“People think Garrick is our son,” Julia said with a gleeful smile as she finished talking to a lady who thought her little boy was adorable. He certainly looked adorable in a blue jumper and bobble hat that covered his hair, his brown eyes bright with interest at everything around him.

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ answered. “I wonder just how old they think we are?”

“Old enough to have an eight year old child. If we lived on one of those planets where we could have got married years ago….”

“You would still be too young,” Chrístõ pointed out. “It’s not exactly a compliment to a woman when people think she’s older than she is.”

He was teasing her. He liked the idea, too. It was a hint of how their life might be in years to come when they had a son of their own, and it was a good feeling. He had known since he was a boy himself that one of his duties as primogeniture was to father the next generation of his House and knowing that he would do that with Julia was a pleasant thought.

And in the meantime, at least until they got back to Gallifrey for the Winter Solstice, he had charge of his little brother and was introducing him to all of the best traditions of Christmas.

There were any number of ways he could have done that, and many places he could have gone.

He chose Christmas Station.

It wasn’t the most authentic of locations, being a huge space station that was at the one time, shopping mall, theme park, and entertainment centre, but it WAS the place to experience any aspect of Christmas imaginable.

Since they arrived this morning he and Garrick, with Julia at their side, had ridden the snow-sleigh-coaster and Santa’s roof sleigh ride and explored the Christmas tree forest and they still had another twenty decks of excitement to explore when Julia declared that was enough for one morning and insisted on going to the food court. There they ate turkey and cranberry subs and drank German coffee with a huge slough of thickened cream on top. Garrick was delighted with the coffee, served in a slender glass with a long silver spoon.

“How does he know if I’ve been good?” Garrick asked out of the blue halfway through his coffee.

“How does who know?” Chrístõ asked, caught off guard by the question.

“Father Christmas. How does he know? Is he telepathic?” Chrístõ noticed that his half-brother was looking at the interactive brochure that gave times when children could visit the man himself. Garrick’s ‘appointment’ was at three o’clock.

“He might well be,” Chrístõ answered. In fact, he knew full well that the Christmas Station company generally employed a telepath to play the role of Father Christmas in the ice grotto two decks above the food court. He surprised the children by knowing their names and exactly what they wanted for Christmas without having to ask. It was all part of the premium service that visitors paid for.

“But what if a boy has been bad and hid it behind a mental wall? How would he know, then?”

“I’ve never really thought about it,” Chrístõ lied. “Father Christmas is magical. You have to believe in magic for it to happen.”

Garrick was being educated in the logical and precise way of the Time Lords of Gallifrey. Magic didn’t really come into his purview.

“Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic,” the boy said, quoting a rule of philosophy attributed on his planet to a contemporary of Rassilon, Rhathaki Tuak. Chrístõ had also heard it as belonging to the Human fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke. The universe was full of odd coincidences like that.

He wondered who had taught it to his half brother as the only reference to magic in his whole young life.

“Then Father Christmas is a really good scientist,” Chrístõ told his brother. “That’s how he knows everything and how he brings presents to all good boys and girls.”

That satisfied him. He continued to eat the cream from his coffee and watched a nearly lifesize clockwork puppet show going on not far from their table. Chrístõ could feel his thoughts as he watched. He was working out how all the cogs and ratchets made the puppets dance.

“It’s not a mechanics lesson, Garrick. Just enjoy watching them. Just… be a little boy, not a proto-Time Lord.”

“I do enjoy looking at it,” he answered. “It’s a very interesting, if simplistic, machine.”

But not the way other children enjoyed it – for the colourful figures moving around to the Christmas music. All of the Human youngsters in the food court came from technological worlds. They took hyperspace travel for granted. Some of them had robotic lifeforms in their homes and schools. But they could still let their imagination be captured by mechanical dancing puppets.

Chrístõ felt just a little angry at the way Garrick had been educated. He was so very Gallifreyan, so logical and scientific about everything. He was only eight and all his childish imagination had been suppressed.

Of course, Garrick WAS Gallifreyan. He was a pure blood descendent of two Oldblood Houses. He would be patriarch of the House of Arpexia when he was a man. Of course he would be taught to be everything that was expected of one of his race and his class.

But if only he could be a child for a little longer. Chrístõ wished he could take him away from Gallifrey, from all influence of that planet and that so very rigid system, for a year, maybe two, and let him enjoy the freedom of thought and action that a child ought to have.

