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December 25th: Sleigh Bells Ringing

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Spencer had already had a long night and rarely had he been so unenthusiastic about going on his yearly trip around the world as tonight. Crawling into bed with a man he loved on Christmas Eve was not conducive to leaving again as soon as said man had fallen asleep.

That Aaron had gotten them both tired by taking his time ravishing Spencer to within an inch of his current life hardly helped.

But he’d decided long ago to take on the mantle of Santa, and that came with responsibilities. More importantly, he owed a very old and dear friend this night of travelling.

And so he’d carefully extricated himself from Aaron’s arms as soon as his lover was sound asleep and after a quick shower left the apartment - not through the front door, mind you. Now he was back where he started, even though his duties weren’t completed yet. This visit in the Hotchner’s living room was just the regular stop to drop of Santa’s gift for Jack. He could have placed it under the tree when he was all done just as well, but he liked the routine of making the stop as he started working his way westwards through the United States.

What he hadn’t expected was for someone to be waiting for him in the living room.

“Jack Hotchner. Shouldn’t you be in bed?” he asked in a perfect imitation of last year’s encounter. Only it had even less of an impact because Jack was much more comfortable with the situation.

“Hi, Spencer! I want to come and help you deliver gifts tonight. Can I? Please?” He tried to just ignore the question about the sleep he was supposed to get right now.

“It’s not all that exciting, Jack. Just a lot of living rooms and I rarely stay more than a minute in each.”

“But the way you described how you travel sounded so brilliant. I really want to do that, to go on an adventure. Dad gets to go all the time. And I know it’s his job and often dangerous and no fun but still, he gets to go and see places and fly in a jet and everything. This could be an adventure for me. Something nobody else has done.”

“Jack,” Spencer knelt down in front of where the excited boy was sitting in the same armchair as last year, “you couldn’t tell anyone about this anyway. This has to stay a total secret.”

“I know.” Jack looked as serious as he probably could. “I get that, I really do. But it would be something I know and others don’t. And it sounded utterly fantastic, and I’d like to experience something fantastic. All the extraordinary things that happened in my life so far were kinda horrible.” He looked down, and Spencer knew he had lost the battle already.

He was pants at resisting children and their wishes, that’s what started the whole Santa thing in the first place. And Jack had become very important to him over the last year, just like his father. The boy was right in that the universe probably owed him a little compensation for all the bad experiences it had thrown at him already, especially because Jack took it all so well.

Spencer let out a sigh. As the universe was perpetually busy, it seemed to fall to him to deliver said compensation. “Okay, you can come along. But-” Spencer had to raise his voice over the cheers erupting from Jack, “when you get tired, you’ll go to bed on board while I finish the trip. That way you’ll be at least very well rested come morning.”

“Okay,” Jack agreed with a put-upon sigh. “There’s a bed aboard your… I guess you’re not using a sleigh, are you?”

Spencer had to laugh at that. “No, I’m not. I travel with a special type of space- and timeship called a Tardis. She could normally make herself look like anything she wanted to, including a sleigh. But for the time being, she’s always invisible. And she’s pretty big on the inside, so I have enough beds for you to choose from. Deal?”

“Yes!” Jack nodded enthusiastically and jumped to his feet. He dashed over to the door to put on proper shoes but Spencer held him back.

“You won’t need those. We’re not walking around outside after all.” He placed his gift under the tree and then brushed a line down an empty strip of wall that opened like a door to a warmly lit room.

Jack stood on the threshold with his mouth gaping open, his eyes darting around, trying to take in everything all at once. “Wow.” The word was breathless when it found its way out of his throat.

“Come on. We still have a lot of houses to visit tonight.”

Jack fully stepped inside and slowly walked around the central console once, running his fingers along the edge but carefully avoiding to touch anything. “How does this work?”

“That explanation would take much, much longer than one night, even this very special one, and I’m not sure it would make much sense to you anyway. Take a seat and let’s pop a few streets over.”

Jack dropped onto the old-fashioned and worn leather couch at the edge of the central area.

When Spencer had set all the coordinates and pulled the lever to dematerialise his Tardis, she surprised him by engaging her engines with a tinkling sound like actual sleigh bells. It had the effect she wanted in making Jack’s mouth gape open again, this time with a layer of brilliant smile added to it. Spencer just shook his head and nudged the console with his hip. “Showoff.”

When they landed again only seconds later and Spencer opened the door to place his presents, Jack followed after him and looked around. “Hold on; this is Aliyah’s home. I’ve been here when we worked on our group project for history together. But she lives eight blocks away. Why didn’t we do the other kids in our apartment building first?”

