the Sycorax. This year they were predicting snow in New York City and most of the boroughs.
The air was sharp with the wet wind that comes before a snowstorm. Mike huddled in his wool greatcoat as he ran from the church to the rectory after Mass. Entering the back door in the kitchen, he saw breakfast dishes, strewn ingredients, and a pan of some sort of scrambled egg concoction simmering away. The coffee maker was happily dripping steaming dark brown liquid into the pot, and two places were set at the table. Peeking into the parlor, he saw the room littered with various parts, the use of which Mike wasn't even going to try to guess. From deep within the TARDIS, he could hear a bang and a muffled expletive in an alien language.
"Hey, buddy, watch the language, there's a priest present," Mike yelled into the TARDIS.
The Doctor poked his head out of the door, grinned and said, "Morning! I'd like to hear what you have to say, when you whack your knuckles with a spanner, Father Jack Hackett. Eggs ready yet?"
Mike grabbed a bottle of peroxide, and fished out a bandaid, while the Doctor washed up for breakfast. Then they munched on their breakfast, complete with fluffy slices of toast. Mike marveled that given the wonders the Doctor had seen, he was positively ecstatic at the homemade marmalade a parishioner had made.
"Hey Doc," Mike said between mouthfuls, "My sister in Jersey called. She's having Christmas dinner. It's nothing special, and we're invited. She asked for you, so don't think you're weaseling out of this one."
The Doctor sighed. "Mike I don't do domestic. You go, enjoy yourself. I have a TARDIS to put back together."
"For a guy who doesn't 'do domestic,' you can sure cook, I'll give you that. It's only a few hours, and my family would love to have you over. Nobody goes alone on Christmas, human or alien."
"I noticed the parish weevil..."
"Hey, he comes every Sunday to Mass. That's better than some humans. Sometimes he puts a dead rat in the collection basket."
"You know, only humans really do up Christmas. Sure, you find it observed elsewhere, but not like here. I always wanted a teddy bear for Christmas. My family never celebrated it, mind. Never got the teddy bear, either..."
The wind had picked up later in the day. Mike had some last-minute shopping to do, and the Doctor had begged off, wanting to finish the repairs to the TARDIS. Passing by a toy store, he stopped inside. He saw every kind of teddy bear imaginable, but none that really suggested themselves as one worthy of a Time Lord. Mike considered one with a long multi-colored scarf and fedora, but it didn't seem right.
By the time Mike made it back to the rectory, it was snowing hard. There were gingerbread cookies cooling on the counter, not all humanoid. Someone from the archbishop's office had called, and due to the storm, the Christmas obligation was lifted. Mike sighed. The parlor was almost back to its usual state, when the phone rang again. It was his sister, and her daughter was stuck at an airport in Chicago, since all flights into New York were canceled. Mike knocked and let himself into the TARDIS.
"Bad news. It's the storm of the century out there, people are being advised to not go anywhere, the archbishop decided Christmas Mass isn't obligatory, and my niece is stuck at O'Hare. Don't think the trains are gonna be running soon, either."
The Doctor poked up from a panel in the floor. "I'm so sorry, Mike. What will you do?"
"Oh I dunno. Still gotta say Mass, even if people don't show. Got tonight's vigil and the one tomorrow morning at 9. Then maybe I can cook something."
The Doctor was briefly lost in thought. A look of absolute horror crossed his face when Mike mentioned cooking, then a gigantic grin cracked his face. "I know! Mike, go say Mass. Tell your sister to have dinner ready. Leave the rest to me!"
Margaret Rose, Mike's niece, sat on a plastic bench in Terminal B of O'Hare International Airport, on the fringes of Chicago. It was snowing there, and some other travelers were huddled on the floor, trying to sleep. Some church group came through with cookies and hot chocolate, but she didn't take any. Let others feel festive. By the time they got planes running again, she'd have to pack up and go back to college.
As she was nodding off, she vaguely heard she had a courtesy page, telling her she needed to come to the American Airlines ticket counter. Jerking awake, she heard the page repeated. Grabbing her things and her carry-on bag, she dashed past the security entrance into the ticketing area, which was deserted. She could see the figure of a man in a neatly tailored brown suit with blue pinstripes. Seeing her, he yelled across the area, "Margaret! Hurry up! I've got the TARDIS parked in a red zone. I'm the Doctor. Hope you don't mind spending the night at the rectory with your uncle. Figured it's more comfy than an airport." He ducked out the nearest door, then ran back inside. "Oh! Pardon me! Merry Christmas!"
For some reason she couldn't place, she trusted this man, and ran after him, as he yelled at a police officer calling for a truck to haul away the illegally-parked TARDIS.
