The Time Lords, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

"People of Earth you stand alone…" a voice announced over a loudspeaker when the Professor slammed her hand down on a button and explosions went off throughout the spaceship.

"Run!" the Doctor shouted, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the corridor as the ship was destroyed around them.

"Intruder alert!" blared over the speakers as they ran down the halls, just managing to keep ahead of the explosions, "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!"

The walls crumbled behind them, some of the rubble knocking into them as they ran. The Doctor stumbled and fell, the Professor grabbing him by his sleeve and hauling him back up as they kept on. They turned a corner, seeing a closed door near the end of the hall.

She reached out, snatching the sonic from him as they neared the door, aiming at it, opening it up as they dashed through. An explosion blasted behind them, the force pushing them through the open pathway. She ducked into a roll and shot up, flicking her arm back at the door, shutting it with the sonic before the fires of the explosion could reach it. She looked at him, lying on the ground, a moment before falling back herself, just a bit tired. That had been a hell of a run.

She felt someone take her hand and looked over to see him beside her, grinning, "Just like old times eh?"

She just rolled her eyes, "Have I mentioned yet, hate you?"

He laughed, kissing the back of her hand, "No you don't."

She took a breath, pushing herself up, pulling him up with her.

~8~

The Doctor was trying to crawl back onto the side of the ship, the walls blasted away, leaving only a platform, "Up!" the Professor shouted as she clung to his stomach, having gotten thrown out by the last blast, the Doctor just managed to grab her before he fell over as well.

He struggled to hold on but slid off, grabbing a thick wire dangling before him, holding onto it for dear life. He grunted a bit before spotting a spacesuit lying a few feet away on the deck beside him, "Come here spacesuit!" he reached out for it, wanting to get it so the Professor would be safe, "Come to Doctor!" he cried out in pain as an explosion blasted the suit away into space, the two of them along with it as they flew towards the Earth.

"Go!" the Professor shouted, untangling herself and pushing him towards the suit. She managed to twist herself, whipping out her blaster and aiming it at the ship, at the straps holding the other suits to the wall. She fired, the lingering effects of the blast shoving the suits towards them. She grabbed onto one and turned to see him moving to get into his own as she did the same.

~8~

'Hang on!' the Doctor called to the Professor in his mind as the ground rapidly approached.

'Brace yourself!' she agreed as they both raced towards it, landing with an almighty BOOM!

The Doctor groaned to himself as he tried to move, lying face down on the ground, unable to see, or really move. Who knew hitting the Earth with such force would hurt so much?

"Hello?" he heard a feminine voice call, "Hello!" it was getting closer, "Hello are you alright?" he could only groan, "Are you hurt? Did you fall? Where did you fall from?"

"Helmet…" he ground out.

"Oh, alright…just…just let me…" he felt someone kneel beside him, "Oh I don't want to hurt you," he then felt and heard the visors lifting up, "Oh!"

"I can't see!" he cried, opening his eyes, only to see darkness, "I'm blind!"

"Oh, no," he heard someone else laugh, someone who sounded distinctly like the Professor, "You've just got your helmet on backwards!"

"How did he manage that?" the woman who had found him looked up to see another person in a spacesuit sitting on the edge of the crater that had formed around the Doctor. She seemed in far better condition than he was, her visor down though.

"He got dressed in a hurry," the Professor replied with a laugh, "As did I, though women always seem far better at multitasking don't we dear?"

"Oh shut up," he moaned, struggling to get up.

She just got up and joined the woman in the crater, leaning over to help him up along with the woman, "My visor got jammed though so there's a point to you," she told him, "But my suit's on the right way around."

"How'd you manage that?" he asked, repeating what the woman had said about him.

"You wouldn't believe the situations the Time Lords thought we'd find ourselves in," she remarked and he could feel her shrug before she turned to the woman, "Would you be able to help us ma'am?"

"Um, with what?" the woman eyed her curiously.

"Finding a police telephone box if you could."

The woman nodded a bit, "Alright then…"

~8~

The woman drove them down the lane, quite jerkily, as the Doctor sat beside her, the Professor sitting behind them.

'I didn't think it was possible,' she remarked to him silently.

'What?'

'There's actually a worse driver out there than you,' she laughed as she knew he'd just stuck his tongue out at her.

The car suddenly jerked to a stop, off to the side of the street, "Ow!" the Doctor moaned as he jolted, still pained from his landing…according to the Professor, landing on one's stomach was not the proper position to minimize impact damage, curling into a ball was the best form for it, "Oh…did we just bump into something?"

"No, no," the woman waved him off.

"We did seem to bump into quite a lot of things, didn't we?" the Professor asked, reaching out to put a hand on the Doctor's helmet as he put his own hand to his head.

"Well a lot of things get in the way it's hardly my fault," the woman turned off the car and got out, "You two need to take those silly things off."

"Can't!" the Professor called, jumping out of the back of the car, "Impact suits are still repairing us."

The woman eyed her a moment as she moved to open the Doctor's door, "Repairing you?"

The Doctor groaned, "Yeah, well, you know…" the Professor reached out and helped him out of the car, "That's the idea!"

The woman reached out, helping to steady the Doctor, "Won't it repair you back to front?"

The Doctor comically checked both his front and back, "No! No."

"Well that's good…" and then he walked into a street lamp, "Oh!" the woman pulled him back.

"That's a street lamp dear," the Professor patted his shoulder.

"Yes, I got that impression," he remarked.

"Round this way," the woman tugged him to the side around the lamp and over to the blue police telephone box, though the Doctor swung his arms out to avoid another mishap, "Don't you want me to take you to hospital or something? Or you're welcome to come to our house."

"No, no, no, we're fine. I just need to find…" he started to pat himself, checking for a way into the suit, "The um…the key…"

"Impact suit," the Professor reminded him, walking to the side of the box and running her hand along it, having been able to remove her gloves a while ago.

"Oh, do you want me to do it with a pin?" the woman pulled one out of her hair, "I'm good with a pin," before she turned to try and pick the lock.

"Multi-dimensional triple encoded temporal interface," the Doctor replied, "Not really susceptible to pointy things…" he moved to lean against the box but fell past it into the Professor.

"Got it!" there was a click as the door opened.

"Ok…suddenly the last 900 years of time travel seem a bit less secure…"

"1100 years dear," the Professor reminded him once more, straightening him.

"Right, yes," he suddenly turned and stuck out his hand to the woman, "Thank you for taking care of us," she moved around his hand to take it, "You didn't have to you know, you've been very kind."

"Oh don't be silly," the woman smiled, "It's Christmas Eve. No one should be alone at Christmas."

"What did you say your name was?"

"Madge. Madge Arwell."

"Thank you as well," the Professor moved to shake her hand too, "If there's ever anything that we can do for you, let us know."

"How?"

"Don't know!" the Doctor cheered, "Make a wish, that usually works."

"Does it?"

"Well it did for me, you're here, aren't you?" he laughed, "Well, don't wait around here. Just…off you go home, we'll just go and uh," he stuck out his hands, trying to feel around when the Professor grabbed his wrist and placed it on the door handle, "And wait inside here," he opened the door and stepped in…only to realize two things, the Professor hadn't followed and this wasn't the TARDIS. He turned and threw open the doors once more, "Wrong one. Do you think we can try again?"

