Chrístõ looked up into the starlit sky and smiled. He couldn’t see the constellation he loved the most, Sagittarius. It was too low down in the sky and light pollution from the city of Liverpool and the Wirral across the river obscured it, but he could easily make out so many others. Orion, Cassiopeia, the Great Bear, otherwise known as Ursa Major

He looked in the region of Ursa Major carefully. He picked out the smaller constellation of Canes Venatici. In legend, Bootes, the herdsman, chased the Great Bear with his two hunting dogs, the Canes. In the night sky he found one of the dogs, the star called Chara, meaning joy in the Greek from which Earth men named their stars.

It was a star quite like Earth’s sun, and it had planets orbiting it that supported life just like Earth.

One of them was Beta Delta IV. The planet where Julia’s family were going when the space Vampyres ravaged the ship. The planet where her only living relatives lived.

When Christmas Day came around again, he would probably be looking up into the sky from that planet and searching for a faint star in the sky that was known to the Human colonists of Beta Delta as Sol, the sun that warms their mother Earth.

“I’ll bring her to you when I must,” he whispered. “Let her be with me for now.”

“Chrístõ?” Julia squeezed his hand to remind him that she was there beside him. “Chrístõ it’s cold. Let’s get on.”

He looked at her and reached his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. He never felt the cold as much as his Human companions. His body temperature was naturally lower than theirs and in any case his body automatically regulated his blood temperature without him ever having to think about it.

He tried not to forget that his friends couldn’t do that. But sometimes his thoughts wandered as they had then. He looked at Cassie, Natalie, Terry and Sammie as they stood together waiting for him. How could he ever forget any of them? His Human friends who stood by him through so very much.

“Come on,” Terry said. “Hot drinks for all.” Walking back after the Midnight Christmas Mass seemed a good idea when they emerged from the warm, brightly lit church, but now they were glad they were in sight of the apartment block on Waterloo Dock. Why Chrístõ had decided this was a good time to stop and gaze at the stars they didn’t know. But it was a mark of their friendship that none of them berated him for the delay.

“Coming,” Chrístõ said and he and Julia caught up with them as they rounded the spur of land that separated the old dock from the Mersey.

“What’s that?” Cassie asked suddenly. She had been looking up at the sky wondering WHAT it was that had caught Chrístõ’s attention. Now they all looked and they murmured in surprise at something Chrístõ hadn’t been looking at because it hadn’t been there a moment before.

It looked like a star at first except that it was clearly moving even to the naked eye and it was clearly getting bigger.

Which meant it was getting closer.

“Can’t be a plane,” Sammie pointed out. “We’d hear the engine.”

“Meteorite?” Terry queried.

“No,” Chrístõ said. “It's…..”

Even he yelled in surprised as they realised that the bright falling object was heading towards them.

“It’s going to hit us!” Cassie squealed in fright as Terry pulled her back against the wall of the apartment block. They all pressed themselves against the wall as they watched the shining object fall into the dock not more than four metres from where they were standing. There was a splash as it hit the water and a hiss as if the outside of it might have been hot. The friends cautiously stepped forward and looked over the railing into the cold, black water. The object, whatever it was, had sunk beneath the dark water, but they could still see it shining brightly, illuminating the dock from beneath the surface.

“It looks like a giant, glowing egg,” Natalie said.

“Is it dangerous?” Sammie asked.

“It must be alien,” Terry said.

“It’s beautiful,” Cassie and Julia both whispered at the same time.

Then they were distracted by the sound of another splash. They looked around and saw Chrístõ’s jacket and shoes on the ground. They looked over the railing and by the light of the submerged alien egg they saw a shadow of his figure diving down under the water.

“Chrístõ!” Julia cried out fearfully. “Chrístõ…!”

“He’s going after the egg….”

They could do nothing but watch as he reached the egg and pushed it up to the surface. He swam with strong leg strokes and it didn’t take as long as it seemed for his anxious friends. When he broke the surface he swam on his back towards the edge of the dock holding the egg as if it was a drowning person he was rescuing. There were steps leading down to the water. Terry and Sammie ran for them. They tried to reach for Chrístõ and get him out of the water before he froze to death, but he insisted on them lifting the egg out first.

