A TDF Christmas
By Douglas B. Killings
A This Time Round: To Die For fanfiction


This time, it was Peri who was assigned the gift corralling

The piles were starting to get pretty impressive, and it was easy
to see who were the most popular just by the number of items they
had with their names on the "To" line. Peri was doing her best to
sort everything and to keep it all in order, but the shear number
of incoming gifts made it difficult at best, and items falling
from one pile to another were an inevitable inconvenience to the
orderliness she was striving to achieve. And to make matters
worse, packages were still coming in. FedEx, UPS, and Kiki had
already made their respective second, third, and second drop-offs
of the day, and bag loads of presents were constantly being
handed over as new guests arrived. It was, all in all, about as
close to chaos as anyone was willing to permit in the 'Round.

Not surprisingly many of the gifts were from the fans, which in
some ways made it very predictable as to what lurked within the
cascade of gaudy, multicolored, wrapped packages beneath the
tree. 1Doc almost always received a quantity of various tobacco
products, which he gleefully would sample in his pipe in open
defiance of the pub's No Smoking policy; both 3Doc and Bernice
were usually the recipients of various alcoholic beverages,
although it must be said that the former's were usually of a
considerably finer vintage than the latter's; 8Doc would find
himself stuck with an impressive amount of rather risque items,
nearly always from someone associated with the PMEB; and
virtually every female companion (and a few of the male ones as
well) would come away with at least one item of clothing that was
decidedly suggestive in nature, an offering from some ardent
admirer, and of which each would publically feign embarrassment
at even receiving but privately would want to make use of at the
earliest possible moment.

It was dark outside on that Christmas Eve, and the party was in
full swing. Even some of the more popular bit characters and the
unofficial or non-canonical beings were present, to add to the
fun. Francois, Harry, and Adric were all busy behind the bar,
taking orders and mixing drinks; Fitz and Chris were staked out
near the mistletoe, which was studiously being avoided by just
about everyone of the female persuasion; in one corner Susan,
Vicki, Dodo, Victoria, and Zoe were gathered around Diane and
Vick3ie of the ADF, who had just arrived with a stack of Wing
Gundam doujinshi (there were many giggles and even a few whoops
of delight coming from this direction); a spirited game of darts
was in progress, 8Doc novel companions versus 8Doc comic book
companions; Doug, Brad, and Imran were debating Matsumoto
(dis)continuity; Ben and Polly were dancing to a holiday ditty
being tooted out by 2Doc on his recorder; and 6Doc was overseeing
the setup of the sizeable buffet table, upon which was being set
an irresistible selection of holiday-themed goodies (Evelyn had
been allowed free reign of the kitchen this year, much to
everyone's delight).

It was, all in all, shaping up to be one hell of a party.


"Wes, what are you doing here?" Adric asked his friend, slightly
curious. "Don't you have a party on the _Enterprise_ or something
to go to?"

"That was last night." Wesley Crusher nodded. "Boring it was,
too. Not like the ones you guys throw. The only stuff Guinan will
allow is synthehol based, so no one ever really gets drunk."

"Eh, what's the fun in that, then?" Jamie McCrimmon opined,
stepping up to the counter with an empty glass. Adric took it and
with a nod from the Scotsman, began to pour another hefty helping
of Dewar's into it. "Synthehol, now that's for wee lassies.
What's the fun o' get'in drunk if ye can wave it away like so?"

"Exactly." Wes agreed, then took another gulp of his Heineken
just to make the point.

"Yeah, well just you watch it tonight, Wes. I don't want to have
to be the one to explain it to your mom if I have to carry you
back to your ship."

"Don't worry, I know when to stop." Wesley took another gulp of
his beer before continuing. "Anyway, the other reason I'm here is
because I was invited. It seems that since I'm a regular in TDF,
that gave me about as much right to be here as any of the other
non-canonicals." Wes took another swig. "Ryoko and Lucas got
invites too, but they both had prior commitments for this

"So, in other words, you ended up with the watch duty on me
tonight." Adric pointed out drily.

Wes nodded with a smile. "Uh huh. What else are friends for?"

The Alzarian handed the glass back to the Scotsman, who took it
eagerly. But as Jamie did so, the kilted lad leaned
conspiratorially toward the bartender. "So," he whispered, "ya'
gonna try to get the lassie under the mistletoe tonight?"

Adric stared eye for eye back across the counter. "I have no idea
what you're talking about." he said, flatly.

Jamie grinned. "Ack, I understand. Dinna want to give any'thin
away. Just remember, at heart she's still a lassie. She'll expect
ye to at least make a wee bit of a try." The young Scotsman gave
Adric a friendly but hard slap to the shoulder, which would
probably have sent the Alzarian flying sideways had he not
already been bracing himself against the counter. "Dinna worry,
I'm root'in fer ye!" And with that, Jamie turned away and decided
to go see for himself just what it was in that corner that was
making Victoria blush so much and Zoe giggle so uproariously.

"Great," Adric mumbled, ostensibly to himself, but still just
loud enough for his friend to hear him, "now they're getting into
the act."

"Well, what do you expect? At this point, I'd say it's crossed
just about everyone's minds here."

"Yeah, well... I just wish everyone would leave well enough
alone." Adric said this pointedly toward Wesley, but out of the
corner of his eyes he couldn't help but throw a glance in the
direction of the topic of their conversation, who currently had
her back to him and was gathered around a table with Tegan,
Turlough, Ace, and a few others. For a split second, Adric
wondered why the whites in Turlough's eyes were growing steadily

"Hey, look." Wes pointed out. "You're on duty, and in any case
Francois got her to agree to no offings, so she's not going to
bother you tonight. Hell, with the ADF here, she can't even do
that song."

"That doesn't mean she can't make things difficult for me. She
loves to do that too, remember."

"Don't worry so much, Adric. It's Christmas, after all. Even if
it's not a holiday you grew up with, it's still a time to
celebrate and be with friends. C'mon, be merry, for once.
Whaddya say to that?"

"Bah, humbug?"

"There, that's the spirit!"

A tap on the shoulder from Paul Gadzikowski turned Wesley around,
and that was enough of an excuse for Adric to break away and go
fill an order from someone at the other end of the bar. As he was
doing so, he caught a glimpse of Peri as she picked up a small,
wrapped present.

Adric stopped, and watched. Peri stared at the present for a
moment, examining the tag. Her eyebrows furrowed, as if in slight
confusion. She turned it over in her hands, as if looking for
something, but then shrugged. She then stepped gently toward a
specific pile of presents, placed it carefully among them, and
then picked up the next unsorted box and continued in her duties.

Adric breathed a barely perceptible sigh of relief, and drew
another pint of bitter for one of the Doctors.



"Ok, ok, I believe you." Turlough winced.


"Honestly, I didn't mean to impugn your skills."


"Please, I mean it! I'd really like to keep my fingers, thank

"Then stop thrashing about, or you'll loose one!" the Trakenite
growled, daintily.