"Um, yes of course!" Madge nodded, walking back to the car as the Professor helped him out of the box.

'You knew it wasn't the TARDIS, didn't you?' he asked her quietly.

'Of course!' she'd sensed as much.

'Why didn't you warn me?'

He could almost hear the smirk in her thoughts, 'I love seeing you in these situations.'

He could only shake his head at her, draping his arm around her shoulders as they walked towards the car.

~8~

"Doctor!" the Professor shouted through the manor house, hearing someone knocking on the main door.

"What?" he called back from another room.

"Get the door!"

"Mr. Cardew!" she heard someone calling.

"I think the Arwells are here!"

"Oh yes!" she heard a door open as he made his way to the front, "Right on time!"

"I'll be there in a mo!" she told him.

The Doctor nodded as he walked through the doorway to the main foyer, hearing two children shout, "Father!" from outside, hearing the door shut as well.

"Sorry!" he called out, making his way to the door, trying to open it, "It's the door!" he put his foot on the other door and pulled, "It's developed a fault…" he grunted a bit.

"Oh hello!" he could hear Madge shout, "Mr. Cardew?"

He jumped to the side as the door started to fall back completely, landing with a thump on the floor. He eyed it a moment, wincing at the thought of the Professor finding it, before shaking his head and stepping into the doorway, "Here we go!" he grinned at the family, "Well, come in! In you come," he stepped aside as they entered, "Mind your step now, don't worry the back door is still broadly speaking operational…"

"And that is thanks to me," the Professor said, walking in with a tool belt around her waist, a small amount of tools attached to it with a hardhat on her head, "Because I literally dragged you away from it before you could try to make it automatic," she came to a stop before the front door and looked down at it, "You broke it again, didn't you?" she turned to the Doctor, "It's like the toaster all over again!"

"No, no," he said quickly, watching as she squatted down and lifted the door back up into its place, "It just developed a fault. All on its own. No help from me."

She turned to him, pressing her back to the door to keep it up, "So then exactly like the toaster is it?"

"Yes."

She shook her head and spotted the Arwells standing there, "Oh, don't worry about this," she smiled, pointing her thumb back at the door as she stepped away from it to shake their hands, "I'll have it all fixed up right in time for Christmas."

"Right then," the Doctor nodded, seeing that matter all cleared up, "May I take your cases?"

"Thank you," Madge put her case down, followed by her children, Lily and Cyril.

"Lovely, would you mind carrying them for me," he stepped over them towards the stairs as the Professor just rolled her eyes at him, "We need to show you around."

"Oh no wait!" Madge called. The Doctor stopped and turned around, already halfway up the stairs, "Who are you?" she looked between both of them, "Who are both of you?"

"I'm the caretaker," the Doctor replied, "And she's the…housekeeper?" he looked at the Professor who just shrugged.

"But you're not Mr. Cardew…" Madge eyed him.

"…I agree."

"But then I don't understand are you the new caretaker?"

He simply started walking back down the stairs, "Usually called the Doctor, or the caretaker, or get off this planet…"

"Strictly speaking that last one isn't a name," the Professor remarked.

He just waved her off, reaching out to shake Madge's hand, "Hello Madge Arwell."

"…hello," she hesitantly shook his hand in return.

"Cyril Arwell!" he turned to Cyril and shook his hand, then his sister's, "And Lily Arwell. Now, come on. Come on," he turned, taking the Professor's hand and tucking it under his arm, scooping the hardhat off her head as he tugged her with him, "Lots to see. Whistles stop tour, take notes there will be questions."

~8~

The Doctor pushed open the doors to a fairly large sitting room, sunlight shining through the windows, "Tour of sitting room. Just chairs, bit pointless without a television so I made some repairs…" he leaned back into the hall and hit a switch. Suddenly the chairs started to wheel themselves around the room in a sort of dance as the children looked on in amazement, "I know…"

The Professor leaned forward to whisper to them, "He wanted to race the chairs…but failed to put in any brakes, be thankful I managed to rewire them for dancing."

The children giggled.

~8~

Next he led them through the kitchen, "Kitchen! That's a cooker probably…" he pointed to a random appliance near the back of the room.

"Yes, definitely a cooker," the Professor made a show of looking around, "Yet no toaster…" she turned her amused gaze on the Doctor, "I wonder why?"

He just turned and quickly tapped the set of taps by the sink, "And these are taps hot, cold, lemonade…"

"Lemonade?" Cyril eyed a large tap.

"I know!" the Doctor grinned.

~8~

The Doctor moved to step onto the stairs but let his foot fall back when the stairs remained stationary, "Staircase…" the others stopped behind him, "Seems to have broken down…" he turned to them sadly, "We'll have to walk up…"

The Professor just rolled her eyes and stepped past him, snatching the sonic right out of his pocket and disappeared behind the side of the stairs. There was a small whirring noise before she called out, "Got it!"

He beamed as the stairs proceeded to move on their own and hopped on, riding them up to the top as the family stared at it in shock, "Well, come on!" he called, "More to see!"

~8~

"We sleep up there," the Professor pointed to a small doorway at the end of the upstairs hall with a set of stairs through it.

"Stay away," the Doctor warned them, "Beware of panthers."

"Panthers?" Madge gasped.

"They're terrifying. Have you never seen panthers?"

"Cyril!" the Professor called as the boy stopped to try and look up the stairs. He turned and rushed after them.

~8~

The Doctor opened the door to a beautiful room, decorated in light blues and golds, "Mum's room! Grown up. Your basic boring…" he shut the door before Madge could really see it.

She sighed and the Professor came over, "Don't worry Madge, I managed to keep him out of this room."

"How?" she looked up at her as the Doctor led them on.

The Professor just grinned, "I dragged him to our room of course."

Madge's eyes widened and she blushed at the implication. The Professor just laughed and led her after the Doctor.

~8~

The Professor pushed the last door open to reveal a wonderful children's room, full of toys, planet displays, jungle themes, and more, "Lily and Cyril's room!" she announced with a sheepish smile, "Sorry," she told Madge before sending the Doctor a mock angry look, "HE distracted me on this one."

The Doctor just grinned and pointed at her before walking past her to stand in the middle of the room, "I'm going to be honest, masterpiece, the ultimate bedroom," and then he started running around, pointing out all the different things he'd included, "A sciencey wiencey workbench, a jungle, a maze, a window disguised as a mirror, a mirror disguised as a window! Selection of torches for midnight feasts and secret readings. Zen garden, mysterious cupboard, zone of tranquility. Rubber wall, dream tank. Exact model of the rest of the house, not quite to scale, apologies. Dolls, with comical expressions! The Magna Carta, a foot spa, Cluedo, a yellow fort…"

"Where are the beds?" Cyril managed to get in.

"Well I couldn't fit everything in," the Doctor defended, "I'm not her you know," he pointed at the Professor, "There had to be sacrifices. Anyway," he ran to the door, "Who needs beds when you've got…" he pulled a lever and two hammocks fell from the ceiling, "Hammocks!" he grinned at their shocked faces, "I know."