It was about half their height and it was, indeed, a perfect egg shape, broader at one end, and as heavy as a man. Terry and Sammie between them hauled it up as Chrístõ came behind them, water dripping from his clothes.

“Are you NUTS?” Cassie demanded of him. “Why did you…”

“Get it inside, in the warmth,” he said as Natalie and Julia tried to put his jacket around him to keep HIM warm. He seemed oblivious of his own cold and concerned only with the strange and clearly alien object he had rescued from the dock.

Cassie looked at him and then ran to key in the code that opened the door to residents after dark. They pressed both lift buttons at once and Sammie and Terry took one with the egg while the women between them ushered Chrístõ into the other. When they reached their floor he again seemed more concerned with the egg than with his own comfort.

“It’s got to be kept warm,” he insisted. “Put it near the fire and wrap blankets around it.”

“We need to get some blankets around YOU,” Natalie told him in a scolding voice. “What were you thinking of?”

“Saving an innocent life,” he said. “Please do as I say. The egg has to be protected at all costs.”

When they came into the warm, lamplit drawing room of Cassie and Terry’s apartment, Bo joined with the other women in her concern for Chrístõ’s well-being. Li Tuo though, shared his interest in the egg.

“Rassilon save us” he cried as Sammie and Terry brought the strange thing to the fireplace as Chrístõ insisted. “Where did you get that?”

“It fell into the dock,” Julia explained. “Chrístõ jumped in to save it.”

“It’s warm and safe,” Terry said as he wrapped a blanket around the egg. “Now will you go and get dried and dressed, Chrístõ, before the women all explode with worry for you.”

Reluctantly, he did so. When he returned a kind of calm was upon the drawing room. Cassie was sitting in one big armchair with baby Chrístõ in her arms, giving him a bottle of milk. Bo and Natalie and Julia were drinking cocoa on a sofa, Terry, Sammie and Li Tuo were drinking brandy on the other. Chrístõ accepted a hot cup of cocoa and sat down beside the men, watching the egg carefully. He drank the cocoa without apparently even tasting it and then stood up again and went to the door in the corner of the room that would have surprised the building’s architect if he saw it. It was identical to the doors leading to the bedroom, hall and kitchen, but it was on the outside wall and should have led to a cold drop down into the Mersey.

He returned from his TARDIS ten minutes later and sat down again quietly.

“Ok,” Terry said as the silence lengthened. “What’s this all about, Chrístõ?” What is that thing and why is it getting the best of the heat from MY fireplace?”

“It's an Antarellian infant travelling capsule,” he said. “It’s lost. The parents will be looking for it. I’ve sent out a subspace message to tell them we’re taking care of it.”

“So we’re baby-sitting an alien?” Sammie laughed and poured himself another brandy.

“It’s a baby?” Julia got up from her seat and went to the egg. She moved the blanket off it and touched the ‘shell’ for want of a better word. “It’s warm now,” she said. “It's all right.”

“It looks different now,” Natalie came and sat beside it, too. She had never married. Children of her own had never been an option. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have maternal feelings. This was a child of some kind. An alien child, almost certainly not Humanoid, but it was a child.

It still glowed slightly, but not with the intense brightness that had lit it up as it fell through the atmosphere. Cassie thought it looked like the nightlight she had in the baby’s room. A warm, friendly, kind of light.

“It vibrates a little bit, too,” Julia said. “It reminds me of how the TARDIS vibrates. I feel safe in the TARDIS. I think the baby feels safe in here.”

“Christmas morning,” Cassie said with a smile. “And a baby that came from the Heavens. There’s something appropriate there.”

“No room at the inn?” Terry looked at his wife and their own baby and at the alien object.

“That’s why we have to look after it,” Julia said. “Because it's Christmas and it came to us just like the baby Jesus.”

“Well, not quite the same,” Sammie told her. “He didn’t fall out of the sky.”

“What sort of people are the…” Cassie paused. “What was it you said, Chrístõ?”

“Antarellians,” he answered.

“Antarellians…What sort of people are they… I don’t mean what do they look like. I sort of… I don’t really want to know that while one of their eggs is incubating on my rug. It’s a baby and I’ll settle for that. I know what a baby is supposed to look like. But… what sort of people are they? Are they peaceful or warlike or…”

“Oh, very peaceful,” Chrístõ assured them. “I met some Antarellians once with my father when I was young. They are so gentle and peaceful they don’t even have a word for war.”