But he couldn’t. In a very few months, before the summer solstice, Garrick would face the Untempered Schism, that test of untapped potential that all boys and girls of their world faced. After that, childhood was virtually over. The innocence of childhood certainly was when all the knowledge of the universe blasted the mind of the young Candidate. After that, even at play, even at the most simple leisure pursuit, the universe whispered in the depths of the soul, reminding him of his place within it.

“Garrick….” Chrístõ wiped coffee and cream from his half-brother’s mouth and ruffled his curling hair tenderly. “Garrick, there is so little time left, only a few months. They’re precious months. I want you to be happy, joyously happy, like a little boy ought to be, with your days filled with play and fun.”

“Chrístõ, you’ll frighten him,” Julia warned. “He IS happy. But he isn’t you. He’ll never see the universe in the same way you do.”

Garrick wasn’t frightened. He didn’t quite understand what Chrístõ was trying to tell him, but he listened solemnly as he always listened to anything his clever, heroic big brother told him and tried to work out how to please him by doing what he wanted him to do.

“Garrick, forget it, kid. Don’t go worrying about it,” Chrístõ told him. “What do you want to do next?”

Garrick couldn’t decide. There were so many exciting possibilities.

“Let’s go and see the féte des lumieres on the observation deck,” Julia suggested. “Remember when we saw that for real at Lyons. Garrick will love it.”

“Humphrey loved the real thing,” Chrístõ recalled. “What do you think, kid? Shall we go and see the pretty lights?”

His half-brother nodded enthusiastically and drained his coffee. He let Julia take his hand as they headed for the turbo lift to the very highest deck of all. This was a huge floor covered by an exo-glass dome displaying a glorious hemisphere of stars above and around. Few people ever really observed the stars on the observation deck, though, because it was the home of the permanent but ever changing Féte Des Lumieres exhibition, based on the Lyons tradition of lighting up public buildings in glorious colours every December 6th to mark the first day of Christmas.

The exhibition here on Christmas Station aimed to beat anything done in France. The inside of the dome was lit in a montage on the theme of Father Christmas. Moving beams sent a multi-coloured sleigh around the whole scene every three minutes while people on high snow-covered mountains and in deserts, in rich homes and poor ones, on planets far from Earth where it all began, all eagerly awaited his arrival.

The same themes were to be found in the tableaux around the deck. Fountains of water were illuminated with colourful images made only of projected lights, depicting a wonderland where elves made the toys and loaded them into the sleigh for dispatch to anywhere Human children waited in hope.

“I think I preferred the religious theme they had last year,” Julia admitted. “With the three wise men following the star across the sky and the stable as the centrepiece. It IS the true reason for Christmas, not just toy-making.”

“Garrick is fascinated, though,” Chrístõ assured her. The little boy had let go of any hands that would hold him back and was running from one scene to the other. He had, of course, fully analysed how it was done, finding the tiny light beams set in the floor that projected the scenes, but he still found them interesting in their own right. Chrístõ was glad. He seemed to have taken his words to heart and was enjoying the whole thing just like any other child. He asked questions galore about the things he saw, such as whether elves really existed. Chrístõ trod a very careful line between telling his half-brother the truth and preserving a sense of wonder.

“There are many kinds of people in the universe,” he said. “Some of them are very small. Elves are a special sort of small people.”

He wasn’t the only one with that dilemma, of course. There were a lot of children on the observation deck just as there were elsewhere on Christmas Station. They all had questions for their parents.

The juxtaposition of the starfield outside and the sleigh streaking across the inside of the exo-glass dome raised one question that every parent sought to answer.

“How does Father Christmas get to all the children in one night?” Garrick asked as they left the observation deck by the turbo lift and headed for the snowfields on deck twenty. “Does he have a TARDIS?”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “He has a sleigh.”

“But is it a TARDIS in disguise?” Garrick insisted. “How can he come to my house on Gallifrey and all the houses on Earth and Beta Delta all in one night without a TARDIS?”

“Magic,” Chrístõ said. “I told you, Father Christmas is magic.”

“But what sort of magic? I don’t understand it?”

“He… can move faster than time. He can visit everywhere he wants to be in the very same second, because time stands still for him.”

“Can you make time stand still?” Garrick asked.

“No,” Chrístõ replied. “The best I can do is slow it down a bit. And mostly I only do that when I’m kissing girls….” He winked at Julia who was the only girl he had kissed for several years. “Kissing girls is considered a very trivial use of a Time Lord skill,” he added. “So don’t be in any hurry to emulate me in that.”

Garrick laughed and said he wasn’t interested in kissing girls.

“When you’re older, you will be,” Chrístõ promised him. “It’s ok to take after me in that respect.”