"Had to rewire that after he finished," the Professor sighed, "Originally that lever turned the lights on downstairs."

Cyril walked forward and tried to get on the hammock nearest the door, "But how do you get on?"

"Watch and learn kid," the Doctor motioned him away. Cyril backed up and the Doctor leapt at the hammocks, landing in between them as he missed.

"For God's sake!" Madge cried.

He popped up, "This hammock has developed a fault."

"Has it?" the Professor wondered, before running. He ducked down as she jumped over him, managing to land perfectly on the second hammock.

"Yeah, well…shut up."

"Both of you shut up!" Madge snapped, "Can you please stop talking?" the Doctor and Professor looked at her a moment, that was not like the woman they remembered, "Can you please just…stop?"

"Sorry," the Doctor muttered.

"Children go downstairs."

"Why?" Lily asked.

"We leaving?" Cyril pouted.

"Yes," Madge winced, "No. I don't know, just please…go downstairs!"

Lily frowned as she turned to lead Cyril out, "You don't need to shout."

Madge looked down, waiting till they had gone before she turned to the Doctor and Professor as they stood up, "Why are you doing all this?"

"We're just…" the Professor began.

"Trying to take care of things, keep the house," the Doctor cut in, "I'm the caretaker, she's the housekeeper."

"That's not what caretakers or housekeepers do," Madge shook her head.

"Then why are they called caretakers and housekeepers?"

Madge sighed, "Their father's dead."

The Professor blinked, "I'm sorry."

"Lily and Cyril's father, my husband, is dead and they don't know yet because if I tell them now then Christmas will always be what took their father away from them and no one should have to live like that. Of course, when the Christmas period is over I shall …" she drooped a bit, "I don't know why I keep shouting at them."

"Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they're going to be and it breaks your heart," the Doctor said simply.

"Mother come and see!" Lily shouted from somewhere in the house.

"Mother, you've got to see this!" Cyril joined her, "Come on!"

"Because what's the point in them being happy now if they're going to be sad later," the Professor looked down, recalling exactly how that felt.

"Mother!" Cyril shouted.

"Mother!" Lily yelled, "Are you coming?"

"The answer is, of course," the Doctor said, taking the Professor's hand, "Because they are going to be sad later."

The Professor looked up at him with a small smile, squeezing his hand before she led him around the hammocks towards Madge, "We better get downstairs, I think they may have found the main sitting room."

"Mother!" Cyril called again.

"I repaired it," the Doctor whispered conspiratorially.

Madge gave them both an odd look before she walked out of the room. The Doctor hesitated a moment before the Professor squeezed his hand again. Both could empathize with the woman, for vastly different reasons. He smiled, stepping out of the room with her and walking with her down the stairs after Madge.

They smiled as they watched Madge enter the sitting room where a large tree was set up in the back, decorated in every sort of material, streamers hanging from the walls around it, toy rockets whizzing around it, a train circling below it, and, of course, a large blue present box with a white bow set right beside it.

The children turned to them, eyes wide, "I know," he grinned.

"Look at that present!" Cyril cried, running over to it, squinting as he read the tag, "It's for me."

"It says to all of us," Lily corrected.

"I'm youngest, I get to open it first."

"It doesn't say who it's from," Lily frowned. The Doctor and Professor glanced at each other, "Mother who left this here?" and slipped out of the room just as Madge turned to them. There was still work to be done.

~8~

They sat at a small table in the attic room, their 'room' as they'd claimed. There was a mess of wires on the table, the two of them working at repairing them while the TARDIS sat behind them. The sonic whirred while the Professor worked on reconnecting a few wires, making electrical crackling resound around her.

They looked up when they heard the door creak open to see Lily enter, "You were lying about the panthers," the girl remarked, crossing her arms.

"Famous last words," the Doctor grinned.

One of the wires the Professor crossed sparked, making him flinch, "Sorry," she smiled at him apologetically.

"Why have you got a phone box in your room?" Lily asked, eyeing the TARDIS.

There was another spark as the Doctor replied, "It's not a phone box it's our…wardrobe. I've just painted it to look like a phone box."

"Well, what are you doing?"

"Rewiring," the Professor said, holding up a handful of wires as though the answer had been obvious.

"Why would you rewire a wardrobe?"

The Professor snorted a bit, "Have you seen the way he dresses?"

"Oi!" the Doctor mock glared at her but Lily just smiled.

"Who are you?" Lily walked closer, "Really, who are you?"

The Professor frowned, looking at the wires as they beeped in her hands, "Your brother, where is he?"

"Asleep."

The Professor eyed her, "And you're sure?"

Lily rolled her eyes and turned, heading out of the room. The Doctor looked over at her and she held up the wires she'd just mended for him to see why she'd asked.

"Still in bed," Lily called, entering, "Asleep."

"Ok," the Doctor nodded, "Faulty then."

The Professor shook her head though, "They're not faulty. I know."

Lily frowned, "How do you know?"

"I fused these wires myself. Perfectly I'll have you know. Him," she jerked her head towards the Doctor, "On the other hand…it's more likely he'd rewire the house and have the doorbell ring when the upstairs toilet is used."

"That only happened once!" he shouted. The wires beeped again and she held them up as though to prove a point. He eyed them a moment before looking at Lily, "You're sure he's still in bed?"

The Professor shook her head and stood, "Only one way to find out."

The Doctor stood as well, taking her hand in his as they headed down the steps with Lily, quietly making their way over to the bedroom door. He pushed it open slowly to see what appeared to be someone sleeping in Cyril's hammock.

"See," Lily whispered.

"He's not there," the Professor said.

"What?"

"He's not breathing," she explained, walking over to the hammock. She pulled the covers down to reveal a mess of teddy bears lumped in the shape of someone sleeping.

"Oh, he's good," the Doctor remarked, "The old bear and duvet, eh? Classic."

Lily jumped back as the two raced out of the room before following them down the stairs as they ran for the sitting room. They turned the corner just in time to see Cyril's hand reach out of the now opened present box and grab a torch sitting just outside it, "Cyril!" the Doctor shouted as they ran to the box.

The Professor quickly dropped to a crawl and rushed through, the Doctor after her.

"What's happening?" Lily shouted as they both managed to fit in the box, "I don't…what is that?"

"With us!" the Doctor reached out a hand and took hers, "Quickly! Come on!" he pulled her into the box, half carrying her out the other end and into a white, snow covered forest, "In you come," he set her down, shivering a bit, "Bit cold…"

"Never mind the cold," the Professor called, "Cyril!"

He turned around, rushing to the Professor's side as they tried to find him. He pulled out a torch of his own, tossing it to her while he took the sonic for himself, using it as a torch as well as scanning, "Cyril!" he shouted.

"Doctor," the Professor called, spotting a large, silver, egg-like thing lying in the snow by one of the trees. He moved over to it and crouched down, scanning it.

"Where are we?" Lily breathed.

"In a forest, in a box, in a sitting room," the Doctor replied, glancing at her, "Pay attention."