"Uh, Tegan. If he moves around like that, he's going to loose a
finger. Please hold him still."

"Here," Ace volunteered, "let me give you a hand there." And with
that, the two Earth women braced the Trion against his chair,
keeping his hand firmly on the table and his fingers spread.

The petite Trakenite hefted her bowie knife from the table, where
it had been standing point-first in the wood between Turlough's
fingers. She lifted it a few centimeters, then slammed it once
more into the table, this time a mere centimeter from Turlough's
outstretched thumb.

"The key to doing this," she continued, in a clinical, lecturing
sort of voice.

THUNK! The knife tip plunged into the space between Turlough's
pinky and ring fingers.

"...is to always concentrate..."

THUNK! Between his index finger and his middle finger now stood
the blade.

"...on the exact spot..."

THUNK! Just beyond the pinky.

"...where next you intend..."

THUNK! Between thumb and index.

"...to plunge the knife."

THUNK! Back to between pinky and ring.

"Of course, the really fun part..."


"...is that when you get skilled at doing that..."


"...you can start to try keeping track..."


"...of several points at once."

She took a deep breath, stared in concentration at Turlough's
outstretched hand, then hefted her knife once again.

"But the really, really, _really_ fun part..."


"...is that when you get skilled in doing _that_..."


"...you can always start to increase..."


"...your speed!"


"Like so!"


Turlough stared down at his hand. The knife was now imbedded in
the table between his middle and ring fingers, a fair amount of
the point now buried in the wood. Suddenly, he found himself
gasping for breath, as he realized that somehow he had forgotten
to breath while he watched the blade dance between his fingers.
When it became obvious that the psychotic young woman was
finished, the two Earth women holding him immobile relented and
lifted the pressure on him.

"There, you see?" she said, primly. "It's easy, if you know how."

Turlough withdrew his hand from the table, and briefly inspected
it. Sure enough, there was not a scratch on it. But his stomach
felt as if it was doing somersaults. He suddenly decided that
what he really needed at that moment was a drink, if only his
intestines felt calm enough to keep one down.

"Yes, um, quite, um..." He gulped once more, and his eyes settled
on the huge knife she had just wielded for her demonstration. "I
will keep that in mind when, um, next I, uh, offer an opinion."

"That would be most helpful." she agreed.

Ace looked up toward the kitchen. "Hey, I think we're going to do
dinner, soon." she remarked. "It looks like Evelyn and 6th Doc
have just about finished setting everything up."

"Last call before dinner!" Harry bellowed from the bar, "Last
call!" By arrangement, it had been agreed that during the dinner
and gift giving portions of the affair the bar would be closed so
that even the staff could participate.

"Does anyone want anything?" the Trakenite asked. "I think I
could use a refill myself."

The others nodded and a few requests were made, then the young
woman departed toward the bar. No one was particularly surprised
at which of the bartending staff she zeroed in on to give her
order to.

Turlough looked once more at his hand, then at the knife in the
table. "You know, I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but
I'm beginning to almost feel sorry for Adric."

"Shush." Ace muttered, waving her hand in a dismissive gesture.
"If anyone deserves that psycho, it's him."


"Hey, you! I need some service here."

"And a Happy Holidays to you too." Adric replied, without missing
a beat. "And what can I get you this time?"

"Two Diet Cokes and one Demise, and make it fast, swamp rat!"

"As you wish." he said simply, without so much as an inflection.
He turned away, made a show of looking through the refrigerator
located just below the counter top, then returned to her. "Oh,
I'm very sorry, but it appears we are out of ice figurines at the
moment. It seems no one has remembered to fill the ice molds with
water. Can I interest you in something else? A Trakenite Slammer,

"Just two Diet Cokes and a Sprite, then."

"As you wish."

Adric drew the drinks, and placed them before her. "Anything
else?" he asked helpfully.

She attempted to give him The Look. "Yes. You could die right
now, and make the evening so much merrier."

"Ah. Well then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to forego the honor
this time. I did promise to work the evening, after all, and we
have been rather short-handed of late."

"Pity. I suppose it just means I'll have to work extra hard

"On Christmas Day? Won't the locals think that was, well, just a
little bit against the spirit of things?"

She picked up the drinks, and turned back from whence she came.
"Only because they don't know you as well as I do." she snapped
as she departed. "Besides, knowing you, tomorrow you should be
slowed and fat with all that you usually stuff yourself with.
And that _will_ make my job so much easier."

He watched as she trotted away back to her table, as she handed
the drinks around, and then as she sat down with her back towards
him. He continued to watch, for some seconds more, then picked up
the dish rag and solemnly began to wipe the counter.

"Yeah." he muttered to himself. "Yeah, it probably would at


The dinner was as sumptuous as everyone expected, and Evelyn was
given a healthy ovation when she finally stepped out of the
kitchen. There was something for everyone, from turkey and
dressing and mashed potatoes to a sizeable assortment of fruits
and vegetables for the more healthy-minded. And if that wasn't
enough to satisfy the dessert tray loomed, offering everything
from sweets and cakes to mincemeat pie. No one expected to not go
away from this without taking some of that mass home with them,
hopefully to be worked off at a latter date.

At least, no one except one person.

One of the advantages to having a quick-healing metabolism, Adric
thought as he began to fill his plate with carbohydrates, is that
keeping a decent body weight was actually pretty easy. All you
needed was to not eat for a day or so, and the metabolism took
care of whatever excess body fat you had suddenly gained. Of
course, the disadvantage was that said metabolism burned through
calories like nothing, and as a result his healthy daily caloric
intake was roughly twice that of a normal Terran. That fact had
led to a decidedly unpleasant facet of his reputation, but what
else was he suppose to do? It wasn't his fault that Terran food,
by and large, didn't have nearly as many calories as your average
Alzarian diet.

He had learned to compensate, though. Once a day, usually in the
morning, he had gotten in the habit of making for himself a
milkshake using a powder mix brand he had found in a local health
food store. The mix was of a type marketed for people interested
in body building, but it did the trick in offsetting the need he
had sometimes felt to continually stuff his face. This morning,
however, in anticipation of one of Evelyn's fabled dinners, he
had decided to forego the milkshake. The more for him to enjoy,
he reasoned.

But right now, he found he was having second thoughts on that

He was Hungry. The small snack he had at lunchtime and the series
of munchies he had consumed all day had barely taken off the
edge, and right now his stomach felt as if it could take on the
entire turkey by itself and still have room for all the
trimmings. So he was busy filling his plate with thick slices of
white meat, stuffing and mashed potatoes, all smothered in brown
gravy. The problem was, as the size of his repast grew, so too
was his consciousness of the fact that there were many people
around him who perceived his eating habits in somewhat negative
terms, never mind that there was a viable medical reason behind

He'd been trying so hard to kill those reputations, he thought.
To date he wasn't sure how much headway he was making, but he was
still trying to change them.

He looked down at his plate, and decided it was probably enough.
He could always go back for seconds, he reasoned. Or thirds.
Discreetly, that is.

