“Are you Santa?”
The Doctor whirled away from the fireplace, blond curls bobbing. He stared at the small child, startled.
“What are you doing up?” he demanded in his usual blustery tones.
“Oh! Oh no!” The child clapped his hands over his eyes. “I didn’t see you! I didn’t mean to! Don’t go away!”
“I only came down because the cat was meowing.” He pointed down with one hand, the other still clamped over his eyes, at the cat that was currently stropping the Doctor’s yellow, pinstripe-clad ankles.
The Doctor stared down in disgust at the tabby cat that looked up at him adoringly. He sighed.
“It’s all right,” he told the distraught child, a little boy in a onesie, not more than six years old, “you can look at me, I’m not going anywhere.”
The child peeked at him between tiny fingers. “Aren’t you supposed to come tomorrow?” he asked in a high pitched voice, his eyes darting to the tree, looking for presents.
The Doctor frowned at the child, then down at the loudly purring cat. “What makes you think I’m Santa. Do I look like Santa?”
The child dropped his hands and scuffed one bootie encased foot on the back of his ankle. “Maybe you’re in plain clothes?” he guessed.
The Doctor’s eyebrows flew up and he looked down at his colorful clothing. “That’s the first time I’ve heard them called that.”
The child bit on his lip and looked up, half hopefully, half hesitantly.
“No child, I’m not Santa. Let’s just say, I’m one of his elves,” the Doctor said.
“You’re too fat to be an elf,” the child stated unequivocally, as if that was proof he must be Santa.
The Doctor drew himself up haughtily. “I am not fat!”
The child reared back, eyes wide.
A clatter from the chimney behind them distracted their attention. Soot tinkled down into the empty grate. A sound like bells jingled and a curly red mop of hair descended through the flue. It was quickly followed by a tiny, lithe, energetic body all decked out in red and green, with jingle bells tied to the shoes.
Mel tumbled out of the chimney, doing a perfect somersault, and bounced up energetically on her feet, red curls dancing around her head.
“I found it!” she held up a candy cane stripped device triumphantly. “Oh, who are you?”
“An elf!” the boy exclaimed, clapping and jumping in place in excitement.
Mel grinned at him, then turned and ran a gimlet eye over the Doctor’s paunchy middle, guessing who he was supposed to be. He sucked it in and scowled at her.
She leaned down to the child and placed a slender finger over her lips. “Shh! We’re not here officially.”
The child’s eyes grew wide. He nodded eagerly.
She handed the device to the Doctor. “Is that what we were looking for?” she asked in her high pitched voice.
He examined it quickly. “Yes. Although why anyone would hide it in this child’s chimney, I have no idea,” he said gruffly.
He turned and looked at the child, placing his hands intimidatingly on his hips. “And do you intend to be a good boy this year?” he asked.
The child nodded vigorously. He stared up in awe at this large, impressive figure.
“Well, then, take yourself back off to your bed, and don’t say a word about this to anyone,” the Doctor intoned, pointing toward the staircase.
The child swiveled like a soldier on his rubber tread feet and started to march smartly away. Mels stopped him with a hand on his small shoulder. He looked up at her.
She pressed one of the jingle bells from her shoe into his tiny hand, ribbon still attached. He stared down at it. She kissed him on the forehead. “Merry Christmas.”
He watched, blinking, clutching his gift, as the two colorful characters walked into the Christmas tree. There was a bright light, and a sound like reindeers coughing.
And it disappeared.
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