Having finished his sandwich, Jamie sighed happily and stood up, crossing the room to pour himself another cup of tea. It was nice to just sit and relax a bit, especially after the harrowing experience with those Krotons. He was glad the Gonds no longer had them to worry about. Beta, Vana and Thara had their work cut out for them, but Jamie was optimistic they would do just fine.
Sipping his tea, he basked in the quiet solitude. Yes, some peace and quiet was just what the doctor ordered. Jamie chuckled inwardly, realizing the unintentional pun that had surfaced in his mind.
Speaking of the Doctor, Jamie had since noticed a change in his mood, although not one that was totally unexpected. It arrived about the same time over the past few years he'd traveled with the Doctor, and heralded the arrival of the Christmas season. After all this time, Jamie was still unsure exactly when Christmas was, what with time being relative in their situation. Apparently, the Doctor had a solution to that: he kept a calendar. Even if it was nowhere near Christmas back on Earth or on whatever planet on which they happened to land, it was Christmas to them and that was all that mattered.
Jamie was fine with this, obviously. Christmas was one of his favorite holidays and he always looked forward to celebrating it with his family and friends back in Scotland. Although it had been quite a while since he'd taken part in such festivities, the Doctor had certainly gone the extra mile to make up for it. Jamie smiled fondly, thinking of how the Time Lord's eyes twinkled at the mere mention of Christmas coming up; how he'd excitedly break out the decorations and have a ball doing up the TARDIS. He'd even put up a Christmas tree. Oh, it was fake, but was so authentic-looking in both appearance and fragrance, you'd swear it was the real thing.
His thoughts were interrupted by a slight crashing noise further down the corridor and an exclamation of 'Oh, my giddy aunt!' Jamie couldn't contain the grin that spread across his face as he guessed what the Doctor was up to. Finishing his tea, he set the cup aside and left the kitchen.
As he traversed the corridor, he heard the faint sound of music getting louder. The tune itself confirmed his suspicions: The Doctor had already set to work on decorating the TARDIS lounge for Christmas. “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was blaring from the room and the Doctor was softly singing along.
Stopping just outside the room, Jamie couldn't help rolling his eyes. He knew the Doctor was going to play that one over and over, much as he'd seemed to do every year. Peering around the corner and getting a glimpse of a Time Lord bustling about the room hanging directions and looking positively gleeful, Jamie felt his smirk soften. If it made the Doctor happy, he had no problem with it. He then noticed the Doctor balancing a box of decorations on his knee as he stood atop a ladder to hang something on the wall. Now might be a good time to ask if he needed some help. Perhaps he and Zoe could join him.
Jamie felt his brow furrow in confusion. Where was Zoe anyway? He realized she'd been absent a great deal of the time since they'd left the Gonds' planet. Perhaps it wasn't so unusual. Jamie knew she loved spending hours inside the TARDIS library. If the Doctor's calendar was anything to go by, she'd been with them for over eight months now. Surely in that time she must have read every single book in the library at least once, perhaps even more than once. Wouldn't she have grown bored already? He suddenly caught himself, a little voice inside nagging him: This was Zoe he was talking about.
Not-so-fond memories of her arrival suddenly tapped him on the shoulder. He hadn't been too excited by the idea of her joining them on the TARDIS after she'd stowed away and the Doctor allowed her to stay. He'd still missed Victoria dearly, but he'd begrudgingly accepted Zoe and over the months they'd become friends, despite their very different backgrounds and personalities. Despite the similarities she shared with the Doctor, there were times the two of them would share a good laugh at his expense (his failure to pilot the TARDIS correctly, for one). That memory in particular caused a fond smile to twitch at his lips.
Finally deciding to seek out Zoe, he made his way towards the library. Peering inside, he frowned, unable to spot her anywhere. To confirm his suspicion, he entered the room and looked around. Again, his search proved fruitless. Zoe wasn't in the library poring over some book about scientific something-or-other? Jamie couldn't help being concerned. He then assumed she was in her room and turned back, heading in that direction.