“We’re already stretching the possibilities of this type of travel as it is. Think about it. If I have only the tiny fraction of a second to stop at every child’s home but need to walk over to the tree, place my gifts, and walk back again, how can that work out?”

“Not to mention the occasional kid that stayed up to have their theory proven.” Jack was murmuring under his breath while he thought through the question. “Oh! You have to be at many places at once!”

“Exactly. And while time might flow differently between us travelling with the Tardis and the outside world, we’re still moving through it. And so is the Tardis itself, it moves through time and space and that creates ripples that can create interference when they run into each other too quickly. Making stops over a larger area with more distance covered from one to the next gives the ripples room to run their course and fade while we’re elsewhere.”

“Like throwing stones into a lake far enough apart so each can make its own circle of waves? When you throw them too closely together, it ends up just a jumbled mess of disturbed water.”

“Exactly, that’s a good analogy. And when one circle has dissipated, you can drop a stone in the same spot and let it have his own set of ripples. In our case the jumbled mess of disturbance wouldn’t just be less pretty, it could do actual damage to time and space, not that those can’t heal themselves, but we most definitely don’t want to get caught up in that.”

“Got it. I think.”

Spencer just smiled at Jack. It wasn’t an easy thing to wrap one’s mind around.

They had placed the presents for Jack’s friend and her little brother, had stepped back into the Tardis already, and were now on their way to the next stop. And that’s how the night went on for the next almost three hours - at least in their subjective timeline. Jack was eager to help at first and always took a curious look around the various living rooms. Spencer wondered if there wasn’t already a touch of the profiling habits of his father in the boy.

Much later than Spencer had expected, Jack’s enthusiasm was waning and he opted to explore the control room and the adjoining areas rather than the places outside the Tardis. Spencer didn’t mind. He knew his trusty ship would never let the boy come to harm or get lost, so he just carried on with his task.

Only when Jack ended up sitting on the couch in the control room for five stops in a row, Spencer sat down beside him. “You holding up alright?”

“Yeah. This is a great experience, really. Your Tardis is awesome! It’s just… nevermind.”

“No. What’s it, Jack? You can tell me.”

“I guess I was hoping that you could somehow see how the travelling works. You know, like looking outside of a window when you’re on a plane or a ship. But there aren’t any windows.”

“Ah.” Spencer leaned back against the backrest. “The problem with that is, that we’re not travelling within the normal three dimensions you’re used to. It isn’t something your senses can perceive and even if they could, your mind couldn’t make sense of it. That has nothing to do with you being too young or stupid, not at all. But your senses and mind have developed in a four-dimensional environment and throughout evolution, that’s what they have adapted to, mostly just the three dimension of space. Most people literally have a terrible sense of time. It simply wouldn’t make sense for them to be set up for anything else.”

“Sounds a bit like bees seeing flowers differently because they see different wavelengths of light.”

“Almost. Bees still see in essentially the same way you do, just in a different range. But if you think of dolphins and their echolocation sense, something you don’t have at all, that’s a pretty good comparison. I can literally feel the fabric of space and time moving around us, but it’s nothing like how I feel touch on my skin. I can’t put into words properly but, for me, it’s always there.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully, trying to take it all in. “Still a shame though, that I can’t really see it.” The disappointment came through clearly in his voice and posture.

“Tell you what; there is something truly awesome I can show you. Not quite as mind-boggling as travelling between the dimensions but I think it’s absolutely beautiful.”

“Do we have time for that? I don’t want to be the reason some kids don’t get their gifts from you.”

“Don’t you worry about that, Jack. I can always make up lost time, trust me.” He got up to put new coordinates into the system and had to smile when they were already there on the screen. His old friend truly knew him well. Pulling the lever to get them going, he then walked over to a cupboard in the wall near the entrance doors and fished out a pair of old-fashioned leather boots and one of his oversized cardigans. “Here, put these on. Looks like we’re walking around outside after all.”

He had to dig out a pair of thick wool socks as well to make the boots fit better. In the end, Jack looked rather funny with his pyjamas pushed into the boots and the cable knit cardigan falling to his knees, the sleeves rolled up around his wrists.

“That should keep you warm enough.”

“Where are we going?”

Spencer flipped the lever again to make them rematerialise and then strolled over to the doors, throwing them open theatrically. “The Sahara desert.”

Jack walked up to the doors and peered out a little sceptically. “Isn’t the desert supposed to be warm?”

