The Problem with Boxing Day. by elisi
Summary: Alexander Saxon (six years old) hated Boxing Day almost as much as he loved Christmas. (Part of my Not the Last 'verse. How does Alex cope with his human family? And how does the Doctor deal with raising the child of his archnemesis?)
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Lucy Saxon, Other Character(s), The Doctor (10th), The Master (Simm)
Genres: Alternate Universe, Character Study, General, Introspection, Series
Series: The Master's Son
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Just in case someone's not familiar with this 'verse: Alex was born during The Year That Never Was, and after time rewound the Master agreed to be imprisoned because of his son.
Alexander Saxon hated Boxing Day almost as much as he loved Christmas.
Not that this - or any of his other peculiarities - was immediately evident from looking at him: in appearance he was a perfectly ordinary little boy.
He had blonde hair (like his mum) and brown eyes (like his dad) - but when grownups saw him they inevitably said: “My goodness, doesn’t he look like his father!”
Then they remembered that his father had murdered the whole Cabinet and the American President (and was now languishing in an undisclosed high security facility), became embarrassed, and swiftly changed the subject - usually by asking him how old he was.
To this question they only ever wanted to know the simplest answer (6 years), not anything interesting - like how many seconds (two hundred and ten million, six hundred and eight thousand, five hundred and ninety seven and counting...)
Sometimes he converted the seconds into rels for fun, but his Uncle told him that humankind didn’t know any of the universal standards yet, and that, as a matter of fact, they would never give up their odd and impractical way of measuring time - so he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that he could count time in rels...
On the whole Alex wasn’t too impressed with the apparent intelligence of the average adult human.
Thankfully most days grownups were easy enough to ignore or avoid - except today was Boxing Day...
Boxing Day meant a whole day spent with Mum’s family, and Mum’s family was full of people who were either embarrassed or rude - sometimes both. They always covered up both sentiments with unwavering politeness, and it drove him mad that they expected him not to see through it, just because he was little.
He could hear the lies in the shades of their voices, see their true feelings parade across their faces as clearly as if they’d broadcast them on a large plasma screens, and it was agony to try to be ‘well-behaved’. His mother was of course always impeccable, meeting the concealed sneers with a facade so courteously impenetrable that not even Alex could work out what went on in her head.
He didn’t know how she did it, and to be honest he didn’t care. He just wanted not to go.
But every year Uncle and Mum said he had to go - in voices that he knew he couldn’t argue with - so he sullenly let his mother dress him in his ‘best’ clothes, which were uncomfortable and annoying.
“But why?” he asked for the umpteenth time as she led him downstairs, and Uncle looked up from the TV magazine he was reading and automatically said: “Because they’re the only family you’ve got!”
Alex shot him a grumpy look. It wasn’t fair. Sure he knew that Dad and Uncle had lost all of their family (their whole world!), but even so...
Particularly unfair was the fact that he knew that his Uncle (and Dad, if he behaved) would spend the whole day embedded in front of the TV catching up on all the programmes they’d missed.
Of course Uncle probably needed the rest...
He’d walked through the door rather late the day before - much too late for Christmas dinner - eyes stormy and dark, his suit crisped and burnt around the edges, and his steps so heavy that Alex wondered if he’d put something really enormous in his pockets-that-were-bigger-on-the-inside. Alex’s mum had not said a word, just pressed her lips together and filled up a plate with food and heated it in the microwave. Even Dad had only taken a swift look at him and muttered something unintelligible about Christmas, before grabbing a bottle of whiskey and removing himself to the conservatory, silently watching the falling snow.
Alex had waited five minutes precisely, then walked up with a cracker. Because he knew that no one could be sad with a colourful paper crown on their head - and he’d been right. The shadows had run away from Uncle’s eyes, and then there had been lots of fun and silliness and presents, and an incredible box with actual real tiny little living people in it, acting out a wonderful story. His Uncle said that it was called a Miniscope, and that he was going to get the people out and take them back to their different home worlds - but that he thought Alex might enjoy seeing it first.
Alex enjoyed it very much indeed - not just the thing itself, but all the questions it threw up. Like how had the people been miniaturised? Dad just smiled smugly and Alex was sure he knew, but Uncle shook his head, and that was the end of that. Alex dearly, dearly wished he could have kept the box, but obviously it wasn’t nice to keep people locked up.
Right now though, he’d happily have swapped with them. As his mother brushed his hair, his dad emerged from the kitchen, eyes lighting up and a bright smile on his face. (One of the reasons Alex loved Christmas was that Dad was home for days and days and days.)
“Alexander, my Great One, good morning! Getting ready to face the dragons?”
Alex shrugged, feeling even more miserable.
Really, going to see The Family wasn’t entirely unlike being stuck in a Miniscope... OK, so everyone was the right size, but they were all stuck in one place, and everyone went through the same rituals as every year just as if they were hypnotised puppets.