On the way he had passed the Doctor's study and heard a faint noise inside. It sounded like the shuffling of pages. Cautiously having a look inside, Jamie found Zoe sitting at the desk, reading a magazine. In the faint light coming from the lamp on the desk, he could make out her tear-stained face. Jamie regarded her in surprise. Zoe crying? She was always so … No, don't even think it, Jamie. Have some compassion, he scolded himself. The question of what she was doing in the Doctor's study had barely entered his mind as he felt an overwhelming need to comfort her and rushed into the room.
He was at her side instantly and noticed a bright blush suddenly overtaking her features. “Oh! Jamie. What are you doing here?” she asked, straightening up and putting on an air of cool confidence.
Jamie merely gazed at her sadly. She wasn't fooling him. “I could ask ye the same question.”
“Oh, well, I'd finished reading all the astrophysics texts in the library and was looking for something different to read. The Doctor had told me he'd left some reading material in his study and I was welcome to look at it if I wanted.”
“Uh huh,” Jamie intoned, still not totally buying it although perhaps he should still give her the benefit of the doubt. “So why this magazine, then?”
Zoe's blush seemed to deepen and she stuttered a bit. “I-it was just lying here on the desk and it was something different, so ...” As she trailed off, Jamie's gaze settled on the magazine in question. It revealed an article on Christmas traditions and showed pictures of a family around a Christmas tree, with stockings hung by a fireplace. Jamie smiled. The family looked so happy celebrating the holiday together.
“I bet the Doctor was looking at it,” Jamie told her, his smile broadening into a grin. “Did ye know he's already decorating the TARDIS for Christmas? I jus' saw him tryin' a balancing act on a ladder with a box on top of his knee. I wonder how long it'll be till we see him crashed on the floor covered with sparkly bits and baubles?” He chuckled.
Jamie's laughter faded when Zoe didn't even crack a smile. “Ye gettin' tired of it already?” he asked, growing even more concerned.
Zoe shook her head. “No, it's not that at all.” Her voice faltered and Jamie could see her eyes filled with tears. Seemingly embarrassed, Zoe wiped her hand across her nose and cleared her throat. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't be acting this way.”
Jamie felt his heart breaking. “Eh? No, Zoe, don' say that.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “It sounds like ye need someone to talk to.” An idea suddenly came to him. “Would ye no' like a cuppa tea? I'll make ye one.”
Zoe started a bit, as if not expecting such an offer but then nodded almost gratefully.
Jamie nodded back, giving her an encouraging smile. “Come on, then,” he said, gesturing out the doorway. She'd hesitated for a moment and then joined him outside the room. Taking her hand, he led her towards the kitchen.
Zoe happily accepted the hot cup of tea Jamie had given her and took a sip. The warm beverage soothed her, causing her pensive frown to melt into a smile. Her gaze flew over to Jamie sitting across from her, giving her a smile as well. She had to admit that, as different as they were and how he could act like an annoying older brother at times, she found his presence comforting and was thankful he'd done this for her.
She then noticed him gazing at her in concern. “So, what's the matter?” he asked, breaking the silence. “Ye looked a wee bit sad in there.”
Zoe felt her cheeks grow warm and the tea was not to blame. She sighed. “I suppose it's silly but, with the Doctor getting all excited and wanting to celebrate Christmas … it makes me feel homesick.”
The revelation seemed to take Jamie by surprise as he gazed at her, his brow furrowed in apparent confusion. “Eh?”
“I've not really spoken much of this, but my life on the Wheel began when I was very young. I was quite close with my parents and younger sister before that. We didn't have any huge celebrations for Christmas, but we did enjoy it very much. My sister and I would help my Mum in the kitchen, and I'd help my Dad with all the decorations.”
She noticed Jamie smiling fondly, perhaps even with a bit of amusement. He probably found it hard to believe a small girl like her helping with big projects.
