WHAT IS CHRISTMAS?
Sky entered the attic and looked around. 'Mr Smith, I need you.' She stepped down from the landing as Mr Smith's fanfare echoed around the room as his panels opened.
'Hello, Sky. How may I be of assistance?'
'Sarah Jane and Luke are talking about putting up a Christmas tree.'
'That is the seasonal expectation.'
Sky frowned. 'Yes, but what is Christmas?'
'Christmas literally means Christ's mass and is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ celebrated generally on 25 December as a religious and cultural holiday by billions around the world. It is a feast central to the Christian liturgical year, closes Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.'
Sky shook her head. 'Sarah Jane isn't overly religious. Luke either.'
'Christmas is also a civil holiday in many countries and is celebrated by an increasing number of non-religious people as party of the winter holiday season.'
'Yes, but that still doesn't tell me what it is.'
'I apologise Sky,' the supercomputer intoned. 'My knowledge is more referential. You would probably need to speak to someone else to grasp the cultural ramifications for the purpose of holidays in general.'
She sighed and sat down on the step. 'Earth is such a confusing planet.'
Mr Smith's voice seemed soothing. 'I know how you feel. Humans are a most confusing species.'
She leaned forward and rested her hand in her chin on her knees. Just then, Luke entered the attic. 'Oh here you are Sky. Mum was wondering. We were just discussing whether to put up the artificial tree or if you'd prefer to have a real one, since this is your first Christmas.'
Sky just shrugged in response. 'I don't have a preference.'
Luke recognised the lost look in Sky's eyes. He plopped down on the step beside her. 'This whole first Christmas thing is overwhelming, isn't it?'
Sky threw her hands up in exasperation. 'Luke, I don't know what it is, what I'm supposed to do, anything!'
'Hey, it's ok, I didn't either the first time. Mum had to sit down and explain it all to me. What I hadn't read in books or gotten from Clyde, of course.'
'What did she say?'
Luke stared ahead, remembering. 'Christmas is what you make of it.'
'That is not helpful.'
Luke laughed. 'No, I suppose it mustn't sound it. It really was though. It meant I didn't need to worry about what everyone else's standards were, and we could concentrate on building our own traditions.'
Sky looked over at him. 'And now I come along and things have changed.'
He could see the worried look in her eyes. He reached out and put an arm around her shoulder, giving her a reassuring squeeze. 'No, you just add to it, Sky. You're a part of this family, so you add your part to the traditions.' He thought for a moment. 'Do you remember anything from your planet on any holidays or anything?'
'Sarah Jane is all I remember. I don't have any memories before she found me.' Sky took a deep breath. 'Luke, why do you call her "Mum" instead of "Sarah Jane"?'
Luke focused on his shoes, memories flooding his mind. 'Well, there was some talk about it when she first adopted me. I called her Sarah Jane at first, but she truly is my mother. In every way that matters. While I may not be her biological child, she's loved me and taken care of me through everything. She could've easily have turned her back on me, but she didn't. She opened her home and heart. I can't imagine what my life would've been without her in it.'
Sky thought about his words for a minute. 'She's been that to me too.' Her voice was soft. 'I've called her Sarah Jane because that's what everyone else calls her. But she calls me her daughter.' After a pause, she added. 'Maybe I should call her Mum, like you do.'
'It's all in what you're comfortable with,' Luke encouraged. 'Now, are you ready to go back downstairs. We need to figure out what to do about a Christmas tree!'
At Sky's nod, they both stood up and headed downstairs.
Sarah Jane stared at the boxes of Christmas decorations littering her sitting room. She turned as Sky and Luke came downstairs. 'Oh, there you two are. I wondered whether you were going to leave me to do this myself.'
'Of course not, Mum,' Luke replied with a smile.
'Luke was just talking to me about Christmas and what it means,' Sky added.
Sarah Jane walked over and put her hand on the top of Sky's head. 'And how are you feeling about your first Christmas?'
'I'm still confused. It seems it means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?'
Sarah Jane gave Sky's shoulders a squeeze. 'Well, in all honesty, it's changed over the years.' She walked over and sat down on the sofa, then motioned for Sky to sit next to her, draping an arm around her shoulder. 'Before you and Luke came along, it was really just another day. I didn't have a lot of people in my life, so not much to celebrate. For me, Christmas should be about spending the day with friends and family, enjoying each other's company.'
'That's why everyone seems to be talking about Christmas dinners and all?' Sky asked.
'It's certainly a very common way of spending time together. People build traditions around large meals, sporting events, television shows, that sort of thing.'
Luke busied himself with hanging some of the wall decorations, all the while listening to the conversation.
'So what did you do once Luke came along?'
'Take away,' Luke said with a laugh. 'Mum's cooking has never been her strong suit.'
Sky laughed, already knowing the truth in Luke's words. 'That much I have experienced.' She leaned into Sarah Jane's side. 'So what normally happens?'