He sat down at a table next to Wes, who was neither surprised nor
thought the amount of food on his friend's plate was anything out
of the ordinary. Which was good, because he was almost certain he
saw a scowl of disapproval on a few of the others he'd passed on
his way there. He could be wrong, though. Maybe, he thought, he
was just being too sensitive to it all.

'...tomorrow you should be slowed and fat with all that you
usually stuff yourself with...'



"Are you all right?" Tegan asked her friend. There was more than
just a little bit of concern in her voice. "You seem, I don't
know, pre-occupied or something tonight."

The brown-haired young woman looked up from contemplating her
plate, upon which sat a fair amount of food, but all of which
looked to have been barely touched. In fact, the most prominent
activity Tegan had seen in her friend for the past few minutes
had been a propensity to idly move items from one part of her
plate to another.

"Oh, nothing." she said, smirking. "It's just... I don't know, I
guess I'm just not in the mood this time around."

"It's not because of Adric, is it?" the Australian asked, taking
an educated guess. A very educated guess. And the reaction she
got was about what she expected.

"What makes you think it has anything to do with that... that
weasel?" the Trakenite answered hurriedly. "Honestly, Tegan,
sometimes I wonder where you get your ideas."

"Well, you do have this propensity to always want to do him in.
And Francois did lean on you awfully hard to get you to promise
not to do it tonight."

Tegan's friend stabbed at a piece of turkey with her knife, then
vigorously began to cut it into small pieces. "It was a mutual
agreement." she insisted, adamantly. "I wanted a rest from it, so
I had no problems making that promise. No matter what you seem to
think, I am not obsessed with that... moron." She ended her
statement by finally popping a piece of food into her mouth, then
chewing vigorously.

"Just checking." Tegan said, with a smile. In reality, she was
doing more than just checking, but the older woman also knew when
it was time to stop pushing the envelope when it came to her
friend's odd set of obsessions.

After a few minutes of silence, during which activity on her
friend's plate dipped once more back to non-existent, Tegan tried
another tack to lighten her friend's mood.

"Did you ever have something like this when you were growing up?"
Tegan asked, innocently. "A holiday like this, I mean?"

Some of her friend's melancholy seemed to deflate at the
question, and Tegan inwardly smiled. Getting her friend to talk
about Traken usually seemed to make the younger woman feel

"We have Keeper's Day..." she said, then corrected herself.
"..._had_ Keeper's Day... which was much the same idea. Getting
together with family and friends, exchanging gifts, being merry,
all that sort of thing." She pointed vaguely at the dinner buffet
with her fork. "Even the traditional food is more or less
similar. The only big difference is that we don't chop down a
tree to do it."

"The songs are different." Tegan pointed out.

"Well, there is that, yes."

"And then there's that whole religious angle."


"But overall, much the same feel?"

"Pretty close." she agreed. "The Doctor once told me that
celebrations like this seem to be commonplace with most humanoid
cultures, as a way to foster community and togetherness. A way to
celebrate life, I suppose. Which is probably also why they tend
to be celebrated at a time when the climate tends toward the
worst, because that's when everyone needs most to be reminded
that life goes on and to hope for better times ahead. That's an
over-simplification, of course..."

"Of course." Tegan smiled, knowing that whatever doldrums her
friend had gone into, she seemed willing to leave them behind for
the price of having someone just listen. "So," the Australian
began to ask, "what were your Keeper's Day celebrations like?"


She was just trying to needle you, Adric thought. Ignore her.
Her words are meaningless to you.

Adric smirked, and stared down at his plate.

This is silly. Here I am, ravenously hungry, and I can't seem to
actually get myself to eat much of it.

"Is everything all right?" Wesley asked his friend, in between
mouthfuls of mashed potatoes. "You seem... pre-occupied or

Adric pushed the plate away from him. "I don't know. I guess I'm
not as hungry as I thought."

"Well, in that case..." Wesley began spooning some of Adric's
stuffing onto his plate.

Adric watched his friend wolf down both of their portions. Well,
he thought, at least it won't go to waste. To waist, perhaps.

As his friend consumed his dinner, Adric looked up at the pub and
took notice of some of the others. There were the sounds of
voices, and laughter, and general revelry about him, but for some
reason he seemed unable to relax now, to let himself become a
part of it. He felt... disconnected from the others, unable to
relate or to interact with them. And it was all just so

He'd always been abysmal in social situations. In everyday
situations -- interacting with friends or acquaintances, working,
etc. -- he was good enough to get by. But when it came to parties
or social gatherings, he hadn't a clue. Like Landing Day
celebrations back on the starliner, or that party at the
Cranleigh's. He'd try, of course, to fit in and socialize. But
for some reason, he'd always end up sitting quietly in the
corner, or just stand there like a dolt and not have anything to
say, or be so proactive that he'd end up driving people away.
The thing of it was, he knew he was socially maladjusted, he knew
that the only way he was going to build those social abilities
was to just do it. But knowing this did not make any of it

"Good judgement comes from experience," the Doctor had commented
to him once, "but experience generally comes from bad
judgement." A little out of context, but much the same idea.

He stood up from the table and wandered the room, and tried to
find a conversation he could be a part of. But once more, he
found himself on the outside. Being socially adept just wasn't
coming naturally to him, no matter how much he tried to force
it. To make matters worse, there didn't seem to be anyone who in
turn was interested in interacting with him; even the few holiday
greetings he received were curt and to the point, hardly the
opening he was looking for. He couldn't tell if their
protestations were genuine, or another sign of his positively bad
social skills. Or possibly both.

He passed the table his nemesis sat at, hoping to get at least a
rise out of her. Hell, at least it would be something socially
interactive if she did. But no, she seemed not to even take
notice of his passage, so deep was she in conversation with
Tegan. Probably better that way. Yeah, all things considered, it
was probably for the best.

After some time spent in fruitless drifting, he found himself in
the back of the pub, in the employee's area. I need to get away,
he thought. I need to get some air.

So he put on the jacket he had grabbed from the TARDIS, pulled
out a pair of gloves and a woolen hat from one sleeve, and
bundled himself for the cold outside. He took one last glance out
the employee entrance toward the pub interior -- Wes was deep in
conversation now with that McIntee fellow, Doug and Brad were
drunk and trying to sing various anime themes, and she was...
well, forget her -- but no one seemed to take any notice of his
absence. Which was just as well with him, although just in case
he did mentally ready an excuse that should cover for him should
anyone actually ask.

Adric stepped out of the pub through the back entrance, and into
the cold night beyond.


She told Tegan of the great feasts thrown by the Five Consuls,
and of the family celebrations her father used to oversee. Even
though she was an only child, she still had had plenty of
cousins, uncles, and aunts with whom Tremas had kept in constant
contact with, and their yearly family get-together was so often
the highlight of the Keeper's Day holiday season for her.