“Anyway, it was great fun.” Her smile faded as the pain of estrangement threatened to overtake her. “Once I began my life on the Wheel, it was a completely different atmosphere which took some getting used to. They didn't really celebrate Christmas or any other holidays. They wanted the work environment to be productive, and anything such as this would present a distraction.” She uttered a humorless chuckle.
This revelation apparently made Jamie offended on her behalf. “What?! Why, those uncaring … machines! he exclaimed. “An' they had the nerve tae call ye a human computer?! That's jus' horrible!”
Her gaze falling onto the tabletop, Zoe shrugged. “Maybe, but it's the way they operated. Doctor Corwin would sneak us some little gifts from time to time to celebrate birthdays. I could tell she felt badly about it and I was very thankful that she tried to do something to show appreciation for us, but … It wasn't much.” She heaved a sigh. “I know it may seem hard for you to believe, but there was a time in my life filled with warmth, joy and togetherness. The photos and article in that magazine reminded me of my family before that chapter of my life, and how much I miss them."
She tentatively looked over at Jamie. He looked absolutely crushed. Heavily he got up from the table and came around to her side. She watched him kneel down to be at her level before gathering her into a hug. Zoe felt the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes as she wrapped her arms around him and relaxed into his embrace.
“I am so sorry, lass,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I didnae know how difficult this was for ye.”
“That's all right,” she told him. “I'd never shared this before.” She'd stayed in his embrace a good while before he'd stepped back and gently patted her shoulder.
“If it means anything, I still really miss my family as well and Christmas only makes that longing stronger. Even though I've traveled with the Doctor for a few years now, I still miss them.” He had a faraway look in his eyes to go with his wistful smile. “I loved celebrating Christmas wi' them. All the festivals were such great fun. There was singing of carols an' dancing an' lots o' good food an' drink … I still really miss it, but ye know something? I'd grown tae accept the Doctor an' my friends as family: Ben, Polly, Victoria, and now you.” His smile seemed to grow fonder as she met his gaze. “An' I hope ye can think of us as family now.”
Mulling this over, Zoe realized he was absolutely right. He and the Doctor had become family to her. “Yes, I do think of you as my family,” she replied with a nod. “You've both been there for me and saved my life more times than I care to admit.” She felt her lips briefly lift into a self-effacing grin before her mood changed and her smile faded. “I suppose it's best not to dwell on the past but live in the moment, to appreciate what I've got.”
Jamie nodded. “Aye. But ye shouldnae forget aboot them. I've no' forgotten aboot my family. I keep good memories of them while I treasure the company I've got now.”
Gazing at him, Zoe realized her new-found appreciation for Jamie. For such an archaic-minded, sometimes dense young man, he could be quite wise.
Her smile threatened to crack her face wide open as she threw her arms around him in another hug. Jamie's little 'oof!' revealed he hadn't quite expected that and it made her chuckle fondly. “Thank you for talking to me, Jamie ... for cheering me up,” she said once she'd stepped back.
“Of course, Zoe,” he replied. His faint smile grew as he nodded toward the corridor. “Shall we no' go see what the Doctor's doing? Hopefully he hasn't torn the room apart.” He gave her a little wink.
Giggling, Zoe nodded. “I think we'd better.” With that, she joined him as they made their way towards the lounge.
The unmistakable whimpering of the Doctor was heard as they neared the room: “Oh, dear. Oh, dear.”
Zoe turned to find Jamie rolling his eyes. “Aye, I knew as soon as I'd said it ...” He trailed off and she shared an amused grin with him.
Entering the room, they found the Doctor half-sitting, half-lying on the floor on his backside, silver tinsel hanging from his head and shoulders and a strand of gold garland nearly wrapped around him.
“Now, jus' what have ye been up to?” Jamie asked him accusingly, a look of disapproval on his face. Zoe tried hard to contain a grin.
The Doctor looked up at them awkwardly, trying to brush away some of the tinsel. “Er, well, I had a bit of a mishap as I was trying to dress the tree here.”
