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Writing Tati's Gift


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[I]I wrote this story back in December as a submission for theOtaku's Winter Writing Challenge. As with all my story ideas, it's based on the Doctor Who series, but set in my own alternative universe with my own Doctor. Tatiana Rhys is a character created by Katana, who ended up becoming a companion to my version of the Doctor. This story is set early in their travels together.[/I]

[I]Once this was done, I was amazed I could write something so... sweet.[/I] :animesmil


"What do you mean you've never had a Christmas present?"

The Doctor looked from the TARDIS console at his young companion, Tatiana Rhys. She'd only been traveling with him for a few weeks, taking the opportunity he'd given her to escape her life on the streets as a pickpocket. Although it seemed to Tati as if most of their time was taken up by adventures and almost constant running from killer alien monsters, there were the quiet times when they took the opportunity to chat and get to know each other better.

This was one of those times. Tati had been telling the Doctor more about her life, her ersatz 'family' and the times when they would actually celebrate special occasions, like Christmas. It was then she had admitted she'd never actually received a gift. The Doctor was now looking at her with a mixture of surprise, curiosity... and a bit of sadness.

"Just like I said," Tati shrugged. "We celebrated Christmas, but there wasn't really any gift-giving going on."

"I would have thought you'd have loads of trinkets, being a pickpocket." She raised an eyebrow at him. "Sorry." He grimaced and returned to fiddling with the controls.

"We didn't really keep much of the stuff we stole. If you lifted something other than money, you'd usually take it to a fence and exchange it for money. We were more concerned about survival than anything."

The Doctor sighed, his hand hovering over some switches. He turned back to face Tati, leaning against the console.

"I'm sorry. So tell me... what did you do to celebrate the season?"

A faraway look came over Tati's face as her mind wandered back to those days.

"Back home we - my family - would all save up and buy food. Russell would cook and we'd all cram into his apartment above the shop and eat and watch televids. And he'd always make a peanut butter pie, like, from scratch. That was the best present ever."

The Doctor grinned, enjoying the warm smile on Tati's face as she reminisced. But still, to never receive a personal present? It was nagging at him, and as usual when things nagged at him he just had to throw himself straight into the problem.

"Right!" His sudden outburst and flurry of movement as he danced around the console startled Tati out of her reverie. "I'm sure your family gatherings were all warm and fuzzy, but not ever getting a present? It's just not on, is all! Not being able to creep downstairs on Christmas morning, to see the gifts all piled under that tree covered in colorful lights and tacky ornaments, the enthusiasm of ripping off all that gaudy wrapping paper... Everyone should know what that feels like, and it's high time you should."

With the last few buttons pressed, the central column groaned into life, accompanied by the familiar wheeze of the time ship's ancient engines.

Tati jumped out of her seat and joined the Doctor at the console.

"So, where are we headed to now?" Her eyes lit up as she watched strings of numbers scrolling down a screen, not understanding any of it but knowing it meant they were on their way to another world in another time.

The Doctor smiled as he saw the look in Tati's eyes. Despite the harshness of her former life, she still exuded a boundless enthusiasm and excitement which the Doctor loved to see, since it matched his own passion for travel and adventure and exploration.

"You'll see. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise." He winked and tapped the side of his nose.

* * *

The minute she stepped through the door of the TARDIS, Tati's eyes widened and her jaw went slack. Stretched before her was a massive cityscape, all gleaming spires reaching for the clouds, walkways and flying cars weaving their way between the buildings.

"Year 5 Billion, the Earth gets roasted when the sun goes nova - not a very cheery thought. But by this time the human race is all over the universe, and they decide to make this planet the new official home for mankind: New Earth. And we're right smack dab in the middle of it's capital city, New New York."

"It's absolutely incredible," Tati whispered. "I knew the city I grew up in was like this, but I never saw any of it outside the slums. The upper levels were for the rich fat-cats."

"Everyone's equal, despite their lot in life. It's a shame more people don't recognize that." The Doctor wandered over to an information kiosk, mumbling to himself. "Just hope I got the timing right..."

With a little wave of his sonic screwdriver, the screen came to life. Tati tore herself away from the view and joined the Doctor. A woman appeared on the screen, her smile showed gleaming white teeth as she talked in a very saccharine tone.

"And with another Christmas behind us, the citizens of New New York eagerly look forward to tonight's New Year celebration. We'll be airing live coverage from New Times Square all night long, so be sure to keep it tuned to this station."