“That’s a beautiful thought,” Cassie sighed. “But why did it come to Earth then? That’s certainly not true here.”

“I think the TARDIS may have attracted it to us,” Chrístõ said. “It was lost and the TARDIS’s power source would have been like a beacon to it.”

“So it CHOSE us to look after it.” Bo whispered as she, too, knelt on the rug and touched the egg gently. “It came to us…. Because it knew we would take care of it.”

“It came to Chrístõ,” Julia said. “Because he saves people. He saved all of us.”

“That he did,” Cassie said. “He saved me from space cannibals and took Terry and me away with him. He saved Bo from that horrible thug, Marley, and Sammie from dying in the Kuwaiti desert…”

“He rescued me from the Vampyres,” Julia added. “And Natalie from being blown up with the ship she was on. We’re all alive because of him.”

“Chrístõ the saviour.” Terry laughed wryly. “Another analogy for this night.”

“I never thought of that before,” Sammie said. “But Chrístõ… it IS Italian for Christ. And we’re all his disciples. He brought us all with him and changed our lives completely.”

“It means something else in Gallifreyan,” Chrístõ told them. “It’s just coincidence.”

“You celebrate Christmas though,” Julia said. “You came with us to the church.”

“You know, I wondered about that,” Natalie added. “Chrístõ, you don’t believe in Earth religion. How come you did that?”

“My mother is from Earth. We always had Christmas when I was a little boy. Mother insisted on it. My father indulged her wishes because he loved her so much. Even after she died, he kept up the tradition in remembrance of her. We would have a beautiful Christmas in our house on Gallifrey. Father invited all of our servants to eat with us, as an extended part of our family, and gave them all presents after the meal. I grew up as a Gallifreyan who celebrated Christmas. And whenever I am on Earth at this time of year I always try to be a part of it.”

“That’s so sweet,” Natalie said. “But do you believe in it…”

“I don’t deny the existence of any deity,” he answered. “There are too many things about the universe that can’t be explained by science and logic. And people everywhere feel the NEED to believe in something. I was taught to respect other people’s beliefs. My father was a diplomat. It goes with the territory. But Christmas… to me… It is more about a renewal of my belief in the goodness of creation. I see so much cruelty, so much evil. But there is also a lot of goodness. There’s a lot of it even here on Earth, despite its wars and people who seek to destroy. I believe in the goodness. And I think Christmas embodies that.”

“You’ve never been on the front line at Christmas,” Sammie noted grimly.

“Yes I have,” he said. He smiled enigmatically. “You know that story from World War One, about the Christmas of 1915, and the truce when the British and Germans played football in no mans land…”

“You were there?” Terry looked at him in surprise. “Seriously?”

“I was told that was a myth, that it never happened.” Sammie said. “The British and the German army both officially denied it.”

“That’s what I heard,” Chrístõ told him. “So I went to find out. It was true. A very interesting moment in your history.”

“One little moment of peace in the middle of a horrible war in which millions were killed and maimed,” Cassie sighed.

“No truces in the wars I’ve fought,” Sammie added. “A couple of years ago, I spent Christmas Day in a foxhole in the middle of a god-forsaken desert, eating iron rations, waiting for a signal to attack the enemy. Lost two good friends that day. Never really felt like Christmas after that until tonight. Somehow…” He smiled broadly and looked at the Antarellian egg. “Makes me seem a soppy effort… I’d be laughed out of the Officers Mess at Hereford. But… yes, I do feel a sort of… peaceful… mellow… I don’t know. Maybe it's the brandy…”

“It’s not,” Bo told him. “It’s a little miracle.”

“It’s a miracle that we are all here, together, anyway,” Natalie said. “All friends… from different places and times… I’m so very glad to be here. This will be my last Christmas….”

“Natalie….” Chrístõ began. But she hushed him.

“No, there’s no need to pretend. No need to skip around it. I’m dying. I’m more sure of it every day. I won’t be around this time next year. I wish… I wish it could be otherwise. But in a way I don’t mind. I’ve been happier since I met Chrístõ and Julia and all of you here, than I have ever been in my life. I have more friends right here and now, in this room, than I ever had. And I know I won’t die alone. That is the only thing I am afraid of.”