It was difficult for Tegan to think of the younger woman as
having once been a small, precocious child, but that is exactly
how she described herself and the things she used to do. She and
her cousins, a real terror brigade to adults one and all (by the
sound of it, at least). Whether it was the running games of
hide-and-seek, the epic snowball battles, or the Keeper's Day
morning Present Opening Mayhem, they were always in the thick of

Tegan smiled as the Trakenite described the snowball ambush she
and her cousins had laid for Tremas and Kassia, back when the two
had first started to see each other. Or the time they had snuck
into the presents pile and switched the tags around. Or just the
joy of singing songs and being with friends and family. It was
good, Tegan thought, that this was all coming out. There were
times when it was just so painfully obvious that her friend
sometimes moved in a sustained state of homesickness, for which
there was sadly no real cure. This was the only remedy for which
she had, imperfect and inadequate though it may be.

Still, it seemed to be working. Until, that is, she began to
describe that final Keeper's Day celebration. The one immediately
before Melkur came back to life -- and immediately before her
life changed forever. Only then did her voice seem to come
crashing down from the lofty heights it had attained.

"It was three months later that father and Kassia were married,"
she ended tonelessly, "and not much after that before... what
happened happened." A very heavy sigh. "I didn't know that was
going to be the last time I would ever see any of them. I didn't
know I would never have a chance to joke with them again, or sing
with them, or dance with them. I never found out if Shenla passed
her entrance exams, or met Elenai's fiancee... I was going to go
to the wedding that summer, too. She'd even asked me to be in the
wedding party...." Another heavy sigh. "It's so hard to believe
sometimes that they're all gone, that I'm the only one left. I'd
always thought that they'd be there, that we'd all grow up
together. Instead..." She left the words trail off, thought

A moment of silence. Then Tegan spoke up, but this time her
attention seemed to dart from person to person, as if considering
everyone in the room. "You know," she said, as she reinforced her
thought, "it's funny. I've never noticed this before, but... it's
kind of strange how many of us lost some or all their family
before coming here. I mean, look around. There's Vicki, Victoria,
Dodo, Leela, Ben and Polly, Ace, Sarah-Jane, me, you... I think
Jamie said his parents died of plague when he was very young..."

"And Adric." the younger woman pointed out, detachedly. "Don't
forget Adric..."

Inwardly, Tegan smiled and made another notch on her internal
score card. "No. No, I don't suppose I should forget him."

The Trakenite's facial expression abruptly changed, startled, as
if suddenly realizing she had said something she shouldn't have.
But whatever it was, it quickly passed. Instead, she plunged
ahead with a new thought.

"Maybe that's really why we're all here." she said to the
Australian. "Maybe that's why we've all ended up doing what we're
doing. We don't have families of our own, so we've created one.
We all look out for each other, because we know that we're the
only ones who can."

"And because we're the only ones that know what it's like, well,
to be us. To go through the things we've gone through."

"Exactly. We're trying to make up for the family we've lost, to
belong somewhere when the place we should have is gone."

"And what about you? Do we make it feel any better to you?" Tegan
asked. "Does having us around make you feel like you are part of

"Yes, it does." she said, after a hesitant consideration. "It
makes it... easier... to accept that my life goes on, knowing
that there are still those who care about me, that accept me for
who I am. Otherwise... if I was all alone, truly all alone with
no one to be with, I don't know if I could go on. Being alone
like that, forevermore cut off from everyone and everything... it
doesn't sound like a very good existence, to me."

Tegan gave her a reassuring smile. "Good to hear you say that."

Another moment of contemplation, then: "But Tegan... I would be
disingenuous if I didn't also say that, if I could trade all of
this to have Traken back, I would do so in a heartbeat."

Tegan nodded, understandingly. "I know you would. And all things
considered, I can't say I blame you."


As Adric stepped outside, he listened as his boots made a
crunching noise with the newly fallen snow. In the dimness of
pale moonlight and dull parking lights, he watched as his breath
drifted away and dissipated in a steam-like cloud. He felt the
tingling of cold air on warm cheek. He strained to listen for the
wind in the nearby trees, but heard only the sound of merry
revelry behind him.

He stopped, took a deep breath, and looked up.

Maybe Ryoko was right, he thought. Maybe I've been alone for so
long, I don't know how to be anything but.

A loud chorus of laughter echoed from the pub, and he sighed.
Too much hustle and bustle thereabouts; he desperately wanted
someplace less noisy. Wordlessly he stepped forward, and resolved
to find someplace a little quieter to contemplate.


She politely excused herself when Turlough came by. She was
silently thankful that Tegan had been willing to listen while she
unburdened her thoughts on her friend, but she was also acutely
aware that it would be impolite if she dominated the conversation
for the entire evening. Which, she reflected, she could easily
do, given the subject.

Besides. After such reminiscing, she suddenly felt a need to
break away. To get out of an enclosed space, and into some fresh
air. To get away from them all. Companionship was nice, but
sometimes one needed time alone to make sense of everything.

She located her anorak in the pile of similar attire heaped on
one of the tables, pulled out the hood, took out the gloves, and
bundled herself for the outside. Then she took one last look at
the party in progress. Everyone was having such a good time, she
thought. They didn't need her to bring things down.

Out of force of habit (she told herself) she found herself doing
a quick scan of the room, but couldn't locate Him. Probably
somewhere at the buffet table stuffing his face, she decided. Oh
well, probably just as well. And so, she made her way to the back
entrance, exchanging the light and warmth for the cold night

As she stepped outside of the back door of the 'Round, she
listened as her boots made a crunching noise with the newly
fallen snow. In the dimness of pale moonlight and dull parking
lights, she watched as her breath drifted away and dissipated in
a steam-like cloud. She felt the tingling of cold air on warm
cheek. She strained to listen for the wind in the nearby trees,
but heard only the sound of merry revelry behind her.

She stopped, took a deep breath of cold air, and looked up.

The night sky was as clear as a winter could make it, the stars
muted only by the glare of a nearly full moon almost half way
above. The reflected moonlight managed to drown out all but the
brightest stars; nevertheless, with well-practiced, expert
precision, she was able to pick out the celestial pattern she was
looking for, and stare in their direction.

The sun -- her sun -- wasn't visible tonight, drowned out as it
was in the moonlight, but she could at least look in the
direction it had once been, it being centuries yet before light
from the disaster that had befallen it reached her current
vantage point. Which, she reflected, was probably just as well.
Talking with Tegan had made things better, but yet... in all of
this talk of celebration and togetherness, she was finding
herself in even less of a mood to take part. That acute sense of
homesickness was still there; she suspected it would grow worse
if she could, at that moment, actually see the star she had grown
up under.

A loud chorus of laughter echoed from the pub, and she sighed.
Too much hustle and bustle thereabouts; she desperately wanted
someplace less noisy. Wordlessly she stepped forward, and
resolved to find someplace a little quieter to contemplate.


He came to a halt at the top of the hill behind the 'Round.

