Comfort And Joy

Cards with cheery designs of robins, snowmen and other images associated with this time of year lined the mantelpiece. A tree festooned with tinsel and baubles and topped off with a fairy doll complete with wand stood in the corner, while more strands of tinsel had been placed along the tops of the pictures on the walls. It was a typical Christmas scene, but Victoria could not help comparing it to the Christmases of her own time, before her life changed forever.

For one thing, the tree was made of plastic and did not, in her opinion, look much like a Christmas tree. But she had been too polite to tell the Harrises this; after all, they had been very good to her since she decided to leave the TARDIS and settle in this time. She recalled how, about a week before Christmas each year, her father had sent his manservant into the woods to chop down a small fir tree and bring it home to be decorated with paper chains and candles. As a child, Victoria had thought the candles looked so pretty, but they were also dangerous and, whenever they were lit, a servant was always placed on standby with a bucket of water. This tree, however, was lit with little electric bulbs which Maggie Harris had told her were called "fairy lights"; Victoria had to admit that they were just as pretty - and much safer.

Victoria's childhood had coincided with the period in which many of the things people in the 20th Century thought of as Christmas traditions were first introduced. This included Christmas trees, virtually unknown in England until her Royal namesake and her husband, Prince Albert, had one for their children. The press had reported this and, within a few years, households all over Victorian England were following suit. Now, in the latter half of the 20th Century, no living room would be complete at this time of year without a decorated fir tree standing in the corner.

Victoria could hear music coming from the kitchen; Maggie liked to have the radio on while she worked. Right now, someone called Harry Belafonte was singing about Mary's Boy Child, retelling the story of the Nativity in song, just as the more traditional carols Victoria had learned in her own time had done and still did. A few days earlier, the Harrises had taken her to the carol service held each year for the workers on the rigs and their families, though she wasn't really part of their family. However, they were the closest thing she had; her mother had died when Victoria was very young and her father had been killed fighting the Daleks. Victoria shuddered as she recalled the merciless creatures which had once held her hostage in a disused wing at the home of Theodore Maxtible, one of her father's associates, with whom she and her father had been staying.

However, had it not been for the Daleks, she would not have been living in this time. For her imprisonment had been part of an elaborate scheme by the Daleks to use their old enemy, the Doctor, to spread what they called the Dalek Factor throughout the history of the human race; instead, the Doctor had tricked the Dalek Emperor into giving several Daleks the Human Factor, causing them to start questioning orders. With the Daleks' innate inability to tolerate dissent in their ranks, this had been enough to trigger a civil war which the Doctor had predicted would mark "the final end" of their race. A prediction which would prove to be wildly over-optimistic . . .

Afterwards, the Doctor had taken Victoria under his wing and into his TARDIS, a machine which was bigger inside than out and could travel anywhere in space and time. But, though she quickly grew to love the Doctor as a slightly eccentric uncle and became close friends with his companion, Jamie, Victoria soon found that travelling in the TARDIS often meant encountering monsters of one sort or another. Her upbringing had left her ill-prepared for such experiences and she was often terrified by the creatures she encountered. Finally, after an adventure involving a strange Weed Creature, she had decided enough was enough and chosen to stay behind when the Doctor and Jamie left.

Since then, Victoria had lived with the Harrises and this would be her first Christmas with them. They were doing everything they could to help her enjoy herself, but there were times she couldn't help thinking of her father; he had been a kind and gentle man and she knew she would always miss him. Shortly after she started travelling in the TARDIS, she and the Doctor had discussed the subject together. Victoria still recalled the words he had said to her: "Your memory of him won't always be a sad one." At the time, she had doubted this and, though she had gradually started to recall happy memories (such as the time, at Christmas 1856, he had presented her with a doll bought from the largest toy shop in Canterbury) they were still tinged with sadness. Happy memories they may have been, but they were still memories; the Daleks had taken anything more tangible away from her.

