Disclaimer: I do really wish they were mine, but they're the property of the BBC and I'm just playing for free in the sandbox.

Stitches in Time

Her life, Abigail thought sometimes – in quiet moments, as the Doctor and Kazran looked for new hats or new suits in the TARDIS's cavernous wardrobe – was like a patchwork quilt that nobody would ever quite finish. It had begun well, stitched together with faded old bits of fabric from well-worn clothes. But the quilter had become tired of stitching, and only returned to the work once a year. Now the quilt was being patched together with pieces of red and gold and green material, material the colour of Christmas, but none of the pieces fitted properly and there were gaps. And Abigail knew there were only a few squares left to add to the work. Only one Christmas Eve left.

She had never managed to tell her sister why she had volunteered for the ice. They had needed the money, and it had made sense. The little brochure Sardick handed out said going into the ice was like falling asleep; that, thought Abigail, did not sound so bad. Falling asleep and dreaming of fish seemed to be a good alternative to death, especially if it meant her family would prosper as a result.

When she awoke, with the shark sweeping past her, she felt as though she was still in the dream. It was easy to believe oneself fast asleep in the miraculous machine driven by the Doctor, Sardick's wide-eyed boy beside her as they gazed upon the shoals gliding through space. She did not expect to be woken again, what seemed like mere moments later, to a grinning pair in red hats and a mad sleigh ride through the skies.

On the third Christmas Eve Abigail tried to tell them that she was already running out of time. But the Doctor seemed to laugh at the concept of there not being enough time. She had a suspicion that he himself was not waiting a year between visits, but that he skipped from one to another while she slept in the ice and Kazran grew a little older. Between silly hats and amazing places, there was never quite the right moment to stop, to breathe, to say, "I'm dying – I only have a handful of days left to me."

She tried to tell her sister, as they celebrated Christmas a day early. But the moment got swept away in hats and card tricks and tinsel on the mantlepiece, and in the feel of Kazran's hand in hers. Abigail went back to the ice with the taste of him on her lips and the feel of him against her body; for once there were no fish in her dreams.

With only a few stitches left in the quilt, by the alien blue light of a swimming pool in California, she told him. He said little. He kissed her, underneath the Terran stars that were so different from their own, and said the Doctor would fix it, that everything would be all right. Abigail knew Kazran would not tell the Doctor, even though she sometimes wondered if the Doctor had already worked it out – from the way he looked at her, sideways and still; from the way he had seen the numbers on her casket.

Kazran kissed her that Christmas Eve as though he would never see her again, his kiss telling her what his words could not. The tears froze on Abigail's cheeks as the door closed and she slipped into dreaming, leaving the boy she loved and the man who could save them both outside.

When she was woken again she knew it was for the last time, but somehow everything was all right. She told the old man that – a man she didn't know, and yet knew intimately. She told him again, and again as the Doctor fixed up his gadgets, and again in her song. It was worth all the Christmas Eves, all those bits of patchwork life, for one snowy Christmas and the knowledge of 4,003 lives saved.

Afterwards, with a grin, Kazran harnessed the shark to the battered old sleigh and they rode once more through the skies. Abigail laughed with him as the wind blew her hair back off her face. The city below was bright with Christmas lights. The stratocruiser was safely docked; all, indeed, right with the world.

Except for one thing, and Abigail knew Kazran's mood would change when they landed. She urged him on until the shark was slowing and there was no option but to set the sleigh down and wander, arm in arm, through the snow-dusted streets of Sardicktown. The sun was rising, dappling the cobbles with golden light.

"How do you feel?" Kazran asked, nervously, quite as nervous as the young man Abigail had once known for a few days.

"Happy," said Abigail. "Isn't that all that matters, really, that we're happy?" She turned down a street she had once known well. "Come on. Christmas, with a family. With my family."

Her sister welcomed her with surprise and pleasure, and there were hugs for Kazran too, once everything was explained. They ate well, pulled crackers, wore silly hats, played cards in memory of the Doctor. Afterwards, as the family sat dozing in their chairs, Abigail and Kazran slipped away.

"Won't you tell them?" Kazran questioned, as they made their way slowly along the street.

"I'll leave a note, with you, for them," she said. "Will you look after them, for me?"

Kazran nodded. "I'd do anything, for you," he said. "And yet just yesterday I didn't know your name. Why can't this be rewritten too?"

"I don't think there's anything he could do for me," Abigail said. "I'll be fine. Just put me back in the ice."

"Not like that."

"In the ice, I'll always be here," she said. "I can dream of the fish. You know how I love the fish."

He cried as he helped her into the casket. She would have cried too, only her breath was becoming torturous and all she could do was squeeze Kazran's hand and let go. Christmas was at an end, and the quilt was as complete as it would ever be.