The Professor stood, looking around, "He's about 20 minutes ahead of us."

"But we just saw him!" Lily exclaimed.

"Time moves differently across the dimensional planes," she explained as she disappeared through the trees.

"What do they teach you in schools these days?" the Doctor asked, standing up as well.

"But…I don't understand...where we are?" Lily shook her head.

"Well we've gone through a dimensional portal…thingy…"

"Well, what's that supposed to be? Where did it come from?"

"It was a present and it wasn't supposed to be opened until Christmas Day. Honestly, who opens their Christmas presents early?"

"You do," the Professor said, walking back through the trees.

He turned to her, "I do not!"

She just gave him a look, "In the 390 years I spent with you in the Academy you always tried to sneak a peek at your presents early. And then, when I hid them, you found them, and when I hid them better, you created a new app for the sonic so you could find them, and THEN I had to resort to making them out of wood just to throw you off!"

He winced a bit, recalling that, when they'd first met, he'd just learned about the Earth, about the humans and had been extolling them to her. After he'd given her a teddy bear for Christmas, she'd returned the favor by giving him an Earth chess set a few days later, having not expected a gift in the first place. Ever since then they'd both decided that Earth would forever be their favorite planet and, in the spirit of that, to observe some of its traditions, Christmas being one of them, "Yes…yes, alright, everyone does…shut up…"

The Professor just shook her head at him and turned back, walking through the trees, the Doctor following, Lily right behind him.

"I don't understand, is this place real?" Lily asked after a moment of just taking in the land around them, "Or is it Fairy Land?"

"Fairy Land?" he scoffed, "Oh grow up Lily! Fairy Land looks completely different."

The Professor knelt down in the snow, shining her light on a set of prints, "Look," she called, "These are Cyril's footprints…" and then she moved her light to the second set, "And these are the ones he was following. Notice anything."

"The other footprints are getting bigger," Lily replied.

"Yes. Whatever your brother's following, it's growing."

"Well then we have to get after him!" Lily jumped up and ran off, knocking some snow off a tree as she passed. She looked back to see if they were coming, only to see the tree literally grow what looked like a bauble, a silver orb dangling from an ice drop.

"It's ok," the Doctor reassured her as he stood, walking over to her, "You're fine. Don't worry."

"Is that tree alive?"

"Of course it's alive, it's a tree."

"But is it dangerous?"

"Every rose has its thorns," the Professor remarked, getting up as well, walking over to examine it.

Lily reached for one, leaning over like the Doctor to look at it, "They're like Christmas Tree decorations."

The Doctor grinned, "Yeah! Naturally occurring Christmas Trees!" he inhaled the tip of a branch deeply, before turning to the Professor, "Oh how cool is that!" she just laughed and wiped the bit of snow off the tip of his nose before dropping a kiss to it.

"I don't understand."

"It's a big Universe Lily," the Professor explained, "Everything happens somewhere."

"Call it a coincidence," the Doctor added, "Call it an idea echoing among the stars. Personally I call it a brilliant idea for a Christmas trip or it…should have been…" he trailed off, seeing the Professor stiffen and look up at the trees, listening as he too heard the whispering around them.

"Do you know the difference between wind and trees talking to each other Lily?" the Professor asked.

"What?" Lily frowned.

The Doctor however just licked his finger and held it up, feeling for the wind, "No wind," he breathed, looking at the Professor as she nodded.

"We've been here many times but we've never heard the trees so active," the Professor frowned, "Something's wrong…"

The Doctor turned slowly, listening hard, "What are you doing?" he asked the trees, "What are you up to?" he leaned down and looked at the bauble, seeing his reflection turn into a wooden man in a wooden crown, before jerking back. He looked at the Professor, alarmed, as she took out her blaster, readying it in case, "We're sorry Lily, we really are," he reached back, taking the girl's hand.

"Why?" Lily frowned, growing uneasy.

"Because there is something very wrong in this forest," the Professor answered, "And your brother's right in the middle of it," Lily's eyes widened in fear, "Let's move," she nodded at the Doctor, taking the lead through the trees once more.

"Why would you bring us to this place?" Lily asked as she rushed with the Doctor after her.

"Well, it was supposed to be a treat," the Doctor replied, "This is one of the safest planets I know. There's never anything dangerous here…"

There was a loud thump in the distance that shook the ground. Lily looked at him.

The Professor sighed, "There are sentences you should just keep away from dear," she remarked, pressing on quickly.

Lily shook her head, "It's just irresponsible. How can you do this to my brother?"

"It was meant to be a supervised trip," he repeated.

"What do the future?"

"The future yes."

"The future on a different planet?"

"Oh yes, very different."

"Where Christmas Trees just happen?"

"Well, sort of Christmas Trees…"

"They're not really Christmas Trees," the Professor told her as she pressed through another set of trees, coming to the base of a large tower in the middle of the forest.

"Oh, look at that!" the Doctor stopped, looking up at it, impressed. It was very large, with a sphere on top of it made out of a number of white colored, glass triangles.

"No time!" the Professor reminded him, running towards the tower.

"What, are we going in?" Lily called.

"Cyril did," she reasoned, pushing the door open.

They entered, stopping a moment as they looked around. There was a large wooden man in a wooden crown sitting in a chair before them at its base. The tower was empty, save for him and a spiral staircase pressed against the wall, heading up the length of the tower.

"Interesting," the Doctor remarked, seeing the wooden man.

"What's that?" Lily pointed at it, walking closer while they looked around, "That statue, what is it? It's like a king."

"A king possibly," the Doctor agreed, turning the sonic on it.

"But not a statue," the Professor said, having run her finger along its shoulder as she passed it. She turned, pointing her light to the prints on the floor, "This is what Cyril was following, the growing thing," she showed them how the prints led right up to the statue.

"Hatched from the bauble on a tree, grew to this size in…less than an hour I'd say," the Doctor checked his watch and whistled, "Impressive."

The Professor nodded, "And so is this building," she walked over to one of the walls and rested a hand on it, "Yes, grown see."

The Doctor walked over and inspected the wall as well, seeing what she had, "This building...it isn't a building, it's a group of trees grown in the shape of a building, disguised as a building. Oh…clever. I love clever. Clever old forest," he looked up a moment, "So a forest grows a building, why would it do that Lily?"

"I don't know," she shrugged.

"Why is there honey in a honey trap?" the Professor countered.

"Because it's a trap?"

"Exactly."

"Thing about people, we can never resist a door…" the Doctor continued.

"So this is a trap?" Lily's eye widened, "We've just walked straight into a trap?"

"A people trap."

"The question is…" the Professor said slowly, turning to look at the king, "Why does a forest need people?"

"We should go," Lily said, scared, "We have to get out of here."

"Except…"

She let out a breath, "Except Cyril's here."

The Doctor reached over and took her hand again, "So let's find Cyril," he looked up at the stairs before turning to the Professor. She nodded and started up them, the two behind her.

He really did hate that she often took the lead in potentially dangerous situations, but she refused to let him do it…claimed she actually felt safer taking the lead. He doubted it was that, believing it was more the fact that she felt she had the skills to protect whoever was behind her if she went first. And he couldn't really argue with that. She had near perfect aim, better reflexes, and far better instincts than he did due to her training. She could handle herself and whatever was thrown at them, a small comfort in allowing her to step first into danger, but a comfort nonetheless.