If he strained he could still hear the laughter and merriment
below, but from his current vantage point it was sufficiently in
the background to count as white noise. He didn't plan to stay
there long; presents were still to be opened, after all, and so
he did have a reason to be there when that happened. But until

He looked up once more at the night sky. When you're a whole
universe away from home, he thought idly, looking up in one
direction is about as good as another.

Not that he ever really felt at home on Alzarius, that is, but
sometimes he thought he felt more at home there than he ever did
here. At least on the starliner he knew more or less what the
rules were and where he was in the local scheme of things, even
if that position was Left Out. Even as an outsider there, he
thought he still would have had more to look forward to than the
prospects he currently faced.

He knelt to the ground, picked up a handful of snow, and slowly
padded it into a snowball. Then he started to examine it idly.

Back on Alzarius, he and Varsh used to be the kings of
snowballs. When the weather cooled and the marshes froze and the
snow came, there they would be in their snow fort, holding their
own against all comers. Over those multiple winters, they'd
learned to throw a ball of frozen water with such accuracy that
few grew willing to challenge their supremacy. Their crowning
achievement came that one Landing Day, when the brothers and
Keara had managed to hold their own against an onslaught of most
of the other kids. It had been such a glorious victory, at the
expense of those bullies and unfeeling idiots he'd been forced to
grow up with; one of the precious few. In a way, the whole
snowball thing had been the brothers way of getting back at them

He gently tossed the snowball in his hand, then looked around for
a target. A tree in the nearby treeline presented itself, and
with a quick side-arm he whipped it in that direction, where it
impacted with a barely perceptible 'plomp'. Yep, still got it.

That one was for you, Varsh.

He knelt to the ground again, and picked up another handful of

Sometimes, he thought, he wished he could go back. Go back to
being a kid again, but still with the knowledge he now had. Not
so much to change events, but... to know where the mistakes would
be, to have the chance to correct them before they grew so out of
control. To recognize when something being said was important,
and not to dismiss it so out of hand. Maybe then, things would be
different. Maybe then he wouldn't feel so alone.

Or maybe, it was so much a part of him that no amount of
forewarning would change things.

Now, that was a depressing thought.

He threw another snowball at the same tree, and was satisfied to
see it plomp directly below the first. He knelt once more to
reload, then stood.

So intent was he on his latest white spheroid, that he never saw
the one come sailing out of the darkness and strike him on the


A little more than half way up the hill she abruptly stopped,
still lost in her memories, and closed her eyes.

She remembered the smell of the dinner as it was brought out.

She remembered the laughter, and the jokes she and her cousins
used to play on each other.

She remembered the songs they used to sing, and the melodies they
tried to learn.

She remembered the anticipation when it came close to present
opening time, and the sheer joy of turning a well-ordered living
space into a paper refuse pile of unprecedented proportions.

But most of all, she remembered the people. The family and
friends, the ones she had expected to be there for her entire
life. All the faces, as clear to her as if she'd seen them

Gone now. All swept away. Of them all, she was the only one left
to tell their tale.

She opened her eyes, and looked once more at that spot in the

"Why did you have to go?" she asked them. "Why did you have to
leave me?"

She hadn't been entirely truthful with Tegan, but it was close
enough to the truth that the white lie was not too much of a
stretch. The truth was, even with the friends she now had, it
never felt the same, not by a long shot. None of them had an
understanding of what it was that she faced, what it was that
kept her awake at night. Of how truly cut off she was, of how
singular her existence was threatening to become. She knew that
she could never go back, not even to her planet's past, to find a
home. She'd know how it would all end, after all, and she knew
too much of the consequences that might entail if she sought to
prevent that, not to mention the personal knowledge that she
doubted she was strong enough to resist the urge to attempt just

She was alone, the last of her kind. And sometimes, that
knowledge was almost too much to bear.

She sighed, and looked down at her feet. Then, almost without
thinking about it, she knelt to one knee, and gathered some of
the fluffy white stuff in her gloved hand. Idly, she padded it
into a rough spheroid.

They used to love playing in the snow, her cousins and her.
Keeper's Day was one of the few times her father had relented and
had let her be a child rather than a student, so she'd always
taken as full advantage of it for as long as she could. It was
never a proper Keeper's Day unless there was at least a foot of
the white stuff on the ground, and since the Keeper could control
the weather as well as most everything else, a blanket of
beautiful, wet snow was guaranteed just about every year.

They used to build snow forts, and have epic snowball battles.
Her aim was rotten then, but that didn't matter. It was just the
sheer fun of it all, the sheer exuberance, that always made it

She looked down at the spherical mass of frozen water. Then, she
cocked her arm back, and with as much force as she could muster,
threw it into the darkness above.

That one was for you, Elenai.

She was very surprised to hear it not only hit something, but
that whatever it hit had a voice.

"Hey!" the voice exclaimed.

She cleared her throat, and hurriedly began to climb the last few
feet up the hill summit. "OH! I'm sorry." She said,
apologetically. "I didn't mean that, I didn't even know anyone
was up here! Are you all right?"

How stupid, she thought. She'd noticed the trail of footprints
from the pub up the hill as she started to climb, but it just
never occurred to her that someone else would still be out here.

On the summit the young Alzarian brushed the snow out of his
hair, and bent to pick up his hat, which had fallen off. The
snowball had hit just behind his ear, and as a result there was
still a slight buzz to his hearing. Nevertheless, he thought that
voice sounded familiar...

"I'm fine." he answered, truthfully. "It was more of a surprise
than anything." He walked over toward the voice, and peered down
the slope. Oh no, he groaned, it's not...

She stopped abruptly, short of the summit, and looked up just as
she recognized the voice. Oh no, she groaned, it's not...

Each stared at the other, momentarily taken aback.

"Oh," they said, simultaneously. "It's _you_!"

...which also pretty much summed up the glare each was issuing.

"What are you doing up here?" she finally asked, although her
tone made it sound more like a demand. She trudged the last few
feet up the hill top.

"I could ask the same of you," he commented, "as well as to why
you've taken to blindly throwing snowballs about."

"None of your business." she snapped. "You probably wouldn't
understand, even if I did tell you why."

The Alzarian nodded in agreement. "Probably not. The ways of the
mad psychotic are always a mystery to the sane." And with that,
he turned away and began to put some distance between them.

"Hey!" She shouted. "Where are you going?"

"I came up here for solitude," he answered over his shoulder,
"and right now this isn't it."

"Stop!" she demanded. "Come back here this instant!"

He stopped and faced her again. "Why should I? Is there a good

She opened her mouth, but then abruptly closed it. The thing was,
she didn't have an answer for him. She wasn't even certain why
she'd ordered him to stop in the first place. The words had just
come out, and she was not even certain why.

He sighed, then turned back to the direction he had intended to
go. "Thought not." he muttered, and continued on his way.

Her fists balled. Long ingrained instinct was getting the better
of her. Oooo, that... that... _weasel_. She thought. Never does
what she tells him, never listens... And that tone of his made
her want to... made her want to...

Frantically, she searched for a weapon of some kind, something to
voice her displeasure.