The only upside was that if he was good he’d get to go to Josh’s house tomorrow. Josh was Jewish, and Alex knew that they still had Hanukkah decorations up, and wouldn’t mind telling him all about their traditions and history (again), and might even teach him how to cook some of their special food. Josh had no family, except his mum and his grandma - who was a fantastic cook - and Alex thought that Josh was very lucky.
Once he’d asked Josh’s mum about where Josh’s dad was, and her eyes had flashed and she’d said that he ‘wasn’t in the picture’. Alex had frowned and said that he wasn’t in any of the pictures, pointing to the photo gallery on the mantelpiece, and then she’d laughed and called him too precious for words, before hugging him tightly and giving him a kiss. He liked to replay that moment in his mind - not just because Josh’s mum was the most physically beautiful human he knew, but because she was also friendly and warm and when she said she liked you, you knew it was true.
The exact opposite of his own human relatives...
As usual Uncle dropped him and Mum off at the train station closest to the family seat (if anyone asked, they’d come by train). Standing outside the station, feeling the TARDIS fade into the vortex and waiting for the chauffeur driven car to pick them up, Alex fervently wished that his mother was not the sister of Lord Cole; that they didn’t have obligations, and rules to follow; and had no relatives he had to pretend to like.
The day loomed ahead, long and grey and endless, and the seconds ticked by in his mind, not hurrying up the tiniest bit no matter how hard he wished.
Boxing Day was The Worst Day Ever.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 2“Alexander, good to see you! Tell me young man, how old are you now?”
Alex gave a deep internal sigh.
“Six, Uncle George.”
“My, my, how time flies. Well, you sure are growing up. Big for your age, eh?”
Alex nodded solemnly.
“Uncle - my other uncle that is - says I’ll probably be as tall as Daddy.”
And there it was - that suppressed flinch, covered with a nervous smile; discomfort so palpable Alex could almost touch it. It was a shame, because Uncle George was quite nice really, and Alex could tell that he was very fond of Mum...
Aunt Emily on the other hand was so hostile that Alex could barely stand being in the same room, and he held on more tightly to Mum’s hand. Mum was his Defender and - to his great satisfaction - more than capable of holding her own against Aunt Emily. He sometimes wondered why his aunt (and most of the rest of his relatives) held such virulent antipathy towards him and Mum, because other people liked him just fine.
It wasn’t fair... But then nothing about his family, or their annual visit, was fair, he thought grumpily as they were shown into the rather ostentatious dining room.
The Family Seat was a beautiful old building, filled with history and set in large grounds with sculpted gardens. Alex could easily have lost himself in the place for days on end, exploring and discovering and drinking in the past. But children weren’t allowed to roam freely, and it was no use trying to say that he was different, and knew how to be very, very careful. Children, in his aunt’s opinion, had no appreciation for, or understanding of, history.
Although, as he looked down the table at his cousin Geoffrey, he could see why Aunt Emily might think so. Geoffrey was ten and what grownups called ‘robust’. He was busy telling his neighbour all about a cricket match at school (something that made Alex smile, because apparently they had something in common after all) - but it was obvious that he was not the type to get excited over a rare medieval illuminated script...
As he tried to concentrate on his food, Alex yet again imagined how wonderful it would be if he could bring Jack along. Jack would effortlessly make himself the centre of attention, entertaining everyone with fantastical stories and continually say things that would make people blush. But when he’d asked if Jack could come, back when he was only four, everyone - Mum, Uncle and Dad - had said ‘No’ so vehemently that he’d never brought it up again.
Second-cousin Anastasia - fifteen and wearing clothes and makeup that had made Aunt Emily frown a lot - caught his eyes and smiled at him, and he tentatively smiled back.
“It’s Alex, right? You looked like you were a million miles away. What were you thinking about?”
He sighed, and poked his exquisite dinner. “My uncle Jack. I wish he could be here...”
Anastasia leaned forward, ignoring Great Aunt Margaret who wanted the salt, and tilted her head. “Go on tell me - what’s your uncle Jack like? More fun than anyone here, right?”
Encouraged, his head still full of wishful thinking, Alex started speaking.
“Oh yeah, he’s brilliant! He’s got this really cool coat, and lots and lots of guns, and the best car ever, and his boyfriend-”
His mother’s voice cut through his excitement like a scalpel, and he instantly closed his mouth. Why couldn’t he learn to keep quiet? Jack was Torchwood, and Torchwood was off limits when talking to anyone outside Those In The Know - he was in so much trouble now, he thought miserably.
“Well this Jack sounds like a wonderful person for a little boy to be spending time with,” Aunt Emily said, eyes malicious, and Alex watched his mother slowly turn, wondering to himself how on earth she was going to save this.
“Jack is one of Doctor Smith’s... military associates. And personally I’ve always thought it prudent to foster strong support for our armed forces in my son.”
Aunt Emily looked quite unstuck.
