Another companion walked away from the TARDIS, disappointed by the Doctor’s unwillingness to join the War. The Doctor was sad to see her go, but the burden of conflict left him more exhausted than sombre. Her silhouette faded into the horizon of Erstwhile—a planet dusted with smoke from recent battles. Not for the first time, the Doctor found himself thinking about better times. Something had to give. The Doctor felt a desperate need to lift his spirits. Some way to renew his faith. Something like…
“Christmas!” The Doctor spun on his heel, and flew to the TARDIS console. “Otherstide, Crystal Feast, Winter Solstice! We need a moment, just a moment, to see that darkness will give way to the light. Come on old girl—”
He closed the doors, flipped a plug below the yearometer to the randomizer socket, rushed to the console’s opposite side to activate the temporal engines, then pulled a lever and gave the time rotor a thump with his fist. The familiar grinding noise filled the room as the center columns began their interlocking motion.
“—take me somewhere they still celebrate. I want snow, candles, tinsel, crackers, silly paper hats! Speaking of clothing…” the Doctor looked at his leather peacoat and denim jeans, “I think it’s time to change into something more festive.” At that, he headed back to the wardrobe.
Bernice Summerfield could hear Hazoodian hooves getting closer as she made a sharp turn at a juncture very much like the last three she’d passed. Since when, she thought, did a bovine species decide it’d be nice to add a bit of meat to their Gathering Ale? Benny felt a stitch growing in her side, but didn’t dare stop running… particularly since she was on the menu.
“I’m getting too old for—” Before she could finish the sentence, the hall filled with a moaning wheeze, a gust of wind kicked up around her, and Benny smiled. “Impeccable timing, Doctor.” Benny reached into her pocket, and pulled out her TARDIS key. The box’s outer plasmic shell hadn’t finished materialising before Benny slipped the Yale key into the lock. Without hesitation, she stumbled across the dimensional threshold into the TARDIS. She slammed the inner doors, ran past the Menti Celesti statues, and leaped down the stairs to the console stand. The echo of Hazoodian hooves banging against the TARDIS echoed through the room.
“Oh, go moo at someone else’s door!” Benny flipped the fast return switch, and caught her breath, as she leaned against the console scaffolding and watched the interlocking columns start their motion.
She sighed, both exhausted and relieved. Not for the first time, she found herself thinking about her son, Peter. If only she could remember where the Doctor left the visualiser.
“Or,” she spoke to the TARDIS, half-jokingly, “you could just take me home.” She tapped the console, before marching out of the candle lit console room in search for the Doctor. Unbeknownst to her, the spot where her fingers grazed the console took on a brief, but powerful glow. Telepathic circuits silently rebooted.
The Doctor stepped into the console room and straightening his velvet trench coat. It felt good to be in green again.
“So, where did you bring me?” He turned a dial, to activate the scanner. Glancing past the scaffolding that rose above the console, the Doctor watched a wave of light shift across the ceiling’s curved dome, showing the planet beyond: Erstwhile, still choking on the smoke of battle. They hadn’t budged.
“Come on, old girl. Try again—Christmas. Somewhere as far from here as possible. Somewhere I’ve never been!” The Doctor reactivated the temporal engines, added some thrust and set the TARDIS in motion. The telepathic circuits quietly hummed beneath the wood panelling. He scratched the back of his bare neck, “I’ll go get something to keep warm—just in case.”
With the TARDIS in flight, he headed once more to the wardrobe.
“Since when are there bats in the cloisters?” Benny re-entered the console room. She brushed off her dusty jacket, just as the TARDIS landed. “And cobwebs? Really, Doctor, I’m not sure about this desktop theme. Give me classic grey roundels any day.”
Benny glanced up at the activated scanner and couldn’t help but smile at the sight of a protective shield outside, arcing above pollution-grey buildings and corner casinos.
“Legion! Stupid, dangerous, solar-wind-damaged Legion.” She opened the doors to reveal the disrepaired road leading to the White Rabbit—holiday lights shining bright in the windows.
She turned to call out to the Doctor, “Oh, Doctor. It’s a wonderful gift. Happy Advent!”
“Happy Advent.” The Doctor skipped down the stairs as he responded, absent-mindedly. As if Benny was invisible, he continued the conversation he’d been having with himself: “I’m trying a cravat, this time. The ascot always felt a bit constricting.”
Suddenly, the Doctor froze in place, before slowly turning to face Benny. “How did you…?”
“What are you doing here?” Benny interrupted, accusingly.
“What am I doing here?” The Doctor was having difficulty working out the details.
Benny half-apologised; “It’s just… I expected the one from the dying universe, or one of the Scottish ones.”
“One of the Scottish…? What are you going on about, Benny?”
“Sorry. It’s good to see you, Doctor—this you.” Benny rushed to the Time Lord, embracing him. “All that matters is we’re both here—right in time for Adve… Oh.” Her arms fell, as did her air of joy. She’d suddenly realised the Doctor’s later Scottish incarnation (the grumpy Glaswegian one) had arrived on Legion for the first time just last year. This Doctor, on the other hand, had never been to the planet.
“What is it?” The Doctor looked at Bernice in confusion.
“This place, Doctor.” A tear grew in the corner of Benny’s eye, but she held it back with a bittersweet smile “It’s my home. I want you to join me for Advent, and to introduce you to my family. Peter’s turned into a fine young man. Then there’s Ruth and Jack and…. You shouldn’t be here—at least, not yet. The Web of Time, and all.”
She didn’t have to say anything more; the Doctor understood. Benny knew better than to allow him to create a paradox. He just wished he could celebrate with her once more.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay, Doctor. There are people waiting for me out there. People who count on me—just like we’ve always counted on you. I have to go home now, but we’ll see each other again.” Benny leaned in, and kissed the Doctor’s cheek. “Happy Advent, Doctor, and merry Christmas.”
Another companion walked away from the TARDIS. The Doctor was sad to see her go, but the promise of Christmas future was a gift to hold onto: a time when darkness would give way to the light.
“Merry Christmas Benny, and have a Happy New Year.”