Seconds later, a snowy missile intersected the Alzarian's head
once more.

"Hey!" He shouted, spinning around again. "Now _that one_ was

"_That one_ was for being rude. And for not listening to me."
She turned away from him, still in a huff. Now, suddenly, she
wasn't in the mood to be outside. Leave the weasel to his
solitude, she thought. She was going to go straight back down
that hill and...

A cold, wet, stinging object hit the backside of her head. She
felt pieces of snow fall beneath her collar.

Infuriated, she spun back toward the source. "Hey!" she
exclaimed. "You HIT me!"

"_That one_ was for being rude. And for being inconsiderate and

"Why you...!"

He watched the snowball arch towards him, but it had been so
hastily thrown that dodging it was easy. He, on the other hand,
had already prepped another, and let it loose towards her with
another side-arm throw.

Fluffy white stuff exploded on her chest. That's two, a part of
her thought detachedly, and with some degree of amazement. He's
getting better. Nevertheless...

"WHY YOU...!!" she shouted, reaching for more snow. But he was
already on the run, heading for the tree line. Good, a moving
target. She darted off in pursuit.

On the run, an odd question came to mind. Can one be killed by a
snowball? He asked himself, not quite in jest. Well, I suppose if
anyone could find a way to do it, she could.

I guess I'm about to find out.

He rapidly scooped up a handful of snow, turned, and let loose a
white salvo in her direction, which again struck squarely on her
chest -- a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that it
had been done entirely on the run.

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "You HIT ME AGAIN!"

"Well, you've never been keen on fair play before, so why should

"WHY YOU...!"

A sudden impact of stinging cold in back of the head, and he knew
he'd been hit again.

"HA!! Now we're even!"

Plomp, plomp. One on her chest, one on her shoulder. He can throw
accurately with both arms? she thought, incredulously.

(In reality, the one thrown by his right hand had been a complete
fluke to actually hit the target, but he wasn't about to point
that out )

Now he had reached the tree line, and this time he was able to
grab some more snow from atop a bush. He stopped there, a supply
of ammo in ready reach, and let loose another snowball. It
missed, but even before the first one had finished its flight the
next was already being scooped and prepped for throwing.

She stopped as the first of a steady fire of snowballs started
coming her way. She stooped to gather more snow, in the process
causing the first incoming fluffy white projectile to go sailing
above and past her. But as she stood to throw another struck her
in the arm.

"I'll get you for that, swamp rat!" she yelled, and let loose
another cold, frozen missile, which proceeded to fall short.

"You'll have to do better than that!" he taunted, and managed a
second and third consecutive hit.

"WHY YOU...!" came the inevitable retort, and she charged him
flinging white snowballs as fast as she could scoop them off the
ground, and causing him to abandon his position and once more
start moving.

And so, the battle raged on the hilltop. Into the trees and out
again. Over the crest of the hill, half way down the slope, and
back up it once more. Across open field, and through trees and
brush. Attack and counter-attack, each giving as much as they

And somewhere, sometime, an odd thing happened. Neither were
certain who it was that started it, or who had first opened their
mouths to make the sound. If they were to look back, they would
probably say that they were both too absorbed to even notice, too
concentrated on what they were doing to realize what was

Too focused to realize that they had started to laugh.


"Wait, stop..." the Trakenite pleaded, stopping to catch her
breath after their second running climb back up the hill. She
bent over slightly, as her tired legs were now threatening to
give out underneath her.

The Alzarian obeyed without protest, and let fall the handful of
snow he had just grabbed. Then he doubled over to catch his
breath, hands to his knees. His winter hat fell to the ground.
"Fine... (pant, pant) ...we'll just... (pant) ...stop here...
(pant, pant) ...and rest."

She nodded, and both gulped air until a degree of regular
breathing was established.

"I think... (huff, huff) ...I think I caught you in... (huff)
...the number of hits toward the end there..." she said
eventually, raggedly.

He nodded in acknowledgment. "Yeah, but... (huff, huff) ... I
still got the last... (huff, huff) ...good hit in... (huff)"

He felt a smattering of snow hit his head.

"All right, I concede." he said, standing erect again. "You won."

"Thank you."

They both faced each other, uncertainly.

"You've been holding out on me, I see." she noted, eventually.
"You've been practicing your throwing."

He shook his head. "Not really. Just sort of a knack, I guess."

Even in the pale moonlight, he could see her face wrinkle in
thought. "You must have." she asserted. "Your aim was good, and
that's certainly not canon for you."

He thought it over for a moment, then decided that, at this
point, confessing probably made little or no difference.
"Actually, yes it is. Look it up. It's not my fault they only
bothered to use it in one story."

She looked him over uncertainly, as if trying to determine if he
was serious or not. "Which story?" she asked, skeptically.

"'State of Decay'. I had to throw a knife at a vampire." he said,
with a hint of pride in his voice. "A little before your time."
he added.

She looked at him with surprise, which gave him some
satisfaction. It was not every day he could catch her off guard
like that. "That presumably means you can throw a knife with some

He nodded in acknowledgment. "More or less. I'm a little rusty,
though." He smiled. "Haven't really practiced in a long time."

"How good?" she asked, curiously.

"Oh, seven out of ten at about ten paces."

She laughed. "That's all? Just about anyone could..."

"I was talking about the bullseye." he said, matter-of-factly.

She looked him over, as if some degree of re-appraisal was in
progress. "You're serious?"

"Get me a good throwing knife, and I'll show you."

She continued her look of re-appraisal, still trying to determine
how serious he was, but conscious of the fact that he, at least,
appeared to believe he was telling the truth. "So, why never show
it until now?"

He shrugged. "Never really had the need. Besides... you never
know when something like that might come in handy." He paused.
"Especially when no one else realizes it."

She nodded in understanding. That, at least, made some sense.

"Of course," he sighed, "now that the cat's out of the bag..."
He let the words trail off.

Another silence, then: "Let what out of the bag?" she asked,

He stared at her. "Let... oh, nothing. Nothing at all."

The pause became awkward once more.

From below, the sound of Christmas caroling in an odd mixture of
on and off keys drifted up to them.

"We'd, um, better get back down there." he ventured. "Before
someone, um..."

She nodded slowly in agreement, finishing the thought. "Notices.
Yes, we should."

Another awkward pause, then she pointed. "Um, you first. You've,
um, been out here longer..."

He hesitated, but then stepped forward, thanking her as he
passed. But as he started down the hill, her eyes settled on
something in the snow.

"Um, wait! Adric!" she shouted, hurriedly.

He stopped just below the summit. "Hmm?"

She walked over to where he had been standing, bent, and picked
up something from the ground. "You, er, forgot your hat."

"Oh. Thank you."

She walked over to him, and he reached out to grab the article as
it was extended towards him...