“Oh come off it, Auntie,” Cousin Anastasia cut in. “It’s the boyfriend thing that’s bothering you, isn’t? It’s 2013, for crying out loud!”
Alex stared at her in pure, unadulterated admiration.
“Oh not the whole PC argument again,” someone sighed, and Aunt Emily quickly recovered.
“Of course not Anastasia. I’m just not sure that it’s approproiate for young children to be around guns.”
This caught the attention of Grand Uncle Arthur, who boomed from his place at one end of the long table: “Did someone say guns? Learning to shoot is an excellent skill my dear Emily, and quite frankly one that you should encourage. If people knew what they were doing there’d be far less accidents... It’s this nambly-pampy nanny state that’s ruining things. What we need in this country-”
Then several arguments broke out simultaneously, and Alex concentrated very hard on his dinner, not speaking another word as he could feel his mother’s eyes on him the whole time.
Moodily he wondered what might be happening in Torchwood right now... Maybe there were dangerous aliens and exciting chases - or maybe it was all quiet and cosy and Ianto was making coffee for Jack... Oh he’d give almost anything to be able to teleport there, even if he’d have to spend the whole day with Ianto’s chilly disapproval hanging over his head. Ianto was adamant that the Hub was not a place for children - not even if they had a brain the size of a planet. He usually referred to Alex as ‘the spoiled brat’ or ‘Timelord Troublemaker’ and plain refused to let him so much look at the subetheric resonator. Not to mention the archives, which were like an Aladdin’s Cave and drew Alex like a magnet.
But nonetheless Ianto was one of Alex’s favourite people. Ianto’s didn’t pretend to like him, never talked down to him, and was calm, professional and very good at his job. Also he loved Jack, and anyone who loved Jack automatically got a free pass in Alex’s book.
In the end the meal finally finished (7917 seconds, which was at least shorter than the previous year) and the children were ‘sent off to play’ - which meant they had to go to Geoffrey's room, and suddenly things began to look up since Geoffrey had a giant plasma screen TV and a top range Wii console. And for Christmas he’d been given the very latest 3-D Lego Star Wars game, which included lightsabre remotes - more than enough for all eleven of them.
Geoffrey immediately declared that he was going to be Luke Skywalker, and Alex supposed that this was only to be expected - it was his house after all.
“Can I be Han Solo?” he asked, telling himself firmly to remember that he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that Han Solo was based on Jack.
Geoffrey turned and looked at him, then shook his head.
“You can be Jar-Jar Binks.”
Alex’s mouth fell open. “What?”
“Do you want to play or not?”
“I’m not going to be Jar-Jar Binks! He’s ridiculous.”
Alex was spoiled, he knew that. He usually got his own way, partly because people indulged him, and partly because he was good at ‘leaning’ on others mentally, making them agree with him. But Geoffrey folded his arms, looking down on him with as much disdain and stubbornness as could be crammed into a ten year old’s face and not all the 'leaning' in the world would make a difference, that much was clear.
“This is my house, and one day I’m going to be a proper Lord, so you have to do what I say!”
Alex swallowed. He didn’t quite know what to do - he’d never been in a position like this before. Usually he was the one to break up fights and get others to agree to a compromise. But a glance around the assembled cousins showed that there was no one who was going to be mediator here.
Then he lifted his chin and looked up at Geoffrey, not prepared to give an inch - he was a Saxon (a Timelord; the prince of the universe!) and no one talked to him like that.
“No I don’t. You can’t tell me what to do.”
Geoffrey looked a little taken aback, but was obviously not going to back down either.
“Yes I can! And- and you should be grateful that I let you play at all.”
This made Alex frown. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Geoffrey looked a little unsure, but then he went for it, obviously not going to let his younger cousin win.
“My mum says that you’re the black sheep of the family and that if your mum had a- a shred of decency she’d not come and embarrass everyone.”
“Embarrass?” Alex asked slowly, feeling something dark stir deep down inside.
“It’s... it's ‘cause your mum won’t divorce your dad, which makes her look stupid and that makes us look stupid, and people are probably laughing at us behind our back! So- so you should be grateful that we invite you.”
Alex was for once completely stumped.
“I don’t understand. That’s not funny. Why would they laugh?”
Geoffrey's eyes shone with triumph.
“I thought you were supposed to be so clever, Alexander. It’s because your dad’s a joke!”
If Alex had been a different sort of a boy, he would at this point have thrown himself at his cousin, letting his fists do the talking. But physical violence never occurred to him. The sudden burning fury in his mind was of a very different nature: It was cold and sharp and intense, and it seemed to fill him up so completely that there wasn’t room for anything else.
His father was the Master. He was death and fear and destruction - an immortal terror who had blazed across the stars for a millennium, and no foolish, monkey-descended human brat should ever speak of him like this.
“My father is the most dangerous man in the world,” he said, barely able to keep his voice level through the anger. “And if he was here he would kill you like that - and good riddance!”