"Oh, we missed Christmas!" The Doctor's shoulders slumped, his lips all pouted like a disappointed child.

It always amused Tati to see the Doctor like this. Despite being an adult, especially considering he was an alien hundreds of years old, he could still act so childish at times. Even when she was a kid, Tati had never whined and complained like that.

"You do have a time machine, you know. We could always hop in and try again?" As long as they were someplace new and exciting, it didn't really matter to Tati whether they'd missed their intended target or not.

"Nah! Why bother? New Year is just as good, and who says I still can't buy you a Christmas present?" He flashed her a cheeky grin.

* * *

Once the Doctor used the terminal to find directions, they made their way through the city to the shopping district. The trip itself was a never-ending parade of sights and sounds, from the tube lifts, monorails and flying cars to the multitudes of beings who called the city home. Not just humans, but all manner of exotic alien life forms. Even though it was already New Year's Eve, Christmas decorations were still all over the place - "Gotta wring out all the shopping opportunities before the season ends," said the Doctor - so the Time Lord was confident he'd be able to find a gift for Tati.

Hand in hand, they walked along, peering into shop windows, occasionally going into a few if something caught the Doctor's eye. Half the time it appeared to Tati as if he was more interested in various trinkets and gadgets for himself, running about like a kid in a candy store. Other times he remembered what they were really there for, and he looked at many different items, either talking directly to her about them or mumbling to himself.

"Chocolate? Hm, but then what do you have left after you've eaten it all?"
"Perfume? No, you aren't really the type to wear scent. And you never know when we might run into some aliens with a keen sense of smell, where would we be then if we had to leg it quick?"
"Ooh, this sonic lance would... No wait, I'm thinking of myself again. Bugger."
"I suppose I could always get a new switchblade to replace that one you lost when we met..."

Time passed and the sky darkened. They took a break and had a bit of dinner, sitting at a table outside a little cafe. A calm silence passed between them as they watched the people pass by, Christmas songs from the billions of years of human history playing from speakers along the avenue. Eventually they went back to prowling through the shops, but as it got late Tati noticed most people were heading off in one direction. As the the Doctor wandered off, Tati stopped in front of a home entertainment store, watching the newswoman on a televid.

"It's mere minutes to midnight now, and it seems as if every citizen of New New York is crammed in and around the square, waiting for the annual Ball Drop to celebrate the arrival of the new year. This will be one for the record books."

For a few moments, Tati stood there as the camera panned over the square, showing the throngs of people in it, and more standing in windows and on the walkways above. A smile slowly spread over her face, and she rushed off to find the Doctor. After a couple minutes' search, she spotted him gazing through another shop window. He noticed her out of the corner of his eye and began to speak.

"There you are. What do you think of this knife here? As far as I can tell it looks exactly like yo- hey, w-wait, where are we going?"

Tati grabbed the Doctor's hand and pelted down the street, dragging him along behind her. A corner turned here, a stairway climbed there, and at last she spotted a small, out of the way balcony. Just as they made it to the edge, overlooking New Times Square, they could hear the chanting, thousands of voices rising up in the air, as if the city itself were speaking.

"Ten... nine... eight... seven.. six... five... four... three... two... one... Happy New Year!" The ball dropped, the crowd cheered and whooped with joy, glitter and streamers floated through the air, while fireworks burst overhead, casting a myriad flashing color patterns over everything.

"Happy New Year, Doc!" Tati turned a million watt smile on the Doctor. "Traveling with you, having the chance to explore the whole universe, seeing all these amazing things, hell even running from killer aliens... All of that is the best present I could ever get."

Taking a moment to digest her words, the Doctor gave her a warm smile in return.

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Tati."

They stood together watching the celebration. Tati glanced to her right, spying people on the balcony just below them. Seeing what some of the couples were doing gave her an idea.

"Although," she said loudly, "there is something I wouldn't mind having."

The Doctor turned to her and sputtered, "B-but... you just said..."

He was cut off as Tati pulled herself up on tiptoe and planted a kiss right on his lips. She broke contact after a few seconds, trying desperately to look anywhere but in his face. There came a tap on her shoulder, and she turned hesitantly, caught off-guard when he pulled her into a firm, warm hug.

"I'm glad you chose to travel with me."

His breath tickled her ear, her cheeks tinged with color as she returned the hug. Even if a moment like this never came again, Tati knew she would treasure it for the rest of her life.

"So," she said with a chuckle, "tell me about that knife you found."
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