It makes one wonder, sometimes, if nature has some sort of sixth
sense when it comes to making a proper dramatic moment.
Otherwise, how else do you explain the propensity for lightning
to strike at just the right moment when someone says something
ominous, or wolves howling just as the castle comes into view?
And who could ever forget that immortal spell, which can only be
invoked when the conditions were just the right sort of
deplorable, and whose famous incantation runs 'It could be worse,
it could be raining.'?

In this case, there were two natural factors which had both
seemed to conspire against our hero and heroine. The first is the
snow, which, at the elevation they were currently at, had been
disturbed to no end by the running snowball battles outlined
above. The second factor was the temperature, which had dropped
noticeably in the time since each had left the 'Round, courtesy
of a cold front which was moving in and which would eventually
threaten the area with more white flakes.

What this meant for our pair is the following: The snow at the
top, disturbed and tread upon as it was, was slightly unstable;
the snow on the rest of the hill, where the two had not conducted
their display of prowess in the field of crystalline-hydric
combat, was in the process of freezing to a hardened, slick
sheath. Added to this was the fact that an angle was involved,
and we are left with a combination of factors containing
substantive possibilities.

We now return you to our irregularly scheduled melodrama.

The snow underneath her feet decided that it was time to give
way. Just the right time, as a matter of fact.

The Alzarian was reaching for his hat when it happened; a small
quantity of snow shifted, and her legs -- already sore and tired
from running in the snow -- slipped out from beneath her, and she
began to fall.

He reacted mostly without thinking, and grabbed at her arm to
steady her. But her fall was towards him, and came too late to
steady himself on his own tired legs. The sudden shift was enough
to threaten his precarious balance.

She tumbled into him, and with a shout of surprise both went down
into the snow...

...and started to slide down the hill.

Time-wise, the slide did not last long, a few seconds at most.
After the initial fall-induced speed, resistence soon set in,
coupled by a pair of heals instinctively digging into the snow
and the young man's elbow purposefully slamming downwards like a
wedge. But as noted before, the snow on the hillside had hardened
to an icy sheen, and the polyester fabric of their jackets also
made a very effective low-friction surface. So it was that, by
the time they stopped mere seconds later, they had traveled a
considerable distance, nearly half the way down the hill.

They ground to a halt almost completely turned around, with their
heads pointed down the slope and their feet toward the top. And
next to each other.

For a long second neither said a thing. Then, a slightly stunned
Trakenite voice sounded.

"That was fun." she said to the sky, almost tonelessly.

"Quite." he agreed, in nearly the same stunned, understated tone.

It was only then that it dawned on them that there was still
something amiss. Simultaneously, each lifted an arm, and
confirmed their worst fears.

They were holding hands, and had done so most of the way down.

They let go, and each turned to the other, intent on issuing some
variation of a stinging retort, to the effect that the other had
carried things much too far and that was quite enough, thank you
very much.

But... no words came.

No biting rejoinders, no verbal assaults. Just... silence. Each
opening their mouth as if to say something, even starting to
utter the words, but no further sounds coming forth.

Instead, they stared at each other. Stared. Almost as if they
were doing so for the first time.

In their eyes, they saw it. The distant glint. The thing they
held in common, that had seared each to the core. The dread that
had always dogged them, but for which each had assumed could
never quite be assuaged.

They saw loneliness, and the fear that it would always be so.

His hand came up, hesitantly, reaching forward. He had expected
resistence, but none came. Instead, her hand reached as well, a
mirror to his.

In the moonlight, their fingers gently touched the cheek of the
other. They watched as the pale, diffuse glow cast shadows on the
contours of their faces, still not entirely certain as to the
why, but finding in it a hint, just maybe, of a cure.

Then, from below, someone called her name.

They scrambled to roll as far apart from the other as possible.


"Where have you been?" Tegan asked as the young woman came in out
of the night. "They're about to do presents soon, and I've been
calling for ages!"

"Sorry, I was, um, pre-occupied and didn't hear you at first."

Tegan examined her friend quizzically. There was something
different about the young woman this time, but for the life of
her she couldn't place her finger on it. "Is everything all
right?" she asked.

Her friend smirked, and nodded her head slowly, as if completely
unsure of something. "Possibly. Yes, quite possibly. For once."
And with no further elaboration, she turned into the doorway,
dragging a slightly befuddled Tegan in her wake.


Back up the slope and sitting in the moonlit snow, Adric watched
as the two women entered the pub. It was only when the door had
closed firmly behind them did he feel safe enough to stand. Once
erect, he brushed off the snow from his clothes, and began to
make his way back down the hill.

His thoughts were all a jumble. Did all of that really happen, he
thought, or had it been some kind of an elaborate delusion? What
did any of it mean?

And more importantly, had anything changed?

Adric almost went through the back entrance, but decided to take
the extra minute or so to walk around the building and come in
through the front. Not because he wanted to make an entrance, but
because it seemed like a good idea. To muddle the trail somewhat.
Should anyone take the time to notice, that is.

A part of him wondered why he should even care if anyone put two
and two together like that, but yet, he still took the time to
make the effort.

If he expected there to be any change when he walked in, he was
disappointed. She was back at her table when he entered,
listening to Ace relate some story or another. If she took any
note of his entrance, it didn't show. He rather suspected she
didn't. In fact, he rather suspected that come the next day
things would be pretty much back to normal.

Nothing had changed, he thought. Everything was still...

There was a tap on his shoulder.

"Where have you been?" a familiar voice asked, and he turned

Melanie Bush gave him a friendly holiday smile. She was wearing a
Christmas green cardigan and a floppy, red Santa's hat, all of
which made her look even more elfin than she usually did.
Assuming there were elves with flaming red hair, that is.

"Um, I, uh, went outside for a bit. I just wanted a little air,
and, uh..."

"Well, you missed the fireworks." Mel told him.


"Yeah. Fitz managed to corner Compassion under the mistletoe, and
she did not take it very well..." To prove her point she
motioned toward one corner of the room, where a number of people
were studiously stepping over a body which seemed to be drifting
in and out of consciousness.

"Somehow," he commented, more to himself than to anyone else,
"that all looks vaguely familiar."

Mel giggled at that one. Then she pointed toward the tree.
"C'mon," she said, "it's almost time for presents."

Adric scanned the room. "I was with Wes, and, um, I don't quite

Mel indicated a set of tables. "He's over at our end. C'mon, you
can sit with us." At the table in question sat Harry, Steven, and

Adric gulped. "Um, sit with you? Err, um, are you sure?"

"Sure, why not?" Mel answered, genuinely confused. "What's the
fun of opening presents alone?"


And as the evening wore on, perhaps the oddest thing of all
happened to him.

He started to enjoy himself.

It started slowly, as he hesitantly supplied a few words in the
conversation they were all having. Something about artificial
life forms and whether or not they celebrated holidays. It
escalated when they all started to laughingly speculate on what a
Dalek Christmas carol might sound like ("Oh what fun it is to
glide/As inferior lifeforms we do slay!"). And it became almost
surreal when he told a joke that people actually laughed at ("'My
dear sir,' the 3rd Doctor exclaimed, 'what makes you think I'd be
interested in selling anyone the Tome of the Cyphermen?'").