He was so furious that he hadn’t noticed the door opening, but seeing the sudden change in Geoffrey's expression he turned, and looked straight into Aunt Emily’s shocked face.
Next thing he knew he was being dragged down perfectly carpeted hallways by his arm, and he couldn’t help but feeling pleased that Aunt Emily had finally lost her cool. A moment later they were standing in the doorway to the drawing room, no one noticing them until Aunt Emily spoke.
“Lucy, could I borrow you for a moment? It’s about your son.”
A hush fell over the room, but his mother merely put down her coffee cup and excused herself with a small smile, as self-possessed as ever.
Once they were alone, Aunt Emily took great pleasure in telling his Mum exactly what he'd said - but if she’d hoped to unsettle her sister-in-law, she failed. Alex’s Mum maybe went a little paler, but that was all, and she was still perfectly composed as she turned to him.
“Alexander - what have you got to say?”
He looked from face to face, and knew he ought to explain what Geoffrey had said. He ought to reason and apologise and all the rest... but his head was still full of all-consuming cold fire, and he was far beyond caring about consequences. He looked up at his mother, and met her reproachful eyes with resolute stubbornness.
“I’m not sorry.”
She didn’t flinch, but her eyebrows drew together.
“You were very rude, and you how I feel about that. Will you apologise?”
He pressed his lips together and shook his head. His mother looked at him silently for a long moment, then turned back to Aunt Emily.
“We should probably leave.”
And just like that freedom appeared. In no time at all they were dressed and standing by the door, saying goodbye. Uncle George seemed rather upset, saying that he couldn’t possibly let them spend hours in a train station waiting room, and why didn’t they just get the boys to make up - but Aunt Emily and Alex’s Mum exchanged arctic looks and Alex felt like a Cheshire Cat in reverse - his smile was big and wide, but invisible. If he had regrets, it was only that he didn’t get to say goodbye to Anastasia.
As he and his mother stood on the empty, freezing platform a while later, the pale winter sun nearing the horizon, she pulled out her phone.
“I’ll call the Doctor and ask him to pick us up - as soon as you tell me what really happened.”
He knew immediately that there was no point in beating around the bush (she’d not ask again, just wait), so he started right from the beginning and repeated the whole conversation word for word.
As she listened to his retelling, there came the strangest look into her eyes - a look he couldn’t work out at all.
“Mummy?” he asked when he’d finished. “Is it true what Geoffrey said? Is that why they don’t like us?”
For a moment his Mum seemed to be lost, her face as cool and distant as the frozen hills surrounding them. Then she shook her head.
“A long time ago now - before he ruled the world - your father did your grandfather a favour. A very big favour indeed. The family owe him, Alexander, and I won’t allow them to forget it. Gratitude... gratitude can be a terrible, terrible thing, please remember that.”
He nodded, stowing away all this new information for when he’d have time to mull it over, as his mother began pressing the buttons on her mobile.
They heard the grinding of the TARDIS before she’d hung up, and Alex for the first time began worrying about what his Uncle might say.
But then he stood up straight and grasped his mother’s hand. He didn’t care what anyone said - he wasn’t sorry at all.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Chapter 3Alex smiled as he stepped into the TARDIS, as always feeling the welcome buzz of its ancient power seep into him. He was going home, and everything was good.
Uncle - busy with reversing the journey he’d just made - shot him a wide, and somewhat concerned, smile. “So, why the early departure? Did you eat too much Christmas Pudding?”
Alex turned to look at Mum, and saw that she hesitated. It was only a very small hesitation, but Uncle noticed.
“Lucy?” he asked, hands stilling, and - as she didn’t answer - slowly flipped the lever that took them into the vortex, and then parked. “What happened?”
His mother carefully made her way to the fraying seat, sat down daintily, and then relayed the whole story. Alex took a deep breath and prepared himself for the thorough telling off that would surely follow.
But his Uncle didn’t yell or shout - nor did he drag his hands through his hair or any of the other things he usually did when he got angry or exasperated.
Instead, he went completely still - more still than Alex could ever remember. Then slowly, he turned to look at Alex, and his eyes were as dark and old as a dying star.
“He says he’s not sorry,” his mother added, looking from one to the other, her face suddenly worried, and Alex could tell that his Uncle was waiting for him to contradict this. But he remembered the insult, and held onto his anger and his silence. He’d never be sorry.
“Go to your room,” Uncle finally said, voice flat and emotionless.
Alex opened his mouth, but a swift barely-seen flicker of something in his Uncle’s eyes made him swallow his protest and walk away silently.
Walking down the first stairway, he heard a familiar squeal, and Leia appeared from wherever she’d been exploring, excitedly landing on his shoulder like a small leathery bomb and nudging him with her beak.
Her presence didn’t cheer him, though... If only he didn’t have to live in this stupid, backwards century, he could show off his pteradon properly, not keep her hidden here - he was tired of keeping secrets all the time, tired of always having to pretend to be less than he was.