“I hope I shall be as fortunate,” Li Tuo said. “I feel my own mortality more every day.”

“Master Li Tuo,” Bo said. “Do not say so.”

“We cannot deny the truth. But I, too, am not afraid to die. And you, my dear child, will remember me after I am gone. So will Shang Hui, whose destiny is to remember.”

“You have been my trusted friend since I first came to Earth,” Chrístõ told him. “I shall miss you. But we need not speak of it tonight. We ARE all here. All my Earth friends.”

That was why he had brought Natalie and Julia to Liverpool for Christmas. He wanted just once for all of his friends to be together in one place, with no crisis to worry them, no threat to their lives, just peace and friendship and the celebration of a Human festival he had always loved.

They had a little crisis anyway. He looked at the Antarellian egg and smiled wryly. Not a major crisis, to be sure. But an unexpected development.

“Chrístõ…” Julia exclaimed. “The egg is shaking.”

“It’s changing colour,” Natalie added. “Look.”

“It's all right,” he told them. “It’s meant to do that. It means that the baby is awake and feeding. Within the egg there is all it needs to survive and grow, just like any birds egg. It’ll settle down to sleep again soon.” He smiled at Cassie as she sat with her baby cuddled in her arms. “You know all about night time feeds, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. “But… doesn’t it need somebody to love it as well as feed it.”

“It’s got us,” Julia said as she caressed the smooth outer shell. “It knows we’re here, I’m sure of it. It knows we care for it.”

“A year or so back I would have thought that statement was silly,” Sammie said with a smile. “I’d have said an egg couldn’t feel anything. But now… this almost doesn’t seem unusual to me. When I think of the things we’ve seen and done.”

“That’s because of me,” Chrístõ admitted. “I took you all away from what is normal for you and exposed you to so many strange things. Even this… it came here because of me.”

“Chrístõ…” Sammie looked at him. There was something in his tone when he said that.

“I think there will come a time… when I must leave you all to get on with your Human lives. My presence among you is a disruption. Terry and Cassie, you need to have lots more babies and get your degrees and discover new things about ancient Egypt. Bo, precious, you should be having babies too, and Sammie, you should be training bodyguards to protect the VIP’s of England. And you could all do that much better without me around.”

“But Chrístõ…” Cassie said. “I love you. We all love you.”

“I know you do. And I love you all. Even you, Sammie. You know I do. And I know you love me. And there’s no need to get all barrack room macho about it. I love you all. And I’m not saying this is the end. It’s not. But the end will come. When I do finally return home to Gallifrey I might not be able to see any of you. I just want you to realise that… I’ll never forget any of you. But there will come a time… That’s why I treasure this time with you. Because there may not be many more chances for us all to be together.”

There was a silence for a long while. Nobody knew how to answer that. Then Terry stood up and went to the kitchen. He returned with a champagne bottle that had obviously been chilling in the fridge.

“It’s Christmas,” he said as he popped the cork. “It’s a time of peace and goodwill and joy and celebration. So let’s have a drink and stop this melancholic talk. We’re all here right now and we’re happy.”

“A toast to the alien egg baby,” Sammie said as he took a glass from his friend. Everyone laughed and raised their glasses to the strangest guest among them. They weren’t sure, but it seemed to shimmer slightly and change shade from pale orange to a warm yellow. Did it react to them or was it just coincidence.

“Tell me again how it came to be lost,” Terry asked. “You said it was separated from the brood…”

“The Antarellians are nomads, in exactly the same way as the Tuareg people of the Sahara. Except space is their desert and the planets they travel between are their oases. They travel in tight family groups. The adults escorting the children…” He laughed. “I’m running out of cosy Earth metaphors now. But think of a pair of swans with cygnets. If we use a bird analogy though the egg… isn’t technically an egg. It's not an embryo in there. It’s more like a travel crib, or a pram, for a youngster that isn’t old enough to look after itself. There would be a bunch of these together, with adults taking care of them. Something must have happened for this one to get lost.”

“So were they coming to Earth then?” Bo asked. “Was this planet one of their oases?”