“Ye balanced on one leg on the edge of the chair an' leaned over too far again, eh?”
“Erm, well, I wouldn't quite say that ...”
Zoe could make out a blush on the Doctor's face as he batted away the few remaining strands of tinsel and shook the garland off himself.
“Come on, Doctor. Let us help ye,” Jamie insisted.
“Oh, all right,” he replied after a pause, a bit of reluctance in his tone. Standing, he finally seemed to take notice of Zoe and a delighted smile lit up his face. “Oh, Zoe, I'm pleased to see you're interested in helping.”
“Of course, Doctor. I'm happy to help.”
“I'm very glad to hear it.” His smile faded and he appeared concerned. “I noticed you'd seemed a bit withdrawn lately.”
Picking up an ornament in the shape of a partridge and hanging it from a tree branch about her height, Zoe sighed, avoiding his gaze. She didn't really have the heart to go slogging through this again.
Fortunately, Jamie saved her the trouble. “Zoe told me she was feeling a wee bit homesick an' missing her family. She has fond memories o' Christmas with them before she started working on the Wheel. I told her aboot my family's Christmas celebrations in Scotland an' how much I miss them, but I keep fond memories o' them. Doctor, you an' all our friends here on the TARDIS have become my family, including Zoe.”
Zoe finally turned to them, smiling fondly. “And I admitted to him I feel the same way. Doctor, you and Jamie have become my family and I'm so thankful for you both.”
The Doctor seemed a bit surprised at first but that reaction quickly melted into a warm smile of his own. “I'm glad you're feeling better, Zoe. I understand missing your family at such a time as this. I miss my own family very much as well. But you've both become my family and I cherish every moment with you.”
She was quite touched by the Doctor's admission and blinked back tears as her smile widened.
A sudden loud sound akin to the TARDIS dematerializing pierced the room. “Oh, splendid timing!” the Doctor exclaimed, rushing out into the corridor.
Zoe shared a bemused look with Jamie before they took off after him. They found him in the console room at the controls.
“Now, if the coordinates I'd inputted into this thing are correct ...”
“An' we're lucky if they are,” Jamie said quietly with a smirk, leaning into Zoe. She shot him an empathetic grin.
“Ah! Here we are.” Flipping on the scanner revealed a wintry scene, with a light snowfall falling onto the thick, white blanket already covering the landscape.
“Oh, look at that,” Jamie said, his voice dreamlike.
“What do you say, Zoe? Would you like to go out and see this for yourself?” the Doctor asked.
Zoe smiled at him again and nodded. All this smiling was bound to make her face hurt. Not that that was a bad thing ...
The Doctor had briefly left the room and returned with their winter coats, handing Jamie his and offering Zoe her coat. She hurriedly threw it on and then joined them outside the TARDIS. The three of them stood, enjoying the beautiful scene before them until the cold became too unbearable and the Doctor had muttered something about hot cocoa.
“Ah, this cocoa is just the thing,” the Doctor said as he stretched out on an armchair, his legs propped up on a hassock.
“At least yers has got marshmallows in it. Mine doesnae have any.”
“Oh, quit grumbling, Jamie. You're spoiling the atmosphere.”
“Jus' admit ye stole them.”
Zoe tried hard not to giggle as she found Jamie scowling at the Doctor. Having returned to the warmth of the TARDIS, they were now seated in front of the fireplace, each with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. The now completely decorated Christmas tree was ensconced in the corner of the room, and three stockings hung above the fireplace.
The scene in front of her was so warm and inviting, much like the pictures in that magazine article she'd earlier read. Her gaze settled back upon the Doctor and Jamie. Technically, she was far away from her home in days past, and from the people who were her real family; but the TARDIS had become her home, and the Doctor and Jamie her family.
Witnessing the Doctor placing his cup of cocoa on the table and Jamie appearing to reach for it surreptitiously as if to steal his marshmallows, she uttered a fond chuckle. Yes, she really was home for Christmas.