“Not necessarily. There are all kinds of deserts, some hot, some cold. The Sahara is plenty warm during the day but temperatures drop significantly during the night, hence you being all wrapped up in snuggly wool. Come on.” He stepped outside and Jack followed hesitantly.

Jack looked around and took in the endless expanses of sand and darkness all around them. He crouched down to run some of that sand through his fingers, letting the wind take the lighter grains with it. “This is cool, I guess, but…” he trailed off. He’d looked up at Spencer from his crouch and had noticed the sky.

Spencer raised one eyebrow and pointed upwards and behind Jack.

The boy slowly let his gaze travel across the night sky littered with myriads of stars, his mouth dropping open yet again. When he had completed almost a 180° turn, he sat down on his butt with a little thud and a quiet “Wow!”

There, spanning the sky above the horizon, was a wide and swirling band of stars clearly set apart from the tiny twinkles all over the rest of the sky.

“That’s the Milky Way, right?”

“Yes, it is indeed.” Spencer settled in cross-legged beside him, not saying anything else. He wanted Jack to enjoy this and take it in in his own time. He also didn’t mind enjoying it himself. It had been a few years since he had taken the time to do this.

“I… There are soooo many stars! I mean, I knew the light in the cities blocks out a lot of them but I never imagined it to look anything like this.”

Spencer was pleased with the effect of his surprise. With Jack’s interest in astronomy still going strong it had been a fairly safe bet but it still always nice to get it right. It was also nice to be present to see the reception of his gifts; he didn’t usually get that.

They just sat there admiring the vastness of the universe for a long time until Jack let out a spectacular yawn.

“Okay, young man, that’s it. Off to bed with you and I have to get back to delivering Santa’s presents.”

“But Spencer…” Jack tried to whine and argue.

“No argument, Jack, you made me a promise. You don’t want me to start an actual naughty list, do you?”

Jack’s shoulders slumped but he got up and dusted the sand off his butt. He shuffled into the Tardis that had been waiting with open doors for them, turning around for one last wistful look at the breathtaking view before entering and making his way towards the bedrooms he’d found during his earlier explorations.

Spencer tucked him in, smiling at how quickly he was dropping off despite his best efforts. The first trip through space and time could have that effect on people.

 


 

 

All presents delivered, he landed in the Hotchner’s living room yet again and carried a still sleeping Jack towards his bedroom. Given his stature and Jack’s weight, he should appear to struggle more but there was no one around to pretend for, so he had no need to bother.

Or so he thought.

“Nice of you to show up again with my wayward son.”

“Jesus, what’s it with Hotchner men sitting in that chair when I happen to pop in?!” Aaron really had caught him by surprise and his only excuse was that the long night of playing Santa was catching up with him.

“I hope you have an explanation for all this,” Aaron waved a hand in an encompassing gesture, SAIC glare firmly in place. “All I’ve got is a note from Jack saying ‘Don’t worry, Dad, I’m helping Spencer deliver gifts’.”

“Oops. I guess my lack of parental experience is showing. I didn’t even think about leaving you a note when Jack begged me to come along. I’m glad he thought of it. Sorry.” He looked sheepish and hoped his lover would forgive him. In hindsight, he could slap himself for being so thoughtless but there were things even he couldn’t fix. “Do you mind if I put Jack to bed before I explain everything?”

Aaron waved towards the bedrooms. “That better be one very good explanation.”

Spencer tried to stall for time by making sure Jack was tucked in comfortably but eventually he had to decide how to approach this and face the music.

When he walked into the living area of the apartment, he found Aaron standing in the open doors of his Tardis peering inside. She must have decided to be her own brand of helpful and left them open.

“I don’t think I’m creative enough to hallucinate something like this but I also can’t quite believe my eyes. What’s going on, Spencer?”

Spencer took in a deep breath when Aaron’s inquisitive stare was turned on him. “It’s called a Tardis and it is a sentient space- and timeship.”

“Are you from the future?”

“No, not really. I’m an alien, though I’ve lived on earth so long that I’d rather think of myself as a naturalised citizen.”

“I never imagined aliens to look so much like us.”

“Efficient forms have a habit of developing in many places independently, but how much alike our two species look is rather astonishing, at least on the outside. You’re taking this rather well.”

“I’m still processing.” Aaron kept staring at him for a little longer before turning back towards the Tardis and bracing an arm against the door jamb. “So what’s the deal with the presents?”

“The whole Santa myth took shape and spread over the world and at some point, I thought it might be fun to add some substance, so I started delivering one present to each child all over the world. It was born partially out of boredom but I also quite enjoy the task.”