“Oh yes. This planet is perfect for them.” His Earth friends looked alarmed at that, but he was quick to assure them. “They’re not invaders. They’re visitors. They need only three things – heat and light and water. They synthesize those three things the way plants do. They come to planets like Earth regularly. You wouldn’t even know they were here. They would normally go to somewhere uninhabited like the mid-pacific ocean well away from shipping or airline routes. They lap up water from the ocean, heat and light from the sun. Everything they need. You have plenty of it to spare. You would never notice them using it. And then they go off again into space, on their eternal adventure.”

“How come our radar and scanners and satellites don’t pick them up then?” Sammie asked. “I KNOW for a fact we have a lot more military stations watching the skies for alien activity than most civilians know.”

“You expect aliens to come in space ships made of METAL,” Chrístõ explained to him. “The Antarellians travel in organic capsules – like the egg – they’re invisible to almost any form of tracking device.”

“They sound wonderful,” Cassie whispered, awestruck just by the description Chrístõ gave of them. “So… what DO they look like?” she asked.

“I thought you didn’t want to know,” he reminded her.

“I don’t… and yet… I do…”

Christo smiled at her apparent indecision.

“I know what she means,” Bo said. “It's like…”

“Like a gift all wrapped up beautifully, and you’re afraid to open it in case the gift itself is not as wonderful as the package looks,” Natalie said.

“Yes,” Julia laughed. “That’s exactly it.”

“We’re daft, aren’t we,” Cassie said. “But that’s EXACTLY it. I feel… almost a sort of love for it as it is… safe inside the egg. But if I saw the creature… the alien… I might not love it. It might be frightening or…”

“Oh, they’re not frightening,” Chrístõ assured her. “They’re actually very beautiful. The few Humans that HAVE seen them called them seraphim…”

“What? Like…?” Julia looked at him, then at the egg, then her eyes turned towards the china nativity set on the sideboard. Above the stable was a rather dainty looking set of china angels.

 

“Really?”

Chrístõ smiled. He stood up and went and touched the egg. It was still shimmering with ever changing colours. “Tell it a story,” he suggested to the ladies. “Soothe it back to sleep.”

“What kind of story can we tell to an alien baby that looks like an angel?” Natalie asked.

“A story about angels,” Cassie suggested. Chrístõ smiled at her and slipped away to his TARDIS again. When he came back he stood quietly for a moment and listened as Julia told the egg the only story about angels that was likely to be told on this night of the year. The one that involved a baby born in a stable a long way from Liverpool.

“Good story,” he said as he went back to his seat and took another sip of his champagne. “As for the angels… you’ll see them in a few hours. They’ve responded to my signal. They’re coming for the egg.”

“Coming here?” Julia smiled. “Really?”

“They’ll be here just before dawn,” he said. “They thank you for taking care of their child in the meantime.”

“That’s nice of them,” Terry said. “Tell them, seeing as it is Christmas we won’t bill them for baby-sitting services.”

“Do you think the Christmas angels were really Antarellians then?” Julia thought aloud.

“I am sure they were,” Chrístõ told her. “The more reliable pictures I’ve seen of seraphim do resemble them very strongly.”

“But….” Sammie looked at him. “Does that… I don’t know. I was brought up as a Christian. My mum took me to church every weekend… but surely… I always thought that the whole Bethlehem thing was you know… metaphorical.”

“No, it happened,” Chrístõ answered. “It’s a matter of historical record. It didn’t happen on December 25th, of course. That was just a date adopted from the pagan winter solstice. But yes, it happened.”

“You’ve been there?” Terry looked at him. “I mean… I know that you’re a Time Lord. You can go where you like in time. But I never thought…”

“No, I’ve not been there,” he said. “I suppose I could. But I’ve never had a reason to go there.”

“But the Antarellians have,” Julia said. “We could ask them when they get here.”

“Ask alien angels if they have seen the baby Jesus?” Cassie sighed and sat back in her chair, cuddling her baby named after the most incredible man she had ever met. She thought nothing could be more incredible than having a Time Lord for a friend, but it seemed he could top that after all.

The hours past slowly, but happily. Nobody thought of going to bed. Natalie lay down for a while on the sofa and slept, and Cassie closed her eyes for a short nap. Julia curled up on the rug beside the egg, her hand on it the whole time. So did Bo. Terry pulled the blanket around them both.

“Is he asleep?” Sammie looked around at Li Tuo. He was lying back in his chair with his eyes closed. “Or….”