'Well, we'll have presents, some take away, yes. I'm sure Rani and Clyde will come over at some point in the day, but normally, unless some alien decides to surprise us, it's usually just a nice quiet day at home.'
'And we stay out of the city. Strange things happen in the city on Christmas,' Luke added.
'Ah, but we've found that those usually involve the Doctor,' Sarah Jane noted.
'Which brings up a question, Sarah Jane. When will I get to meet the Doctor? I've heard you talk so much about him.'
'Well, Sky, truth is, I never know when or if he'll turn up, and if he does, it usually means there's major trouble around.'
'He sounds interesting.' Sky looked up at Sarah Jane. 'Isn't he like a part of your family as well? I mean if Christmas is about family and friends, why doesn't he come here?'
'The Doctor has lots of friends, Sky. He can't be with them all at Christmas.'
Luke turned back to them. 'Does the Doctor even celebrate Christmas?'
'I'm sure it depends on whether he has humans with him at the time. He did when I travelled with him, but that was probably just for show.'
Just then, the TARDIS's familiar wheezing, groaning noise echoed around the room. They all knew it was centred in the attic, as had become the TARDIS's standard parking spot. Sky didn't miss the smile that spread across Sarah Jane's face as they all jumped up and headed upstairs.
Sky, Luke and Sarah Jane all walked into the attic, just as the Doctor with the floppy brown hair and bow tie stepped out of the TARDIS. 'Sarah Jane!' he exclaimed before walking over and wrapping her in a warm hug, picking her up off the floor and spinning her around. 'Long time no see. How are you? Things good? Excellent, glad to hear it.' He never gave her time to answer any of his questions.
'And Luke!' he reached out and grabbed Luke's hand, pumping it enthusiastically. 'Studying hard at University, making your Mum proud, I'm sure!'
Finally, he spread his arms and spun around. 'Merry Christmas, Smiths!' He looked down and finally saw Sky. Sarah Jane reached out and put her hands on Sky's shoulders as the Doctor looked on. He leaned in close to Sky's face, then reached out with his index finger, first to tap her on the nose, then the forehead, as if to make sure she was real. He looked up at Sarah Jane, his voice at a mock whisper. 'Sarah,' he started slowly. 'There's a little girl in your attic.'
'I know,' Sarah Jane replied, her voice at the same level. 'This is Sky, my daughter.'
'Daughter?' the Doctor replied at full volume. He looked at Sarah Jane, then over at Luke, down to Sky and back up to Sarah. 'You've been busy, Sarah.'
'It's been an interesting few months since I saw you last, Doctor. At least you still have the same face.'
'I don't burn through regenerations that fast, despite what you may think.'
'Is there trouble, Doctor?' Luke asked.
'What?' he turned to Luke, his expression questioning. 'No, nothing like that, I just came to visit my family. Well, my best friend and her little family. Which appears to be growing every time I see her, for someone who lived alone for so long. Making up for lost time? Anyway, she's like family, so you're family, we're all family together.' He clapped his hands together. 'We're Smiths, right?'
Sky seemed overwhelmed. 'You're the Doctor?' she finally said.
'What?' the Doctor turned to her. 'Yes, of course I am. Who else would I be?'
Sky turned to Sarah Jane. 'He's not quite what I was expecting.'
The Doctor pointed at her. 'I wasn't expecting you at all, so there.'
'So you just came for a visit?' Sarah Jane questioned, going back to the Doctor's earlier statement.
'Anything wrong with that?'
Sarah Jane shook her head. 'No, just unexpected.' She ushered Sky and Luke towards the attic door. 'Why don't we all go downstairs and catch up then? I'll make us some sandwiches for tea.'
The Doctor rubbed his hands together. 'You can make the tea, I'll whip us up something a little more than sandwiches.' He extended an arm to Sarah Jane, which she accepted with a smile. 'Think of it as a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner.'
The kids went downstairs first, but Sarah Jane stopped at the doorway and turned to the Doctor, waiting until Luke and Sky were out of earshot. 'What's wrong?'
'Nothing, nothing at all, why would you think something was wrong?'
She reached up and put her hand on his cheek. 'I can see it in your eyes.'
'The universe has pulled some nasty punches here lately, and I just needed –' he stopped, not able to finish his sentence.
Sarah absently stroked his cheek with her thumb, watching his eyes as they seemed to bore into her. 'Oh Doctor,' she said softly. 'Something familiar?' she offered, attempting to complete his earlier sentence.
'Not just familiar,' he whispered. 'Something so valuable as to be indispensable.' He leaned in to kiss her forehead. 'Thank you, my Sarah Jane.'
'Everything. Being you, being here. Putting up with the ramblings of a very old Time Lord.'
'I happen to like your ramblings. Most of the time,' she replied with a grin.
He took her face in his hands and held it close. 'That's why you're my Sarah Jane.' They continued to look at each other in silence for several moments before the Doctor finally broke out in a large smile. 'Now, come on. Let's get downstairs and stir up a Christmas dinner your kids will never forget!'