Stupid Geoffrey, it was all his fault! If only Alex could lock him up with Dad for five minutes... Although even five seconds would be more than enough, he thought grimly.
Three corridors and two stairways later, he flopped down on this bed miserably - there was hardly anything to do here, the room being nothing more than a place to crash when Uncle took him out on adventures. Leia, realising that he didn’t have any treats, flew off to her nest, and he was all alone again.
It wasn’t long, however, before there were footsteps outside his door, and then Uncle came in - still far too quiet.
For a long moment, he just studied Alex, and Alex wondered how he could look so immovable. Dad had once told him that the Daleks had called Uncle ‘the Oncoming Storm’. Alex didn’t think this was very fitting - Uncle was more like a giant obstacle that you couldn’t get over, and you couldn’t get under, and you couldn’t go round, and you couldn’t go through...
“What do you know about Sontarans?”
Alex blinked, but he was used to his Uncle’s odd, sideways way of thinking, and only took a moment to answer. “They... they did the ATMOS thing five years ago. And they’re fighting the Rutans.”
His Uncle nodded. “Very good. By now - relatively speaking - how long have they been fighting for?”
Alex thought carefully. “Fifty thousand years?”
“Excellent. In total, the war will run just shy of 80,000 years.” Walking forward, he switched on the built-in screen and pulled out the chair in front of the keyboard. “You are going to learn the whole of the history of that war. I want you to be able to name every major battle, both chronologically and alphabetically - in English, Gallifreyan, Sontaran and Rutan reckoning.”
He tapped a few keys, and the screen sprang to life, information swirling and expanding, as Alex stared in horror. It was Christmas. Holidays. That meant no studying. The unfairness was too staggering for him to grasp. “Let me know when you’re done.”
His Uncle turned to walk out, but as his hand was on the door handle, Alex called out. “Uncle!”
He turned, silently waiting. Alexander didn’t know how to deal with this at all - he wanted to scream that Uncle was stupid and mean, but he had a feeling that it’d make no difference whatsoever. Biting his lip, he searched for something to say. “Can I... can I still go to Josh’s tomorrow?”
A small, soft smile curled the corner of his Uncle’s mouth. “Of course.” And then he left.
Alex sat looking at the door for a long time. ‘Tomorrow’ really had no meaning here. ‘Tomorrow’ would come only when his Uncle allowed it to - Boxing Day could be endless, literally.
Eighty thousand years of military history... If there was a worse punishment possible, he couldn’t immediately think of it. Military history was the single most boring subject in the world, and finding two species whose entire history consisted of nothing else was quite extraordinary. On the plus side he’d be learning two new languages (languages were always fun), but even so it was with deep dread that he took a seat in front of the screen. Boxing Day was swiftly plummeting to new depths.
As dates and battles and death tolls passed into his mind - one dull, dreary millennium after another - the only consolation was that the TARDIS sneakily created a new door, allowing his Mum to secretly bring him some mince pies and a drink of hot chocolate.
Finally - after studying for longer than the endless dinner earlier on - he could ask the TARDIS to fetch Uncle, and then spent a good five minutes fielding questions; Uncle leaning, arms crossed, against the wall - as immobile and stony-faced as before.
When he had been satisfied that Alex had done his work properly, he made his way over to the bed, and patted it, asking Alex to come sit down. Alex obeyed, curling up by the headboard, knees pulled up under his chin. “Now - why do you think I made you learn all that?”
Alex studied his feet. “As a punishment because I was rude?”
To his surprise, his Uncle sighed at this, and shook his head. “Rudeness is just another word for unwelcome honesty, and honesty is not a bad thing in itself. If you’d called Geoffrey an ugly, smelly moron we’d not be having this conversation right now. No - I wanted to show you what happens when you wish someone dead.”
The dark, discomforting look he shot him made Alex look down again. Stupid Geoffrey.
“Tell me, why did the Sontarans and the Rutans start fighting?”
Alex frowned and searched his mind, but came up blank. His uncle nodded.
“The reason’s been lost. Once upon a time Sontarans were a highly artistic race - you can see traces of it in their designs, because quite frankly their ships are gorgeous - but they put their artistry on hold when they started fighting. Do you think they could go back to that now?”
Alex shook his head mutely. The Sontaran culture was all about warfare, a self-perpetuating motion that just carried on and on, mindlessly. They lived to fight and nothing else.
“That is what war does, Alex. It destroys the possibility of anything else. And wars start because people argue - often over something very trivial. Why did you start fighting with Geoffrey?”
“I didn’t want to be Jar-Jar Binks,” he muttered after a moment.
“Because he’s ridiculous.” Sometimes Uncle was just dense. But Uncle didn’t seem to notice the sneer in his voice - he just continued speaking, voice earnest and serious.
“There are worse things than being ridiculous, Alex. Jar-Jar Binks might not be smart, he might not be a good fighter, he might not be the hero - but his heart is in the right place, and he tries his best, and those are very, very important qualities, understood?”