She slowed down when they reached a door at the top of the stairs and put her blaster back, walking over to it, "Cyril!" she called, the Doctor walking beside her and trying the sonic on the door, "Cyril! Can you hear me?"

"Cyril?" the Doctor tried, "Cyril? Cyril? Can you hear us?"

"It's wood dear," the Professor reminded him as he tried the sonic on what looked like a lock.

"Oh, of course," he grumbled, "It's rubbish at wood."

"It doesn't look like wood…" Lily remarked.

"It's disguised wood. Have you been listening?" he tried the sonic again on another setting.

"How can trees grow into a building?"

"Oh never underestimate a tree Lily," the Doctor walked past her, fiddling with the sonic, "I met the Forest of Cheem once who fancied me."

The Professor blinked and turned to him, "And when was this?"

He stiffened, looking back at her and offered a small smile, "I love you?"

She just rolled her eyes at him.

Lily turned and looked out the window, "Look at that…" she breathed.

"Busy actually," he fiddled again with the sonic, "Yes, I know it's wood, get over it!"

"There are stars. There are stars coming out."

"Yes that does happen Lily…"

"Cyril!" the Professor tried again, but there was no response. She pushed lightly against the door, testing its strength.

"Yes, but out of the trees," Lily told them. They both looked up at that before walking over to the window she was looking out of to see stars floating just above the trees, hovering there, "What is that?"

"Life force," the Professor smiled a bit at the sight, "Pure life force."

"Beautiful. Doesn't it make you want to cry?"

"Crying when you're happy," the Doctor shook his head, thoughtful, "Good for you," he put his hands on her shoulder, "That's so human."

There was a whoosh behind them and a golden light started to shine under the door, "What's that? What is it?" they ran over, "Tell me what!"

"Cyril!" the Doctor banged against the door, "Cyril can you hear me?"

A moment later a thumping noise reached them from below.

They stopped, stilling, before they caught sight of the wooden king making his way to the stairs, "Oh my God," Lily breathed, "Oh my God…" the Doctor turned back to the door as the Professor moved past Lily to look over the railing, watching the king, "Caretaker it's coming!" Lily gasped as he struggled with the door, "Open it!"

"I'm trying!"

"Open it!"

"I'm trying!"

"Oh move over!" the Professor shouted. The Doctor jumped back and the Professor strode forward, effectively kicking the door down.

The Doctor whistled as Lily looked impressed, "Never gets old, does it?" he asked her.

"Not yet," she remarked, hurrying through the door. They entered the room to see Cyril sitting on a throne-like chair, much like the one at the bottom of the tower, another statue, a woman in a crown, standing behind him.

Lily ran over to her brother, kneeling before him to see him sitting with his eyes closed, a small band around his head, "Cyril! What's wrong with him?" she looked up at the Professor as she put a finger to Cyril's neck, "Housekeeper, is he dead?"

"It's ok," she reassured the girl, "He's just unconscious."

"What are you then?" the Doctor stood, eyeing the second statue, "Not a king…queen! The queen bee of the forest."

Lily looked over her shoulder, spotting something through one of the clear windows, "Look!"

"It looks like…" the Doctor frowned as he and the Professor stepped closer, seeing the stars starting to head towards the tower.

"Like what?"

"Like the life force is leaving the forest…"

"It's an evacuation," the Professor nodded.

Suddenly there were thumps behind them.

They spun around to see the king had reached them and was walking towards Cyril, "What is he doing?" Lily gasped, "Stop him!"

The Doctor pulled out the sonic, flashing them both repeatedly, "Oh, aliens made of wood!" he growled at the sonic, "This was always going to happen, you know!" he tried to flash them again when a flash of light shot from beside him, striking the ground before the statues.

They froze.

He looked over at the Professor to see her holding her blaster out, "Wood plus oxygen plus a spark," she replied, "Equals fire," he nodded, realizing the wooden statues would be afraid of such a thing. The Professor eyed the statues a moment longer as they turned to look at Cyril before frowning, "I think they may want to talk to us."

The band on Cyril's head began to glow and he woke up, "They're scared," he breathed, as Lily cautiously knelt before him again, "Can't you hear them? The trees are screaming, can't you hear?"

The Doctor scanned the band quickly with the sonic, "No, but you can. You're connected to them."

"Why have the stars left the trees?" Lily frowned.

"I think they're…" Cyril frowned.

"Just concentrate," the Professor told him, moving to kneel beside Lily, keeping the statues in sight, "What are they doing?"

"Evacuating," he said, repeating her words, "They're evacuating."

"Knew it," she muttered, getting up to go look through the window again, up at the sky.

"Why?" the Doctor frowned.

"'Cos they're frightened of the rain," Cyril explained, "The rain that burns."

"Caretaker please explain," Lily looked at him, "I'm frightened."

"Those stars…" he began, moving her to the window with the Professor, "They're pure life force. Souls if you like. And they're trying to escape. Because they think their home is going to burn."

"Why can't they just float up into the sky?"

"They need to travel inside a living thing," the Professor replied, "Inside Cyril. That band on his head," she turned, "It's not a crown, it's a relay. They're turning your brother into a life boat."

The Doctor looked around, nodding, "That's what this place is for then. It's an escape plan, is that it?" the queen leaned forward and reached for Cyril, "Don't you harm him, do not touch that child!"

"Your coming was foretold," Cyril's voice deepened as the band began to blaze gold.

"Oh my God, what is that?" Lily eyed her brother in fear, "Why does he sound like that?"

"Oh hello, are we lip syncing now?" the Doctor asked the queen.

"We had faith," she spoke through Cyril, "Your coming was foretold."

The Professor shook her head, "There's no such thing as foretelling."

The Doctor nodded, walking around the statues, "Trust a time traveler."

"We waited," it said, "And you came."

"So!" he eyed them, moving to stand before them again, "You've got an escape plan, why aren't you escaping?"

"The child is weak."

The Professor frowned, "You mean he's a child?"

"No! He is weak! The forest cannot live in him. But there are others."

"There certainly are and the good thing is I look great in a hat," the Doctor nodded, kneeling before Cyril, "So…let's get this thing off eh?"

"You are also weak."

The Doctor simply reached for the band, "I'm really not. Let's save a forest, eh Cyril?"

"You are not the one. You are weak."

"I'm really not!" he grabbed the band and it blazed in his hands, hurting him, he cried out in pain, stumbling back, struggling to hold on.

"Let go of it!" Lily shouted as the Professor turned her gun on the statues in case they had a hand in that, "Just let go! Let go of it! Let go! Please just drop it!"

"I can't!"

Lily ran forward and grabbed the band out of his hands. The glow faded, "Oh…it's funny isn't it…" she smiled at it, "It's sort of…tingly…"

The Doctor looked up, panting, "Tingly?"

The queen suddenly moved and put a hand on Lily's shoulder, using her to speak, "She is strong but she is young," Lily gasped and dropped the band, moving away from the statue.