The Christmas vigil Mass passed without incident. He shortened it as much as he could, for the safety of those who came. By the time he was walking back to the priory, it was a white-out. Thankfully it was a path he knew well, and he could vaguely make out the light of the rectory's windows in the kitchen. Faintly he could hear Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."
Finally reaching the rectory, he felt the cold fall off of his clothes in the kitchen's heat. There was some sort of contraption rigged on the stove involving a pot of some sort of candy base, a spoon, a pulley system, and the sink garbage disposal, all attached to the aforementioned record player playing "White Christmas" on repeat. While the record played, the pot was stirred by the machine.
"Fudge!" The Doctor yelled. A wind-up clock attached to some sort of temperature probe inside the pot went off, triggering a boat horn rigged to the mechanism. "Mike! It's fudge! Get it off the stove, please. It should be at soft-ball stage."
Mike tried to disengage the spoon system, but he wasn't having much luck. The air horn continued to blare, and the Doctor ran into the kitchen. Flipping off the sink garbage disposal switch, lifting the arm on the record player, and grabbing the pot, he yanked the candy base off the stove. "Blimey. It's just a simple task. 'Course, given the way you cook, it wouldn't surprise me if you've never made fudge before." Mike heard the sound of another person laughing. It was Margaret. "Margaret! The chocolate! Did you temper it yet?" Turning to Mike: "Truffles, too. What's the purpose of having a surface body temperature not able to melt chocolate, if you can't make a good chocolate truffle? Learned how to make a ganache from Julia Child, herself. I have to admit, I'm good with pastry. Thought I'd have a second career as a pastry chef when I finally retire..."
So Mike made some spiced cider--one of the few things he could make without burning something--and the three of them sat in the kitchen until late talking about everything and nothing, the two humans eating the truffles as fast as the Doctor was able to form the center and roll them in cocoa powder.
Mike's sister, Elizabeth, wasn't sure what to make of the frantic call that Mike, the Doctor, and Margaret were coming anyway. Mike wasn't one to lie, but since disappearing with the Doctor for a few days, he was different in a way she couldn't put a finger on. Sighing, she yelled for her husband to peel some more potatoes. She was worried they'd try to drive in the dangerous weather, or worse.
Before she could hang up the phone, there was an awful noise, either like elephants or grating metal, then a thunk. She peeked through the peephole in the front door and saw a blue police box on the sidewalk outside of her flat with a Christmas wreath nailed to a door. A door opened, and in the glow from inside, she saw Mike, laden with packages, her daughter Margaret, and the Doctor, carrying bags of the goodies he'd made spill out and make their way to the door.
Beaming, the Doctor handed her a grocery bag of various Christmas goodies. "Elizabeth? Merry Christmas! So glad to finally meet you--AUGH! I forgot Grandma! Be back in a jiff. You've got my word!" The Doctor raced down the stairs after handing off his packages, jumped headfirst into the TARDIS, and it disappeared with the same noise Elizabeth had heard earlier. A few minutes later, the TARDIS reappeared, and the Doctor held the door while helping Elizabeth's and Mike's mother out the TARDIS and up the stairs.
"Careful, now, Mrs. Dahl, I think the sidewalk might be a bit icy," the Doctor said, while helping her up the stairs.
"Such a wonderful young man, you're friends with, Michael!" Reaching the foyer, she planted a grandmotherly kiss on the Doctor and pinched his cheeks.
When dinner was finished, after sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee and munching on extraterrestrial gingerbread organisms, it was time for opening presents. As they made their way towards the living room around the tree, the Doctor edged himself back towards the door. Seeing him slink away, Elizabeth grabbed the back of his collar and dragged him into the living room. The Doctor conceded to her, his mind made up to sneak out the next chance he got.
But he wasn't given a chance. Mike thrust a wrapped present into his hands, while passing out the rest of the gifts. The room was soon covered in scraps of paper, ribbon, and new things. For awhile, the Doctor sat, sizing up the present on his lap. Debating whether or not to savor the package and open it seam by seam, he ripped open the package in a flurry of motion. Underneath the paper was a plain cardboard box with the words, “Mike's keep out,” scrawled on the lid with purple crayon.
Gently lifting the lid, inside the box was a teddy bear. Its fur had been rubbed off in places, leaving shiny patches of fabric. One eye was replaced by a black button, and seams had been repaired with whatever thread was on a needle at any given time. Gingerly lifting it out of its box, the Doctor could sense when the bear was new, when Mike was just a baby. Then there were other memories in the swirl of time surrounding the bear–family vacations with the bear in tow, Kindergarten show and tell, and finally packing away the teddy when such things were expected in late adolescence. Only a Time Lord could appreciate the way memories were woven into the teddy's threadbare fabric.
“Merry Christmas, Doc,” Mike said, wondering what the Doctor's silence meant, if he liked the present or not.
Blinking back tears, the Doctor responded, “Merry Christmas...”
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