Alex nodded. But he still remembered the disdain on Geoffrey’s face.
“Now I know that children fight. And I know that they’ll say things they don’t mean. But what you must remember Alex, is that you’re different. One day little Geoffrey will grow up and be a proper Lord, that is true. But he is only human, and will soon discover that he can’t just do anything he wants. You, on the other hand, are a Timelord, and you will grow up to wield powers humans can’t dream of. And in time you will meet people far far more stupid and nasty and more intent on making you angry than a ten year old boy... and it’ll be your job to look after them. Despite who they are, sometimes. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” he answered slowly, turning the words over in his head. “But-”
Uncle smiled, his eyes friendly again. “Yes, Alex?”
“It’s just... they’re so mean. It’s not fair that I can’t-” He stopped, unable to put his frustration into words.
His uncle didn’t reply immediately. Instead he got up and started pacing the floor, and Alex watched him, beginning to worry. Uncle didn’t look angry - more frustrated and agitated, all nervous energy, and Alex couldn’t work out why. Then finally he seemed to make up his mind and sat down on the bed again, facing Alex. “OK, I’m going to tell you something. Something very upsetting, but- Look, if it’s too much for you... just say, and I’ll take it away again. Deal?”
Alex nodded and steeled himself for whatever was coming, as Uncle took a deep breath. “When your father ruled the world, he killed your mother’s family.”
Alex stared in shock, and Uncle nodded quietly. “All of them, yes.”
And suddenly Alex understood a lot of things - understood why his mother put up with the antipathy; understood why his Uncle insisted that he go see them; understood why he’d been so upset at Alex’s words...
‘If my father was here, he would kill you like that - and good riddance!’
It had happened already. In a paradox, but the paradox had been real - he was real, after all - and in that other world, where he had been crown prince and heir to the universe, Geoffrey was dead, just like he’d wanted. (As was Aunt Emily, Uncle George, Great Aunt Margaret, Grand Uncle Arthur, Anastasia...)
He turned to his uncle, who was already holding out his fingertips to remove the words from his mind. But Alex shook his head and took hold of his hands. “Uncle - I’m sorry.”
He thought his uncle might actually cry - which was really weird, because Uncle never cried - but instead a funny wobbly sort of smile spread across his face, and next thing he knew Alex found himself scooped up in a big hug, and he clung onto his uncle, because no one gave hugs quite like him.
“How about...” his uncle started a moment later, voice muffled but happy, “you come with me and help take all the people from the Miniscope home? Would you like that?”
Alex nodded eagerly, but then stopped himself. “I’d like to write a letter to Geoffrey first,” he said, and Uncle nodded.
“Of course. A letter - that’s a brilliant idea! Do you need any help?”
Alex shook his head, then dug out some paper and a pen from the bedside table (the pen was slightly chewed, because Leia loved pens) and began writing.
I’m sorry about what I said. I don’t think the world would be a better place without you.
Underneath, he with utmost care wrote ‘I still think you’re a smelly poo-head’ in Gallifreyan, but when his uncle looked it over he only lifted his eyebrows in critical appraisal and remarked that Alex’s penmanship had definitely improved.
(Obviously, they never told Dad exactly what had happened. Making Dad happy was not a good thing.)
One Year Later.
Christmas Day 2014 was wonderful. It started with Dad and Uncle walking through the door first thing in the morning, whilst Alex was still opening his stocking. They had their arms around each other, Santa hats on their heads, and were singing loudly.
Alex never discovered what had happened (when he asked, later, Uncle went very quiet, and Daddy grinned very widely, and he didn’t ask again), but he didn’t really care because Uncle scooped him up in his arms and asked if he wanted to make it snow this year. The TARDIS was making odd sounds, and was full of smoke, but Uncle said that that didn’t matter - except then the snow-button got stuck and London ended up getting buried under two and a half feet of snow in the space of half an hour...
But the upshot was that he and Dad and Uncle had the longest and best snowball fight ever, with proper forts and everything, before filling the whole of the garden with a miniature Ice Warrior army made out of snow. Mum made food and worried about her roses, but Daddy produced bit of mistletoe out of nowhere and kissed her, and then everything was OK.
In the evening, Alex fell asleep on the sofa, and never noticed being carried to bed.
Waking up on Boxing Day came as a nasty shock.
The snow had all gone (he supposed that Uncle didn’t want people to get stuck), and his mum wouldn’t even let him have a lie-in. What was the point of having a time machine if you never used it for having lie-ins?
Mum dressed him in his ‘best’ clothes, which were as uncomfortable as ever, and almost too small - he was seven after all - and he ate his breakfast in sulky silence. He knew why he had to go, but he still didn’t like it.
Dad didn’t appear until they were by the door about to go, but he picked Alex up and swung him round so fast that he laughed despite himself. “So then, my little Ice Lord, are you ready to face the dragons?”