Julia laughed softly at his side.

“He’s got a lot of growing up to do before that happens.”

“Yes, he has.” Chrístõ admitted. “And before he is very much older I think he needs to build a snowman.”

The snowfields were exactly what their name implied. As they stepped out of the turbo lift a wide vista of white met their eyes. The nearer parts of it were flat meadows covered in soft, freshly fallen snow. Beyond them were snowdrifts piled high and beyond those were snow covered slopes of varying difficulty where toboggans and skies propelled the daring downhill at breathtaking speeds.

“Later,” Chrístõ said. “First we build snowmen.”

“It’s warmer than I expected,” Julia commented as she began rolling snow for her snowman’s body. “The air is quite… ambient.”

Chrístõ laughed and said he wished he could get the kids he taught English to at New Canberra High school to use the word ‘ambient’ in a sentence like that.

“It’s a new innovation here on Christmas Station,” he added. “The snow has been modified so that it freezes at higher temperatures. It cuts down on the number of people going to the medical centre with frostbite.”

“Very clever,” Julia commented. “But cheating, really. Frostbite is a part of the fun of snowman making.”

She fell to making her slightly warmer than usual snowman with enthusiasm, though. Every five minutes as they worked a new fall of snow was scheduled and modified flakes softly covered the ground where they had spoiled the pristine white for snowman material. The flakes fell on them too. Garrick stood for a long time staring at the individual crystals that had landed on his coat. His eyes lit with joy as he examined each one and recognised the universal truth that no two snowflakes were ever alike.

“Nature is pretty wonderful that way,” Chrístõ told him. “But don’t forget about your snowman.”

They were each making one of their own. Chrístõ’s snowman was a stout, strong man with eyes made of two large buttons he found in his pocket and a smiling mouth made of a length of string turned in an upwards curve.

Julia’s snowman was stout, too. It was difficult to be anything else with a ball of snow for a body. Even so, she managed to make it look graceful and feminine. She hung a necklace around it made of cheap plastic jewels. It was a ‘gift’ that came with the turkey sandwiches at lunchtime. The snowman and woman stood like two sweethearts, side by side. Julia smiled and grasped the hand of her own sweetheart and enjoyed the moment.

“Look at Garrick’s snowman,” she said. “He’s very artistic.”

“He’s… very Gallifreyan,” Chrístõ corrected her. “Art doesn’t come into it. He’s just being logical and exact. A snowman… to him… doesn’t have a corncob nose and eyes made of coal and an old pipe in its mouth. It looks like….” He studied the face Garrick was carefully sculpting onto the white figure of a High Councillor in full regalia. “It looks like father. He’s given it his features.”

“It’s the best snowman here,” Julia said. “I love it.”

Chrístõ wasn’t sure it WAS the best in the traditional way. It was another sign that Garrick was being raised to be the very perfect Time Lord candidate. He had one image in his mind of what a man should be and he made his snowman that way. Using his imagination as everyone else had done in the snowman field was outside of his comprehension.

Garrick looked up at his brother with a solemn expression on his face. Chrístõ smiled warmly at him.

“It’s a GREAT snowman, kid,” he said. “Next year we’ll take you to the beach on Lyria and see what you make of a sandcastle.”

Probably an exact replica of the Citadel, he thought wryly.

“Toboggan?” Garrick asked turning to look at the automatic machine that lifted the various sleds up to the top of the slope, taking the hard work out of that activity. There was even a glass-sided escalator to take the people up.

“Absolutely,” Chrístõ answered him. He took hold of Julia and Garrick and walked with them both through a new fall of soft yet ambient snow. At the foot of the slope he chose a beautiful log built toboggan from those on offer and it was put onto the lift while they stepped onto the escalator.

At the top there was an assistant wearing a sweater bearing the Christmas Station logo of fir trees crossed over a silver star to help them into the toboggan. He told Chrístõ to sit in the long seat first, then Julia in front of him and Garrick in her arms right at the front. A safety belt fastened them all securely before the push off onto the clear, clean snow. Julia squealed with excitement as they flew down the slope. Chrístõ whooped with joy and wrapped his arms around her waist happily.

Garrick was quiet. He wasn’t scared of falling out of the toboggan or anything like that. He was too busy measuring the velocity and angle of their descent and working out where they would land at the bottom of the slope.

“That was fantastic,” Julia said with a breathless laugh when they scrambled out of the toboggan at the bottom and Chrístõ brought it back to the lift for another go. “It felt much faster than when we were on the real slopes on Ventura.”