The Professor watched as the band rolled off, before moving to get it, "She's strong, I'm weak?" the Doctor asked, standing, "Interesting…" he looked up at the sound of metal scraping to see the Professor walking back over to them, spinning the band on her finger.

"It could be me," she remarked, before holding it out to the queen who took it back, "But I'm not strong enough."

He frowned, "You're the strongest person I know."

She smiled at him, "There are others who are stronger."

"Mummy?" Cyril called, snapping out of his daze.

Lily eyed the statues warily before rushing to kneel before her brother, "Cyril it's alright. It's me. Mummy isn't here but we're going home to her right now, aren't we caretaker? Housekeeper?"

The Doctor opened his mouth to speak when the Professor beat him to it, "No," she whispered. He looked over to see her staring up at the rain now pouring down onto the sphere, "I don't think we are," she looked at him sadly, "The rain that burns…acid rain…"

His eyes widened, "We have to get out of this forest. We're in terrible danger. This tower won't protect us for long."

"Where's mummy?" Cyril asked.

"She's coming," Lily tried to calm him, "You know she's coming because she always comes. Doesn't she?"

The Doctor looked at the Professor who could only shake her head before she moved to the children, "Cyril…" he looked up, "The way we came here, that door, won't stay open forever. Now it'll be hard enough getting you two out of here and through the rain safely, but if we're going to have any chance at all, we have to go now."

Cyril crossed his arms, "No. We wait for mummy. Mummy always comes."

The Doctor shook his head, joining the Professor, "Not this time Cyril. I'm sorry but not this time…" he trailed off, hearing another, much larger, set of thumping. They turned slowly to see a large machine with three mechanical legs appear above the treetops, walking towards them.

"What's that?" Lily asked as the two ran to the window.

"It's an Androzani Harvester!" the Professor's eyes widened.

"Do you recognize that thing?"

"More to the point…" the Doctor grinned, "I think I recognize the driving!" they could see Madge sitting in the main pilot's chair, moving the harvester onwards, "Madge has entered the forest! Come on Madge! You can do it! You go girl!"

"Shut up you ridiculous oaf!" Madge shouted over the comms..

"Come on! This way, whoa! You can do it! You can do it! Excellent driving!"

The Professor snorted, he would think that was excellent driving.

"Caretaker?" Madge called, "Housekeeper?"

"Yes!" he grinned.

"You're fired!"

"Oh…" his grin fell…and then…so did Madge's harvester, "It's ok," he told the kids quickly, "She's fine. Don't worry," he kissed them on their heads, "Stay here! Professor, watch them!" he shouted as he ran out of the room. He dashed down the stairs, "Madge! Madge!" and at the bottom she ran in, her jacket smoking, with holes in it, "You ok?"

She threw back her hood, relatively unharmed, "Stay inside, the rain is frightful! Lily! Cyril!" she turned and ran up the stairs as the Doctor turned and looked outside.

~8~

"Cyril!" Madge shouted as she ran into the room and over to her children.

"Mum!" Cyril grinned.

"Lily!" Madge pulled her children into a hug as the Professor stepped back, watching as the statues turned to look at Madge, "What are you doing?" she pulled away, "How dare you leave the house? Cyril what have I told you about opening your presents early?"

"Sorry mummy," he bowed his head.

"Something like this was bound to happen," Lily gasped and Madge spun around, watching as the statues approached her, "What are those?"

"Just stay away from them," Lily told her, "You have to stay back."

Madge's gaze was drawn to the band in the queen's hand, "That's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Mummy!" Cyril cried as the queen moved to crown her.

"It's alright Cyril," the Professor moved over to the children, holding them back a bit, "It takes someone stronger," she murmured, watching as Madge allowed herself to be crowned.

"Look how it shines…" the woman breathed.

~8~

Downstairs the Doctor scanned the rain and the harvester with the sonic from the doorway. He checked the results, muttering to himself, "Nice one Madge, a complete write-off," when he glanced up to see the stars spiraling towards the sphere. He turned and ran up the stairs, stopping short when he saw the stars entering Madge's head as she sat on the throne, the band glowing gold on her forehead. The Professor stood by the window, her arms around Lily and Cyril.

"The stars are going inside her!" Lily shouted, "She's taking the whole forest!"

"Oh, this is marvelous!" Madge smiled, "Oh, this is really quite wonderful."

The Doctor paused, watching as the stars finished entering her, and ran over, "Madge! Are you alright? Talk to me..." he slapped her cheeks lightly, "Madge. Can you hear me?"

"Yes, I can hear you, I'm perfectly fine! Thank you."

"Fine? You've got a whole world inside your head!"

"I know! It's funny isn't it. One can't imagine being a forest then suddenly one can! How remarkable."

"You're ok?" he stood up and looked at the statues, "She's ok?"

The queen leaned forward, "She is strong," before pulling away.

Madge blinked, "Oh…that wasn't me. Oh, this is all really rather clever, isn't it?"

The Doctor just eyed Madge skeptically before turning to the Professor, "She's strong? SHE'S strong? Stronger than you?"

She nodded, "Yes."

He shook his head, "I don't understand."

"We've both seen the world," she explained, "We've both suffered and lost and survived. We will endure anything to return to the ones we love," she offered him a small smile, "But she has something more. She's a mother."

His eyes widened, "Oh. Oh! Stupid me. Stupid old Doctor! Of course, weak and strong. It's a translation. Translated from the base code of nature itself. How else does life ever travel? The mother ship!"

The room started to shake as the sphere rose, "What's happening?" Lily cried.

"No idea. Do what I do, hold on tight and pretend it's a plan!" he ran to the window, joining the Professor in ducking down while Lily and Cyril knelt beside their mother, holding onto the throne.

"Oh my God," the Professor breathed as she looked out the window in time to see Madge fly the sphere into the Time Vortex.

"This is amazing!" the Doctor agreed as they stood up and looked out.

"Where are we?" Cyril asked.

"Technically we're not anywhere…"

"We've flown into the Time Vortex," the Professor blinked, before shaking her head, and turned to the queen, "You got what you wanted."

"Those idiots down there can burn your old home and you'll be safe up here…"

"But these people helped you and they're in our protection."

"Now, help them."

"How do we get home?"

"Think," the queen said, leaning forward to touch Madge.

"Sorry what?" the Doctor frowned.

"She must only think."

"Madge did you hear that?" he ran over and knelt down, "You said it but did you hear it? You've got to think."

"Think…what?" Madge looked at him, slightly dazed.

"Think of home," the Professor joined him, "Just picture it, feel it."

"You have to really feel it," the Doctor agreed, "Can you do that?"

"Your mind is controlling this vessel…"

"You can fly us all back for Christmas!"

Madge shook her head, "My head is full of trees caretaker, can't you fly us home?"

"We don't have a home to think of," the Professor said softly.

"And just between us, we're older than we look and I…" he swallowed, "I can't feel the way you do, not anymore, and you really need to feel it Madge. Everything about home that you miss, until you can't bear it, until you almost burst."

"Until it hurts," Madge breathed, "Is that what you mean caretaker? Till it hurts?"