He shrugged and tried to smile bravely as he kissed his father goodbye, but took Mum’s hand as they left - he didn’t feel ready at all.
What he’d not counted on was the family’s ability to pretend nothing had happened. Like some freaky nightmare, the day was a perfect repeat of every other year, with only the tiniest of variations.
Anastasia - that he’d actually looked forward to seeing again - had during the past year acquired a boyfriend, and barely noticed Alex at all since apparently she couldn’t survive for more than 2 minutes without texting her beloved.
Grand Uncle Arthur had had a stroke, and wasn’t there.
Geoffrey was sullenly, but scrupulously, polite throughout the day.
And Aunt Emily, obviously pleased with what she saw as a victory, was overbearingly nice, which was actually worse than the former barely hidden dislike.
Alex said as little as possible - reminding himself that he was sorry; that he was glad that they were all alive - and hated Boxing Day more than ever.
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Chapter 4: Chapter 4Two Years Later. (Christmas 2015.)
The boy known to the world as Alexander Saxon was woken on Boxing Day by his mother knocking on his bedroom door. He curled up under his duvet for a moment, wishing to hold onto the last wisp of a dream... A strange sort of dream, where his uncle was sitting by his bed, telling him a bedtime story. Except it was a very sad story, about a thousand little space ships - sharp and pointy like needles - falling towards the Earth and Uncle trying to catch them - folding and refolding time over and over - but he still couldn’t save them all. It had to be a dream because Uncle didn’t come visit at all yesterday, and when he focussed he couldn’t sense the TARDIS nearby.
Finally he gave up trying to remember any more details, pulled himself together, and got out of bed.
Opening up his wardrobe, he lingered only for a moment by the beautiful silk robe within - so much more comfortable than stupid, constrictive human clothing - before carefully putting on his new ‘best’ clothes (slightly too big), and then pulled a face at himself in the mirror, because he always looked like his father’s Mini-Me when he was all dressed up.
Pondering the problem, he dug out a jar of hair gel that he’d ‘borrowed-without-permission’ from his uncle and made his short, blonde hair stick up in many many spikes. It made him look not entirely unlike a Vinvocci hybrid, but it’d certainly made Aunt Emily frown...
Standing up straight, he studied himself with mock-seriousness.
“I am the Seeker - and I seek a family that doesn’t suck!”
No, it didn’t really have a very good ring to it. Well, maybe the next generation would grow up sensible and amicable - or the one after that. Or the one after that... He had time, after all. So, so much time - centuries and centuries stretching out in front of him, making his poor human relations’ lives seem horribly short and muted in comparison. It wasn’t fair really, but then life wasn’t fair, full stop. Funny that he’d needed the Schism to learn that lesson - it seemed so obvious in hindsight.
For a moment he entertained himself with imagining what Uncle George’s reply would be, if he responded to the annual ‘So how old are you now, young man?’ with ‘Eight, Uncle George. And for my birthday, I got to see eternity!’
Poor Uncle George, he’d get all befuddled. And Aunt Emily would think it a hidden insult of some mysterious sort and be even more horrid. It still made for a funny scene. Then he noticed that he was hungry - and that there were delicious smells coming from downstairs - and bolted down the stairs so fast that it made his mother tell him off.
She didn’t say anything about the hair, but he could tell she wasn’t pleased.
As he started tucking in he heard the front door open, and a second later his uncle’s voice rang out, declaring that he could murder a full English breakfast.
After hanging up his coat - which was wet from snow or rain or goodness knew what, even when craning his neck the Seeker couldn’t quite tell - Uncle sat down at the table, smiling widely at the plate that was put in front of him.
“You smell like burnt metal and ozone,” the Seeker said suspiciously, remembering his dream, and then wrinkled his nose.
His uncle’s head snapped up, and he stared at the Seeker with the strangest look on his face - amusement and sadness and exasperation all mixed up, and the Seeker felt sure that he’d never get the hang of his uncle’s weird Christmas moods.
He almost asked what had happened - why was Uncle so late, and had his dream been real after all - but decided against it, since he didn’t like stories with kissing in. It was OK when it was Mum and Dad, but he’d once walked in on Uncle snogging River and had seriously contemplated trying to do a mind wipe on himself.
“Did someone say murder?”
His father’s voice cut through his thoughts, and he saw Uncle roll his eyes.
“Morning Master,” Uncle said, as the Seeker turned happily.
“Good morning, Dad!”
His father grinned, and made a great show of very carefully pretend-patting his head, not touching any of the spikes. “Ready to face the dragons, Seeker, my boy?”
“Oh, yeah,” he answered. “Piece of cake. They don’t even breathe real fire or anything.”
“That’s the spirit!” Dad smiled, taking a seat.