“It is,” Chrístõ told her. “They do something to the snow to make less friction - within safe limits, of course. And if anything had gone wrong they would have initiated a gravity cushion to protect us.”

“Which you didn’t mention before we went down the first time,” Julia pointed out.

Chrístõ laughed and held onto his half-brother’s hand as they mounted the escalator. “Garrick, no maths, this time. Just try to have fun. You ARE allowed to make as much noise as you like. It’s all part of the thrill of it.”

“Does screaming make it more fun?” Garrick asked. He was puzzled why that would be. “I thought people only screamed when they were scared. And I wasn’t scared. I knew you wouldn’t let us do anything dangerous.”

“People scream when they’re having too much fun to stay quiet,” Chrístõ responded. “If you don’t believe me, ask Julia about the last time she was at an Ice Garden concert.”

“That’s not fair,” Julia protested, giving him a sharp jab in his ribs for his cheek. But she was laughing at the same time. Garrick laughed, too, even though he didn’t get the joke. He had a nice laugh, and Chrístõ thought he really didn’t hear it often enough.

“Before we take you to see Father Christmas we have to make you behave like a real boy,” he told his half-brother. “Not a pint sized member of the High Council of Time Lords.”

“I am a real boy, and I’m not pint sized,” Garrick insisted.

“Then let’s hear you yell like one as we go downhill this time,” Chrístõ told him.

“I’ll try,” Garrick promised. Chrístõ sighed and shook his head. Now he would be concentrating on yelling properly so as not to disappoint his brother.

“I’ve got an idea,” Julia told him in a low voice. “Leave it to me.”

They climbed into the toboggan again and began their second run down the slope. As soon as she started to feel the pull of gravity on her body Julia reached around and tickled Garrick mercilessly. The boy giggled and then laughed, and then screamed with joy as he finally let go of his inhibitions and let the whole experience of sliding down a snow-covered hill in a wooden sled take over all of his senses.

When they came to a stop in the safe zone, he was still laughing, red faced and with his Gallifreyan eyes glassy with nictating fluid. It was several minutes before he could actually speak.

“Again!” he managed to say.

“You bet,” Chrístõ agreed.

“I thought the escalator was cheating,” Julia said, breathless herself. “But I’m appreciating it now. I wouldn’t have managed three goes if we were walking up each time.”

In fact they managed four more goes before Chrístõ declared that enough was enough. Garrick was in such a fit of giggles by then that he could barely climb out of the toboggan and collapsed in a drift of ambient snow, kicking his legs in the air and laughing at anything and everything.

“I think that’s the most I’ve seen him laugh in his whole life,” Chrístõ said.

“I never realised before that the way to get a stuffy Time Lord to unbend is to tickle them on the tummy,” Julia answered. She reached out more quickly than Chrístõ expected and subjected him to the same torture. When Garrick finally stopped laughing and sat up in the little hollow his body had made in the snow his heroic, awe-inspiring older brother was lying in his own drift of snow, pinned down by Julia’s slight body. She was being tickled back, and her laughter mingled with his as it carried across the artificial snowfield. Garrick watched them for a moment before scrambling across the snow to pile on top of his brother and join in the combination of a hug and a tickle.

When everyone was thoroughly exhausted by the experience, they just lay there for a long time. Chrístõ hugged his fiancée and his half-brother in his arms and kissed them both.

“I love you,” he said.

“I know you do,” Julia answered.

“I know you know. But… Garrick, do you know that? I don’t think I’ve said it often enough. But I do love you, kiddo.”

“I love you, Chrístõ,” Garrick answered.

“Good,” he replied. “And that’s enough of that, for now. We’re Gallifreyans, not Americans in a Disney Family Movie. It’s time for you to go and see Father Christmas.”

“Just don’t tickle him,” Julia added, bringing on a new fit of laughter all round.

Garrick was trembling with anticipation as much as any other child in the queue with their three o’clock tickets to see Father Christmas. By the time he was at the front of the line where a pretty woman who was only a foot taller than he was and had a pale green complexion checked his ticket he was positively buzzing. He clung to Julia’s hand the way the other children clung to their mother’s hands. Chrístõ followed them both into the beautifully decorated ice cave with ambient icicles hanging from the ceiling where the magnificent figure of Father Christmas sat on an elaborately carved and padded chair. His coat and hood were fur-edged crimson velvet tied with a satin sash. His beard was full and pure white like the snow around him. He was a tall, stout man with twinkling eyes and a genuine smile - everything a Father Christmas ought to be.

“Hello, little man,” he said to Garrick in a deep, warm voice.

