AN ~ Wrote this Christmas 2013 I believe (when was The Snowmen on?) – since I'm from Australia, where it's a gagillion degrees every Christmas and we do things differently here, I figured why not write about that! Besides, I reckon the Doctor's overdue for a visit to Oz. (By which I mean Australia. A lot of ppl don't get that.)
I don't own DW etc etc. Plus I have to admit I was partially inspired by cheri1 and her Happy Hillbilly Thanksgiving & Country Christmas stories on FF.net :)
- Prologue -
The Doctor stuck his head out of the Tardis doors, and grinned when a flurry of snow blew straight past his face, disturbed by the appearance of the time machine. As it settled, he looked around what appeared to be medieval side streets, with lopsided lean-tos against grey stone, and a donkey tethered nearby with some geese running loose at its feet. His eyes scanned the few peasants shuffling about their evening, and soon settled on the russet-cloaked and suspiciously hooded feminine figure half-hidden in shadows on the street corner. She saw him too, and smirked, and a blonde corkscrew curl fell loose, dangling beyond the reaches of the material. Knowing her cover was blown, she swaggered towards the blue box tantalisingly slowly and, when she was close enough, removed one hand from her ermine and lowered her hood.
"Merry Christmas, sweetie," she greeted smoothly as her curls bounced free. The way she smiled at him – endearingly, as if he were a silly but adorable child - made the Doctor frown suspiciously.
"You say that like it's not Christmas."
River laughed. "It's April!" she cried gleefully. "You're in a simulated winter on the moon!"
"Oh." He glared at the Tardis floor beneath his feet for a moment before looking back at River. "So how did you know it was Christmas?"
"You've got snow on your top hat," River pointed out. "And you're wearing your top hat. And, uh...I think that used to be a wreath."
She gestured towards the curling, blackened fragments of something that were fluttering along the ground just outside the Tardis, and the scorched black ring on the door where the ornament had previously been hanging.
"Ah yes," the Doctor said quickly, waving it aside and opening the door so that she could enter. "I was in a bit of a rush. Just tried Christmas, it was rubbish. Well, it was all right, but not very good at all because- well, because..." The words to proceed in his nervous rambling seemed to have abandoned him. River stepped past him into the Tardis, looking around in awe at the glory of its bright golden light, the shimmering tinsel and baubles and mistletoe everywhere. Meanwhile, leaning on the now closed door, the Doctor took a deep breath to renew his line of speech.
"New companion's off visiting and I'm – uh...not. Have you done Manhattan yet?" he asked, with conscious effort to keep his tone light. River caught the odd clash of his moods, and his strange wording, and spun to face him. His face gave nothing away. Well, no more than usual.
"No, I haven't," she shrugged. "At least, not with you. Were there handcuffs?"
She battered her eyelids with a deep chuckle, and turned away again to jog up the stairs and onto the console room floor while the Doctor took a moment to fend off the looming darkness.
"Byzantium," he guessed, joining River by the console and busying himself with the controls before she could. She probably had already anyway, but he didn't mind. Once he had sent them off, he took a moment to think of something to say. This was going to be a pleasant and – dare he say it – safe Christmas. A normal Christmas. Dinner and crackers and presents with his wife. Maybe pudding, though he had never been big on fruit cake. The custard sounded good though. And fish fingers. Maybe he could finally get River to-
"So," River interrupted, perching on the edge of the console panel beside the Doctor, leaning back on her arms, throwing her head back and tossing her hair in a way which suddenly made him want to kiss her very, very much. "Are we going to Manhattan then?"
"No." He answered a little too suddenly: it still stung him to even think of that place. And if he kissed her now, she would know that something went wrong there. So he bopped her on the nose and grinned, eliciting a matching expression from River. "I'm not sure where we're going, but we're going to have a Christmas – simulated moon winter or no."
As if on cue, the Tardis brakes vworped, announcing their landing. The Doctor and River all but raced to the doors, hauling open one each and leaping onto the planet's surface. They stood and laughed at each other for a moment, and at the rush of endorphins that came from a combination of seeing each other again, and Christmas.
Suddenly, a hot wind as if from Hell itself blew past. River yelped and threw the ermine covering of her hands onto the red dust and gravel at their feet. It felt as if she were on fire already. She clawed at her cloak with a little more desperation than she was prepared to admit, while the Doctor casually slung his jacket off and bent over, running his finger through the dust and then licking it. He grimaced at the bitter taste of iron against his tongue.
"December 23rd, 2012," he announced. "Australia."