Feeling a sudden urge for a breath of fresh air, Victoria got up and fetched her coat from the hall. Within moments, she was stepping out of the Harrises' front door and, minutes after that, she was standing on the beach, staring at the very spot where she had last seen the TARDIS. Now, there was no sign that it had ever been here, but some deep instinct told her that this was the place where she and the Doctor and Jamie had gone their separate ways: she to begin a new life with the Harrises, the Doctor and Jamie to continue their adventures.

Victoria did not regret her decision to leave; she had said herself that she had had enough of being constantly terrified. But that did not stop her from missing the Doctor and Jamie, who had both been good friends to her and had always treated her with the respect she had been brought up to expect. Unlike that uncouth young man at the party the Harrises had recently taken her to, who had, under the influence of a little too much alcohol, had the nerve to pinch her on a part of her anatomy well-brought-up young ladies in her time hardly dared acknowledge. She knew things were different in this time, but she did not see why men should be allowed to get away with such behaviour. But she quickly dismissed the ill-mannered lout from her mind and turned her gaze out to sea.

In the distance, she could see the gas rigs where Maggie's husband worked, manned constantly even at this time of year. But, though her eyes saw what was immediately in front of them, her mind was filled with the faces of those she had known. She saw her father and Maxtible working in their laboratory, neither of them realising the horrors they were going to unleash. She saw the Doctor, dark-haired and with features which reminded her of a faithful old dog, playing a tune on his recorder. And she saw Jamie, a fearless young warrior in Highland dress . . . All were part of her past now; her father and Maxtible were dead and, though there was a chance she might see the Doctor and Jamie again, she doubted she ever would.

Lost in her thoughts, Victoria did not notice the light fading until she saw the stars twinkling in the winter sky. Each of those stars was, she had learned during her time with the Doctor, a sun in its own right, some with their own set of planets in orbit around them. Perhaps the Doctor and Jamie were on a planet orbiting one of the stars Victoria could see, but she had no way of knowing for sure. For all she knew, Jamie might have left the Doctor as well by now. But, wherever the Doctor and Jamie were, whether they were still together or not, she couldn't help wondering if they knew she was thinking of them.

"Victoria, what are you doing out here?"

Victoria turned to see Maggie hurrying towards her, a concerned expression on the woman's face. "Nothing," she replied truthfully. "Just thinking."

"Thinking? About what?"

Victoria sighed wistfully, recalling her life before she met the Harrises: her childhood and adolescence in the mid 19th Century and the period she had spent travelling in space and time with the Doctor and Jamie. She had chosen not to try to return to her own time, partly because she had no family left there, partly because she felt it would be too difficult for her to adjust to the life of a Victorian lady again. Travelling with the Doctor had been frightening at times, but it had given her a degree of freedom she had not had in her own time. She doubted she would have been able to give all that up and return to the corsets and crinolines she had abandoned soon after she met the Doctor. At least here she still had that freedom - and she didn't have to worry about encountering monsters every day. Well, unless that hideous Weed Creature was still lurking out there, but she tried not to think of that.

"The Doctor and Jamie mostly," was Victoria's eventual reply. "I was just wondering how they were . . ." She paused and gazed at the sky once more. "I wonder if they're out there somewhere," she added, though she knew there was every chance her two friends weren't even at the same point in time she currently occupied.

"You miss them, don't you?"

"Yes, every day. I knew I would when I left them, but what other choice did I have? The Doctor was very kind to me, but he did have a habit of landing us in danger and I just couldn't stand it any longer."

Maggie moved closer to Victoria and placed a comforting arm round her shoulders. She knew something of Victoria's background, though it was hard for her to imagine what it must be like to settle in a time to which you did not truly belong. Outwardly, Victoria resembled any other young person from Maggie's time; inwardly, she was still the prim Victorian lady the Doctor and Jamie had first encountered. In the end, unable to find any words to comfort her, Maggie simply said: "Come on. Let's go home; it's too cold to be standing out here."

With that, she turned and walked away. Victoria gazed at the sky once more, then, telling herself that at least her memories of Jamie and the Doctor weren't tinged with sadness like those of her father, followed Maggie back to the Harrises' quarters.