The three men exchanged anxious glances. They all knew how frail Li Tuo was. Even his Time Lord powers of cell regeneration were starting to fail and he was as mortal as any Human now. They knew he told the truth when he said he would not live through another year.

But surely he would not slip away so easily as that.

“No, he’s just asleep,” Chrístõ assured them, though he looked carefully and put his hand over the old Time Lord’s hearts to be sure. “His time is not yet.”

“Thank goodness for that,” Sammie breathed a sigh of relief. “Bo would be so upset if he went without saying goodbye.”

“He’s a Time Lord,” Chrístõ said. “There are thing to be done before his end. Even though he is an exile, there are rituals that should be performed. When that time comes I will be ready. But it’s not that time yet.”

“But this WILL be our only chance to spend Christmas together,” Terry sighed. “Li Tuo and Natalie are both dying. And what you were saying about moving on and letting us get back to normal lives…”

“Everything comes to an end,” he said. “Even for me. I feel it. But don’t be sad. Every ending is a beginning, too. And you and Cassie are going to be have a good life. Sammie, you and Bo are going to be fantastic together. You’re all going to be all right.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I just wish… That we could all be just as we are tonight. With or without the alien egg, this is perfect. All of us together, happy. If time could stand still, I think I would choose this night for it to stand still.”

“That’s one thing Time Lords can’t do,” Chrístõ said. “Time goes by for us just as for anyone else.”

“I wouldn’t dare to ask you. But still…” Terry sighed again then shook himself and smiled. “You’re right. We have this night. Let’s not ask for more.” He looked around for the champagne bottle and found it was empty and went to get another bottle to share with those of his friend who were awake still as they kept this strange vigil.

Chrístõ was perfectly capable of staying awake all night. Sammie was trained not to sleep. Terry was determined to be equal to them both. They talked quietly through the dark hours of the night, sipping champagne and watching the alien egg they were charged with caring for until the alien parents came for it, watching the women they loved and cared for sleeping despite themselves. And they all felt a strange kind of contentment and peace as the quiet hours passed.

Terry thought about what Cassie had said. About wanting to know, and yet not wanting to know, what the alien inside the egg really looked like. In the same way he was looking forward to their arrival and at the same time he wasn’t. He wanted to see these creatures who looked like angels, but at the same time he rather feared seeing them.

He glanced at the nativity set and he knew why.

He had always believed in angels. Despite a feeling that only children REALLY believed in such things, a corner of him DID believe that the scene there was true. The angels really did come down from Heaven on that first Christmas night so many centuries ago.

And now Chrístõ had as good as told him that the angels were a sort of beautiful, peace loving alien gypsy that visited Earth every so often.

And that some of them were visiting him in a few hours.

If the angels were aliens, did that make the nativity more real or less real, he wondered. Was Chrístõ telling him that the Christian religion was based on a visitation from outer space, not from God? Or was he saying that these aliens were a part of God’s plan and were sent by Him? Would meeting the angels reinforce the miracle of the First Christmas or destroy it?”

“That’s for you to decide,” Chrístõ whispered to him. Terry was surprised to realise that Chrístõ had been reading his thoughts. But it was the only answer to his question.

“Chrístõ!” Terry stood suddenly and went to the window. Behind him as he stared out he heard the ladies waking up and stirring. He felt Cassie come to his side, still holding their own baby in her arms. He put his arms around her shoulder as they watched.

The sky was full of bright, silvery lights, twinkling like stars, but clearly bigger than stars. The smallest of them was the size of the moon and their light brightened the world beneath them as if there were fifty such moons in the sky. At least around Waterloo Dock, anyway. Beyond that small part of Liverpool it was still dark, still an hour to dawn, and most people were fast asleep and unaware of what was happening. But around the apartments, it was bright as day as the alien moonbeams shone down on the scene

No, not exactly day, Terry amended in his own mind. More like a floodlit football pitch. It was that sort of brighter than day kind of light that made the grass of the landscaping around the apartment seem a brighter green and the dark waters of the Mersey river shimmer like diamonds.

“They’re here,” Cassie whispered.

“They ARE beautiful,” Bo said. “Oh, they are wonderful.”

“That they are,” he admitted as he held her tightly.

“They ARE angels,” Julia said decisively, as if saying so made it true.

“Yes, they are,” Natalie agreed.