"Yes. Yes…"

Madge pulled out a telegram, the one they knew had reported her husband's death, "Well then, home in time for Christmas!" she let out a soft scream as the vessel flew through the Vortex, a small ripple of energy appearing around it.

"What's happening?" Lily cried, "Where're we going?"

"Show them!" the Professor turned to the statues, "Show them!" the statues raised their hands and the windows cleared, forming a large triangular viewing glass, showing them the Vortex.

"Ha!" the Doctor grinned, "The Time Vortex, your mum is flying a forest through the Time Vortex be a little impressed."

"What are you going home for Madge? What's pulling you there? Please try, please think."

An image of a man with a baby girl appeared on the screen, her husband, then him waving goodbye to her, "Reg!" Madge gasped.

"Daddy!" Cyril grinned, seeing his father playing a blindfold game with him and Lily.

"My Reg!" and there he was having a tea party with Lily.

"That's it," the Doctor nodded, "Focus on Reg. Be careful, but focus on him."

"I don't know…"

"How did you meet?" the Professor turned to her, "You and Reg, tell us how you met."

"Uh…he followed me home," the scene appeared on the screen, the young couple walking through the woods, "I worked in the dairy, he used to follow me home."

"Look at father!" Lily smiled, "He looks so young!"

"He said he'd keep on following me till I married him. Didn't like to make a scene…"

"Just stay focused," the Doctor encouraged, "Think of home. This thing, it works psychically," he pulled out the sonic and flashed the band, "It'll find the signal and lock on."

"No, no, please don't show me that!" Madge gasped, seeing a plane flying on a cloudy night, "Please don't show me that!"

"Is that daddy's plane?" Cyril frowned.

"Please, I don't want to see that! Please."

"No, no, no, no, no Madge," the Doctor shouted, "Don't break the signal now, we can't break it now I'm sorry."

"But not the night he died. I don't want to see him die!"

Lily looked at her mother, startled, "What do you mean? The 'night he died?'"

"Please don't make me watch him die!"

"Mummy…" Cyril's voice trembled, "Is daddy dead?" his eyes filled with tears, seeing Madge crying, "Mummy!"

They watched as the engines began to fail, a man running up to tell Reg, the pilot, that one of their men was fading fast only for Reg to report that they were lost, giving the order to say they'd be home for Christmas. He cried, touching a picture of Madge, apologizing to her as the plane started to go down.

"Goodbye, my love," Madge wept, "Goodbye!"

And a bright light filled the room.

~8~

"Cyril, Lily," the Doctor called as the humans began to wake up in the wreckage of the vessel, "Everyone alright?"

"Are they dead?" Madge asked, glimpsing the prone statues.

"No," the Professor crouched by one and ran her hand over it, "They're just wood now, they've been emptied."

The Doctor knelt by Madge and flashed her with the sonic quickly, "The forest is gone from your head too now, isn't it?"

She rubbed her head a moment, "And where is it now?"

"The life force of the whole forest has transmuted itself into a sub-etheric waveband of light which can exist as a…" the Professor began to taper off, seeing Madge staring blankly at her and turned to the Doctor.

"The souls of the trees," the Doctor explained, "Are out among the stars. And they're shining, very happy, and you got them there. Well done Madge."

Madge smiled a bit, standing up shakily, "And where are we?"

"Home! Christmas morning!" he watched as the Professor rubbed an elbow on a window, wiping off the condensation, the manor viewable through it, "We've taken a bit of a shortcut, haven't you always wanted to do that?"

"Mother…" Lily began.

"Oh, look at you," Madge turned to her children, walking to them with her arms open, "You've been so brave you…" they backed away, "Look we're home again see…"

"What did you mean, 'watch him die?' Where's father? Where is he? Where's daddy?" Madge looked down at the telegram in her hand, "Why are you holding a telegram? Well? What does it say?"

"Please just tell us!" Cyril begged.

"Tell us!"

"I imagine you'd prefer to be alone?" the Doctor called as he and the Professor stood by the stairs leading out of the vessel.

The Professor took his hand, "No one would prefer to be alone," she said gently, "You know that."

Madge nodded, "Stay close, please."

He nodded, "We'll be right outside," before they turned and left.

They walked down the steps solemnly, stepping out onto the grass of the yard when something peculiar caught their eye…something that really had no place being there. The Doctor grinned and bolted back into the vessel.

"Um, sorry to interrupt!" he called, running up the stairs, "But you might want to pop out here for a moment…"

"Caretaker," Madge called, kneeling before Cyril and Lily, "I'm talking to my children."

"We know," the Professor joined him, "And before you go any further…you really should come and look…" she took the Doctor's hand and pulled him down the stairs once more.

They ran outside, beaming as they waited for the Arwells to join them. The Professor spotted them coming and tweaked his bow tie. He gave her a small kiss on the forehead for it and grinned at Madge as she stared, stunned, past them, "No stars to light the way Madge?" he asked, having heard the last few words of what she'd been saying to the children.

"There was one," the Professor smiled, "There was you."

"Madge Arwell, who flew a whole forest through the Time Vortex, plus one husband!" he laughed, seeing the plane sitting on the ground before them, "He did it again Madge! He followed you home!" Reg walked out, looking just as shocked as them, "Look what you can do. Mother Christmas."

"Madge!" Reg walked forward, "What am I doing here?"

"It's Christmas Day my love!" she threw her arms out, "Where else would you be?"

"Christmas Day? how?"

"We took a shortcut!" she laughed, running to hug him.

"Daddy!" Lily and Cyril shouted, running to him as well.

"Happy crying," the Doctor remarked, winding an arm around the Professor as they watched the happy reunion, "Humany wumany."

~8~

The Doctor and Professor stood outside the sitting room, watching as the family put together a puzzle before the fire that night. Reg kissed Madge's head, smiling softly at her. The Doctor grinned and did the same to the Professor before she took his hand and they walked off.

~8~

The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS, stopping short when he saw Madge standing in the attic room, staring at the police box with wide eyes. The Professor nudged him and he stepped out completely, allowing her out as well.

"Of course!" Madge pointed at them, "It's you, isn't it! My spacemen angels with the broken visor and head on backwards!"

"How do I look?" he spun around, "The right way around."

"Funnier."

"Ok..."

The Professor could only laugh at that.

"So you came back," Madge eyed them.

"Well, you were there for us when we had a bad day," the Professor remarked, "Always like to return a favor."

The Doctor nodded, "Got a bit clinchy in the middle there, but it sort of worked out in the end. Story of my life," he smiled at the Professor and kissed her temple. It most certainly was the story of his life.

"Thank you," Madge smiled, reaching out to hug them both.

"You did it all yourself Madge Arwell," the Doctor said as they pulled back, "But thanks for thanking us."

"Now the last time I saw you, I went back the next day but the phone box had gone."

"Yeah, you want to see how it's done?"

"He loves this trick," the Professor said as he pulled her back to the box.

"No!" Madge shouted and they stopped, "I want you to stay for Christmas. Please."

"Ah, well, you see, things to do, people to see…" the Doctor trailed.