Somehow, he was no longer tense. Or frustrated. Or awkward.
Instead, for the first time in such a situation, he realized he
was in the midst of an unusual experience. He was relaxed, and
those he was with were relaxed around him.

They took turns in opening their presents, and laughing at some
of the things the fans had sent them (Mel turned a deep shade of
scarlet when she opened the package sent to her by Alden Bates,
but quickly closed it and refused to let anyone else in on the
secret of its contents). Among Adric's gifts were a few anime
DVD's (including a set of _Space Cruiser Yamato_ flicks from
Ember) and a boxed computer game that made Wesley's eyes go wide.

"Oh cool!" Wesley exclaimed, as Adric finished removing the last
of the wrapping paper. "_Wing Commander Phoenix Saga_! Who gave
you that?"

He showed him the tag. "Who else?"

They spent some time reading the blurb on the backside, examining
the screen grabs, and looking over the system requirements. Then
they discussed some quick plans to set up an ethernet network and
run it multiplayer. Wesley was the one most looking forward to
it. "The Blue Star Thrice verses the Kilrathi. Should be pretty

As he said this, the turn around the table came back to Adric.
He hefted a package at random, and pulled it forward.

He looked curiously at the tag, then at the interlace-themed
wrapping paper.

"Who's it from?" Sara Kingdom asked.

Adric shook his head. "Don't know. There's just my name on the
tag, nothing else."

"Well, open it!" Mel exclaimed. "Maybe there's a card on the

He picked up the package, and began to rip the paper. It's heavy,
he thought. I wonder what's in it...


Meanwhile, much the same was going on at another table nearby.

"Dear God," Tegan exclaimed. "Who gave you _that_?"

The Trakenite young woman ruffled her nose in disdain as she read
the card. "'With hopes for a bright future -- Eric, David, Tyson,
and Darren.'"

"The WANKERs?" Tegan asked.

"The WANKERs." her friend confirmed, almost spitting the words

Tegan looked the electric lamp over. It certainly was hideous.

"Oh, I don't know." Turlough commented, as he examined the
plastic, pink, female leg-shaped monstrosity. "It sort of looks,
well, a little modern-artish. You know, something like Andy

Several pairs of eyes turned at him, appalled.

"It looks more like something you'd find in a brothel." Ace

"Here," Tegan said, pushing another package at her friend, "for
getting that you deserve to open something else."

The Trakenite picked up the proffered small package, and examined
it. The wrapping paper was in a tree leaf themed pattern, wrapped
in a brown ribbon.

"Who's it from?" Tegan asked.

"I don't know. There's only my name on the tag."

"Well, open it up." Ace exclaimed. "Maybe there's a card in the

She lifted the package, and began to rip the paper. It's light,
she thought. I wonder what's in it...


"Wow." Wesley said.

"Impressive." was Sara's assessment.

"I say..." Harry chimed in.

Adric lifted the jacket from the box. It was heavy, but that was
to be expected. Brown leather, woolen lining, metal buckle,
complete with the insignia of the U.S. Army Air Corp sewn onto
one shoulder.

"Is that an original?" Steven asked, somewhat impressed.

"If not," Mel observed, "it's a pretty good replica. Is it new?"

"It feels that way..." Adric said, still stunned.

"Well, don't just stand there." Harry insisted. "Put it on, see
how it fits."

As he was putting his arms through the sleeves, a small sheet of
paper fell out. Wesley bent down to pick it up, and examined it.

"Does it say who it's from?" Mel asked.

Wes shook his head negatively. "No, it's just a little note."

"Well, what does it say?"

Wes cleared his throat. "'This is what they should have given

Everyone looked at Adric, hoping he'd fill them in on the
message's meaning.


"Wow." Tegan said.

"Impressive." was Turlough's assessment.

"It's beautiful." Ace inhaled.

Stunned, she let the pendant dangle from the gold chain, and turn
as it hung. Even in the limited pub lighting, it sparkled as she
held it all to see. A sun pattern, woven in golden interlace,
with a tiny gem at the center.

"Well, don't just stand there." Tegan insisted. "Put it on."

As she opened the tiny clasp and reached behind her abundant
hair, Ace noticed something in the bottom of the box. She picked
it out and examined it.

"Here," she said, "there's a little note."

"Does it say who it's from?" Tegan asked.

"No, just a message." Ace cleared her throat. "'Remember always
that light flees the dark.'"

Everyone looked at the young Traken woman, hoped she'd fill them
in on the message's meaning.


"It was in Season 19." he explained to them. "There was some talk
that they were going to change my outfit, get me out of the
'pyjamas', as they called them..." (he said this, indicating the
banana-suit he was at that moment wearing) "...and into something
else. One of the options they discussed was giving me a bomber
jacket to wear." He shook his head. "It never happened, though.
Don't ask me why, I don't know."

"So whoever gave you this must have known about that." Wesley

"Right, and didn't approve." Sara added.

"And there's no name on the note, either?" Steven asked.

Wesley showed him the piece of paper. "Nope. It looks like it was
printed off a laser printer or something."

Mel looked the young Alzarian over, impressed. "Adric, it looks
pretty sharp on you."

"It must be a fan gift." Steven Taylor concluded. "Only a fan
would do something that crazy."

Adric slowly nodded in agreement. "You're right, it must be.
Only a fan..."

But a different thought occurred to him, and to that end he
raised his head to look toward another table on the other side of
the pub.


"It's a traditional Keeper's Day gift." she explained to them.
"The sun was always viewed as the source of all life on Traken,
and the sun motif was always prominent in Keeper's Day
decorations. Sort of a reminder that, though the days were cold
and short, the sun would always return and bring back life."

"And the message?" Turlough asked.

"A paraphrase of a Traken proverb."

Ace looked confused. "That necklace isn't from Traken, is it?"

She shook her head in the negative. "No. Sadly, it's not. It
looks Earth made. I think you would call it Celtic."

"Irish then, probably." Ace suggested.

"So, whoever gave you that must have known what it meant." Tegan

"There was no name on the note?" Turlough asked.

Ace showed him the piece of paper. "No. It looks like it was
printed off a laser printer or something."

"It must be a fan gift." Turlough concluded. "Only a fan would do
something that crazy."

The young Trakenite slowly nodded in agreement. "You're right, it
must be. Only a fan..."

But a different thought occurred to her, and to that end she
raised her head to look toward another table on the other side of
the pub.


Across the room, their eyes met. And in that moment, the spell
returned. They were suddenly no longer in that room, no longer
among friends and acquaintances and colleagues, but back once
more on a snowy hillside. With wind, cold, pale moonlight... and
a hint of possibilities. Possibilities that neither would have
said were imaginable, just a short time before.

He pushed his shoulders back, zipped up the jacket, and
straightened it for her to see.

She pushed her hair back, reached to her neck, and brought the
pendant out to see.

And each mouthed the same words to the other.

"Merry Christmas."

29 December 2000