“Open the door to the balcony,” Li Tuo said. Terry went to do so. The cold night air chilled the room but nobody cared. They were too busy watching as the Antarellians drifted slowly down towards them.

Four of them hovered outside the window as Chrístõ went out onto the balcony to greet them. They were beautiful looking. At least nine feet tall, shimmering, silver Humanoids with long, graceful wings. All of the Humans thought immediately of the faery people of Princess Pelia, but these were not impossibly thin gossamer wings. These were strong, eight or nine foot span, silvery-feathered wings that looked capable of flight and folded around them as two of the angels – there was no other word for them - drew closer.

“Welcome, friends,” Chrístõ said, reaching out his hands to them. “Please enter this peaceful home where your offspring has been cared for and loved in anticipation of your arrival.”

The two Antarellians, apparently a male and female, stepped onto the balcony either side of him and he turned and walked back into the apartment. His Human friends all wondered for a moment how they would get in. Close up they seemed like giants. They couldn’t possibly get in through the door.

But as they watched the beautiful creatures seemed to diminish to the size of merely tall Humans and they stepped through the door easily. Cassie and Terry stepped forward. They held each other’s hands as they faced their wonderful guests.

“This is our home. And you are welcome. We have done what we could to look after the…. the egg… after it fell. We hope it is all right.”

“Oh!” They turned as they heard Bo gasp. She and Julia and Natalie all stood back from the egg as it changed once again. It slowly became translucent, like glass. They watched with smiles of joy on their faces as they saw the baby Antarellian inside. It was about the size of a ten year old Earth child but clearly a baby still, curled up in the widest part of the egg on what looked like a soft cushion. It was silvery coloured like the adults and glowed like them. Its wings were folded around its body and all they could see was a chubby, beautiful face like a cherub. It was sleeping contentedly.

“The child is well, indeed,” the Antarellans both said. “Our thanks to you.”

“There is… I suppose we cannot offer you food or drink…” Terry asked. “It is customary on our planet to do so for guests…”

“We do not eat or drink as you do,” one of them replied. “But your hospitality is noted. We are aware that some of your species are not kind. But we know, too, that there is good in all of you. You among your species are especially blessed.”

“Thank you,” Cassie said for them all.

“Your presence is a blessing in itself,” Chrístõ told them. “But Earth people are apt to misunderstand such blessings. And the longer you stay the more likely you are to bring those who are NOT kind.” He could hear police sirens in the distance as he stood by the window and the distant sound of a helicopter, too. Probably only the one that monitored traffic on the A59, but he really would be happier if their visitors could be gone before it changed course and headed towards them. There were going to be some fantastic rumours tomorrow as it was. He looked down and saw people standing on the path outside the apartment block, dressed in slippers and dressing gowns, and people on all the balconies, too, all staring up.

“We will go now,” the Antarellians said. And they stretched out their arms towards the egg. It glowed like a silvery moon and shuddered slightly before rising up and floating between the two parents. They turned and stepped out onto the balcony and rose up into the sky, the egg safe with them. Chrístõ stepped out behind them and Julia and Natalie both ran to his side as he watched. The others followed them out onto the balcony. They said nothing. There was nothing to say as slowly all of the Antarellian clan began to rise up with them, their light fading as they got further and further away. Chrístõ raised his hand and waved.

“Good journey,” he whispered, though they were so far away now they were indistinguishable from the stars. A moment later, the stars were obliterated by the beam of light from the traffic helicopter as it flew over the apartment and hovered over the riverside. At the same time, four police cars raced to the scene. They saw the residents of the ground floor apartments all arguing with the police, telling them that they had scared them away. With his superior hearing he heard the words ‘angels’ and ‘miracles’ and ‘aliens’ all used interchangeably as people tried to explain what had happened. Some of them pointed up at the balcony where they stood. The focus of the strange Christmas morning apparition had been identified.

“I think we ought to be not at home for an hour or two,” Chrístõ said to his friends. “While the excitement dies down, let’s take a Christmas journey in the TARDIS.”

“Where to?” Sammie asked him as they came inside and closed the balcony door behind them.

“How about a trip back 2,000 years to a small town in the middle east that had a visit from the Antarellians, too?” He smiled at Terry. “To answer the question that worried you earlier, a miracle is still a miracle even if you see it with your own eyes. So let’s go and see it.”