"Of course, yes, family of your own," Madge nodded.

"Well…no actually."

"Oh…yes, yes you said you had no family. But there must be people who love you. Friends..."

"No. Well…yes, but…it's a long story…"

"They all think we're dead," the Professor said sadly.

The Doctor squeezed her hand, "Never mind, anyway, watch our box do its thing, it's really cool," he pointed at her, "You'll love it!" before taking the Professor's hand and heading back for the box.

"No!" Madge called again and they stopped at the door, "No one should be alone on Christmas..."

"We're fine," the Doctor tried to wave her off, "We don't mind. We're really very good at…"

"I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about your friends. You can't let them think that you're dead, not at Christmas."

"It's complicated, very complicated, far too complicated for…"

"You must go and tell them. At once," she shooed them, "Off you go."

The Doctor grumbled a bit, "…yes mum. I'll think about it," the Professor just smiled and nudged him. He started to grin again, "Now eyes on the box!" they headed for the TARDIS once more when…

"Oh caretaker!" Madge called, "Housekeeper!"

'Good lord, it's like Donna all over again,' he heard the Professor joke as they turned back.

"What if I require you again?"

"Make a wish," the Doctor grinned before entering the box, pulling the Professor in as well, leaving Madge to watch as the box disappeared before her eyes with a wheeze.

~8~

The Professor knocked on a TARDIS blue door, decorated with a quaint wreath.

"If that is more carol singers!" they heard Amy shout from inside, "I have a water pistol! You don't want to be all wet on a night like this!" she threw open the door and aimed the water pistol, trailing off when she saw the Doctor and her standing there.

"Not absolutely sure…" the Doctor hesitated, "How long…"

"Two years," the Professor whispered to him.

Amy nodded and proceeded to squirt them both with the water pistol.

The Doctor wiped his face quickly, "Ok…fair point."

"So…you're not dead," Amy eyed them harshly.

"And a Happy New Year!" he grinned.

Amy stepped forward, speaking quietly, "River told us."

His grin faded, "Well, of course she did."

"She's a good girl," Amy defended before eying them, "Well? I'm not gonna hug first."

"Nor are we," the Professor said, playing along as they all knew they'd end up hugging. They stood there only a few moments, trying to resist, before catching each other's eye and smiling, moving to hug at the same time.

"Mr. Pond!" Amy shouted, "Guess who's coming for dinner!"

"Ooh!" Rory appeared in the doorway, walking to them, "Not dead then?"

"We've done that. We're about to have Christmas dinner. Joining us?"

"If it's no trouble," the Professor smiled.

"There's a place set for you," Rory told them.

The Doctor frowned, "But you didn't know we were coming, why would you set us a plate?"

"Oh because we always do," Amy rolled her eyes as Rory pointed at her, "It's Christmas you morons!"

Rory laughed as Amy walked in, nodding to them, "Come on."

The Doctor stood there a moment, stunned, as they walked in before following them. He paused just over the threshold, turning to the Professor who smiled gently, cupping his cheek with her hand. Her thumb gently stroked beneath his eye, wiping away the happy tear that had fallen, "See?" she whispered, "You can still feel it."

He brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, "Only around you," he admitted.

"Merry Christmas Theta," she smiled.

He smiled at her in return, taking her hand from his face, "Merry Christmas Kata," he kissed her palm before closing the door excitedly, grabbing her hand, and pulling her down the hall after their Companions.

~8~

The Doctor sighed as he lay down on their bed, rolling over to look at the Professor, who was lying on her side as well, facing him. He reached out and took her left hand in his right, absently playing with her fingers as they laid there in thought. He could tell there was something on her mind so he just waited, looking into her eyes as he did so, trying to convey that she could tell him.

"Reinette," she said after a moment, "Tommy, Elton, Chloe, Timothy, Creet, Frederic, Luke, Rani, Clyde, Amelia Pond, Mandy, Elliot, Kazran, Santiago, Melody Pond, Toby, George, Alfie, Lily and Cryil…"

"What about them?" he frowned, confused.

"We've had adventures with so many children, have you noticed?"

She certainly had. More so, she'd noticed his reactions around them, how wistfully he looked at Craig and Alfie, how he knew how to help handle George, even the cot he'd kept from Gallifrey, among other things...

He paused, thinking about it, he hadn't really noticed till now, "And?"

She looked away, a bit shy, "What if…I said…perhaps...we should have an adventure…with one of our own?"

His eyes widened, "Kata are you…"

"No," she cut in, "But…I think I might want to be."

He let out a breath, "Really?"

She took a breath and nodded, "I never stopped imagining what our children might look like…I showed you some of them, and…I'm tired of imagining, of guessing…you know me," she nudged him, "Far too curious for my own good, I want to KNOW," she nodded at her decision and looked him in the eyes, "Theta...I want to have a baby..."

He could feel tears prickling at the corners of his eyes as he beamed at her. He'd dreamed of being a father, of being a father with her as the mother. He'd tried to create that level of excitement when Mayra had been pregnant and given birth but it wasn't the same…and now…to have her offering him the one thing he wanted more than anything…it was the greatest Christmas gift he had ever received.

"Ok," he whispered, leaning forward to kiss her, both of them ready to start actively trying for a bright, new future.

Yes, the Silence were still out there.

Yes, there was the fall of the eleventh looming on the horizon.

But they could remember the Silence now and they knew that, together, they could face anything.

And a child would be more than enough to make them fight all the harder for their future.

To be continued...in...Reproduction!

A/N: Awwww…sweet, they want a family! That'll definitely shake things up :) So, she's not pregnant, but wants to be. But…we all know, nothing with the Doctor is ever easy. Will they have a child? Not even I know…I mean, being Bonded, more than 200 years later and still no baby? Just because they are 'actively' trying to have one now in no way means they were 'actively' trying not to have one before. But I do know that women tend to go a bit crazy when they want a baby, so I'm already envisioning more slightly 'suggestive' and intimate scenes/dialogue/references to be worked into possibly almost every episode of the next series...quite a few that would probably give the Doctor dual heart attacks...especially what I have planned based on the short clips, from the preview, of the Western episode of Series 7 :)

But that's all there is for DW till Series 7 :'( I will definitely continue this story though when the series comes out. Just so you know, I was debating trying to update every week after a new episode aired, BUT I'm probably going to hold off on that and wait till the end of the series so that I can make sure I don't put something into the story that conflicts with something that happens later on :) But you can bet, within a few days of the last episode I will be back!

As for the title for the next story, well, it sort of speaks for itself doesn't it? They are going to be trying for a baby, the art of reproduction.

Just a note, I'll be posting this periodically in the Dream Lady story and the AU story, but if you have any scenes you'd like to see fleshed out more in my spin-off series, drop a review and let me know, I'll be posting a list at the end of the AU story so we know what's been requested so far :)

On that note, thank you guys so much for your reviews. I really can't say enough how much I love all of you, those who reviewed, are reviewing, always reviewed, will review...seriously, I'm glad you liked this series :)

Last note: tomorrow I'll be posting the Dream Lady story, to be titled Revision: The Dream Lady, just to add a little twist to the R-E-Something :)