The Seeker smiled back, before finishing off his breakfast, silently contemplating just how different he was now to the boy who had hated Boxing Day so intensely - new name, new outlook, new everything. No - that wasn’t quite right... It was more that he’d become himself, completely. Like the creation of a diamond: His whole being crystallised and thrown into proper focus. Or something like that. He really ought to give up on trying to find a good metaphor, linguistic acrobatics weren’t his forte.
Still, the main point remained - things were different now. For starters, this year he had A Plan.
As they were getting ready to leave, he turned to his uncle. “Uncle... you know you forgot to make it snow yesterday.”
Uncle looked like he’d been hit very hard. “I’m sorry, Seeker, I- there were these-”
“It’s okay,” he cut in, because Uncle rambled when he got into apology-mode. “But I was going to ask... Could you instead make it warm today? Not hot, just warm and dry enough to play out?”
His uncle hesitated. “I’m not sure that’d be very good for the environment...”
“Oh, the humans are screwing that up anyway. Go on - please?”
Uncle looked unsure, but then Dad joined in, just like the Seeker had known that he would.
“You absolute misery-guts. You don’t turn up for Christmas, you don’t make it snow... The boy just wants a bit of nice weather; won’t kill you, will it?”
“Well...” Uncle started, looked from one to the other, and then folded. The Seeker hugged him happily, profuse in this gratitude. Sometimes it was almost too easy...
As he and Mum stood outside the train station a little while later, waiting to be picked up (the Seeker worriedly checking up on his spikes - Leia had been poking around), Mum caught his attention.
“Alexander. You will remember not to say anything-”
“Mum!” he countered, reproachfully. He never slipped up anymore, she knew that. Balancing two worlds wasn't a problem anymore, since those worlds were now properly defined, and it was impossible to confuse who they saw (Alex), with who he really was (the Seeker) - the human ‘mask’ he had to wear as simple and easy to slip on and off as the bracelet that concealed his second heartbeat, and just as effective.
Then he unbuttoned his coat, because it was indeed getting warmer.
As he’d predicted, Aunt Emily did think his hair looked atrocious. Of course what she said, was “Well, that certainly is an interesting hairstyle,” and smiled with deep insincerity.
The Seeker responded with a “Thank you, Aunt Emily” so polite it would have done Ianto Jones proud.
Anything they could do, he could do better...
At dinner he had been positioned with Aunt Margaret on one side, a hedge fund manager uncle on the other, and Aunt Emily across the table - none of them paying him the least bit of attention.
But the food was good - really good, why had he never noticed that before? - and, despite the usual endlessness of the meal, boredom was never an option anymore.
Every moment - every waking second - he saw Time. All of time: Past; present; future. Endless timelines, endless possibilities - an infinitely complicated and intricate web, mesmerising and extraordinary.
It had been tricky to get used to, if he was honest... It was entirely too easy to get lost, to drift away in the sheer joy and wonder of forever. He knew his school reports said that he’d become inattentive, but then he was so far ahead anyway that it didn’t matter. And here he didn’t even want to pay attention to life around him.
However, the problem with being a million miles away became apparent when Great Aunt Margaret had to ask him repeatedly for the salt, before finally tapping his arm to catch his attention. As he handed it over - his only thanks being mutterings about 'young people these days' - he saw Aunt Emily shooting him evil looks, and in return smiled his widest, most enigmatic Saxon Smile (TM), which caused her to falter for just a moment, before covering up her discomfort with a patently fake smile.
Picking up his fork, he wondered what would happen if his family ever let loose and had a proper big argument, the way Martha's family did sometimes. Would it clear the air - or just make things worse? Humans were such surprising, unpredictable creatures, that either option was as valid as the other...
When dinner was finally done, and all the children were herded off, the Seeker stopped Geoffrey in the hallway. “Listen - it looks like a nice day. How about going outside and playing cricket?”
Geoffrey studied him suspiciously. “You like cricket?”
The Seeker nodded. “I’m brilliant.”
Geoffrey’s eyes narrowed - the inbuilt competitiveness of sportsmen everywhere rearing his head - and then looked out the window. “Yeah... why not?"
An hour later, and the Seeker was so engrossed in the game that it took him a moment to take on board Geoffrey’s appreciative “You’re not half bad, Alex!”
“Told you!” he replied, and resolved to do something really spectacular and tricky to impress his cousin further.
192 seconds later precisely, he broke a window.
A terrified silence fell over all the cousins, as they turned to look at the black hole that had appeared in an ancient windowpane.
“My Mum,” Geoffrey said, voice low with terror, “is going to kill you!”
But the Seeker had two simultaneous thoughts, neither of them about Aunt Emily:
One, this would be the perfect way of getting home early.
Two - he didn’t want to go. He was having fun. On Boxing Day. His plan had been an even greater success than he’d expected it to.
Oh, he was brilliant!
A wide, triumphant grin spread across his face as he swung his bat onto his shoulder, and then turned to his cousin.
“She gets to try, Geoffrey! After all, I’m sure she doesn’t want to spoil Boxing Day...”
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