“Hello sir,” Garrick answered and bowed deeply as he had been taught to do when in the presence of Ambassadors and High Councillors.

“A polite little man,” Father Christmas said with a chuckle. “But we don’t stand on ceremony here. Come on up on my knee, Garrick de Lœngbærrow and tell me what you want for Christmas.”

Garrick was so surprised that Father Christmas knew his name that he actually became a little shy again. Chrístõ lifted him up onto the velvet covered lap.

“You HAVE been a good boy, haven’t you?” Father Christmas asked.

“Yes sir,” Garrick answered.

“And what would you like me to bring you for Christmas?”

It was the standard question. Garrick looked into his eyes and thought about his answer carefully.

“My papa is very rich, and I have lots of toys,” he answered. “It would be quite all right if you gave presents to other children who need them more than I do. Besides, it is a very long way to my planet, just for me. Nobody else there believes in Christmas, and you have so many other places to go.”

Father Christmas looked back at him for a long moment before hugging him and kissing him on the cheek.

“You are a VERY good boy, and it doesn’t matter how far away you live. You’ll be on my delivery route. Don’t you worry. Now, off you go with your brother and his pretty young lady and have a very good Christmas and a magnificent Winter Solstice, too.”

Garrick jumped down from his knee and bowed once again then he let Chrístõ take his hand and lead him out of the grotto. He didn’t have much to say for himself, but his eyes were shining brightly and he was smiling all over his face.

“I think he’s a believer in magic, now,” Julia whispered to Chrístõ.

It was two weeks later, very early on Christmas morning, or as close to it as it was possible to get on Gallifrey. Chrístõ woke up in the dark and wondered what had disturbed his sleep. The answer surprised him. He slipped out of his bed and put on a robe over his pyjamas before going quietly along the corridor from his own bedroom to the one his half-brother was sleeping in.

Or should have been sleeping. The boy was lying awake, his eyes bright in the light of the illuminated mobile that hung over his bed. Chrístõ smiled as he recognised the two globes, one red, one blue and green. They were in his bedroom for as long as he could remember, colouring his infant dreams and driving away the shadows of the night.

“It’s not time to get up, yet,” he whispered. “You should be asleep.”

“I know, but Father Christmas has been.”

“Has he?” Chrístõ knew there were dozens of presents downstairs in the drawing room, arranged under a huge tree. He and his father had arranged them late last night after Garrick went to bed.

“Yes. Look.”

Chrístõ looked at the bedside table. There was a cube-shaped box wrapped in gold and silver paper that caught a glint from the mobile light.

“Where did that come from?” he asked.

“I told you, Father Christmas,” Garrick answered him. “Can I open it?”

“I suppose so,” Chrístõ told him. Garrick sat up and took the present and turned it around. The wrapping wasn’t fastened by glue or tape. It had been carefully folded by somebody who knew an art like origami. When Garrick discarded it, Chrístõ took the paper and folded it back again into an empty cube shape that he held in his hands as he watched his brother open the box inside and take out a magnificent snow globe. It was a very high quality one with the base made of silver plate metal and the globe of perfectly clear lead crystal glass. Inside was a scene made of enamelled porcelain. It was a toboggan run with a tiny toboggan on it with three people riding in it. When Garrick shook the globe and set the snow flying the toboggan rushed down the slope.

“It’s us,” he said with a gurgle of delight.

Chrístõ looked closely. It could well have been. The very tiny three figures were a man, woman and a child wearing a bobble hat. He knew that such things were sold on Christmas Station. They sold everything remotely connected with Christmas. But he also knew that neither he nor Julia had bought one.

“He said he would come,” Garrick reminded him.

“Yes, he did,” Chrístõ agreed. “It’s a nice present. Keep it there by your bed to remind you. But go on back to sleep for now or you’ll be too tired for your other presents. I’m pretty sure one of them is a bicycle without training wheels for a boy who is old enough for one now.”

Garrick shook the globe one more time and put it on the bedside table. He laid his head on the pillow and let his older brother kiss him on the forehead before closing his eyes again. Chrístõ quietly left the room. Outside he saw his step-mother coming to see if there was a problem in her son’s room.

“He’s ok,” he assured her. “I was just like him at that age on Christmas morning.”

“He gets more like you every day, Chrístõ,” Valena told him. “And I couldn’t be happier.” She looked in at the door to assure herself and then went back to her room. Chrístõ returned to his own bedroom, putting the gold and silver paper cube on his own bedside table before he lay down and closed his eyes with one thought in his mind.

“Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. But neither science nor magic completely explained Father Christmas.”