Aaron nodded thoughtfully. “How did Jack even know about it and why didn’t you tell me?”

Spencer sighed deeply at the trace of hurt in Aaron’s voice.

“Jack found out Santa was real last year when he waited up for me to test his theory. He didn’t know it was me until the day you asked me out on our first date. I thought he deserved to know because it was actually the fulfilment of the one wish he told me, the one thing he asked for.”

“What was that?”

“For you to not be so lonely anymore and find someone to love again.” Spencer allowed Aaron his silence as the man swallowed heavily at this revelation.

“So are you dating me because my son made a wish?”

“Please, Aaron, don’t do that to either of us. We’d been flirting for so long at that point, I was tempted to push the issue myself if only I’d been sure you were ready for it.”

Aaron nodded his acceptance. “So my son has known I was dating an alien pretend Santa for the whole last year. I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“Well, sort of. He’s known that I’m taking on the role of Santa and I think he has an inkling that I might not be human but I haven’t outright told him that part.” He could almost see Aaron still struggle with truly believing the whole thing, so he made a split second decision. “Come on. We have time for one quick trip.” He grabbed Aaron’s hand and dragged him into the Tardis, glad that his lover didn’t pull his hand away and actually followed him inside.

“Where are we going?”

“Hmmm, let’s see.” Spencer tapped his bottom lip in thought. “What’s something unimaginable that you’d enjoy? Oh! I think I know. Just a sec.” He whizzed around the console and got them going. The Tardis responded to his commands by dematerialising with the same jingle of sleigh bells as earlier.

Aaron looked around puzzled by the sound.

“Never mind her. The bells aren’t a normal feature. It’s just something she did earlier to amuse Jack and I think now it’s an expression of her own excitement.”

“You said the ship was sentient, right. I don’t have any frame of reference for this.”

“I know. It’s fine.”

“Is it just a convention to speak of a ship as female or does she actually have a gender in our sense of the word?”

“Neither and both? There is no biological component to it but there are two fairly distinct sets of personality traits that most Tardisses fall into. Most of them are comfortable with that being translated as male and female gender as it lines up with some of our gender stereotypes. The system isn’t perfect but works for the most part. And those who don’t feel they fit into either let people know what they would prefer. I’m sorry if that is yet another strange concept to wrap your mind around.”

“That’s hardly the most difficult right now. If you look at the whole transgender spectrum, there are certainly enough people on earth who feel that their gender identity isn’t rooted in or limited by their biology. And I don’t think a species that is so strongly defined by the abilities of its mind should tie itself down to the seemingly black and white differences of physiology. Why shouldn’t there be a species out in the universe that exclusively defines their identity by character traits? I’m more stuck on the fact that there are actually alien species out there and I’m currently in the presence of two.”

It was at that point that the Tardis landed and Spencer got a feeling of her being very pleased with Aaron.

He again took Aaron’s hand as he led him to the doors. Giving the strong fingers a little squeeze he pulled the doors open. “Welcome to the moon.”

Aaron literally held his breath at the sight of the rough greyish surface and the sight of Earth hanging in the sky.

Spencer bumped their shoulders together with a chuckle. “Breath, Aaron.”

His lover did as instructed but didn’t seem all that comfortable. “But… shouldn’t there be a vacuum?”

“Yes, it should and it is, so don’t wander off too far. But the Tardis can extend her atmosphere a little bit outwards, enough for you to feel what it’s like to walk on the moon.” He gave him an encouraging push in the small of the back and Aaron stepped outside.

“God, this feels weird. A bit like being in a rollercoaster but without the movement. That’s the only thing I can think of that makes me feel light like this. How far can I go and be safe?”

“There’s a slight shimmer all around you. That’s the field that holds in the atmosphere. But don’t worry, it’ll hold you back as well. You could push through if you were really determined, but you can’t stumble outside by accident.”

Aaron hopped around a little in the reduced gravity and the bursts of laughter that elicited made Spencer smile and join him. Aaron paused every now and then to brush around the dust and small rocks on the ground and in a gesture eerily reminiscent of his son earlier he let the moon dust run through his fingers. Only this time there was no wind to carry any of it away.

“This is completely unbelievable.” He shook his head but suddenly looked up at Spencer with an expression of shock. “Please tell me you didn’t bring Jack up here.”

“No, I didn’t. The risk of him slipping up and saying the wrong thing was too high. I took him to the Sahara to enjoy a proper look at the night sky with all its stars and the Milky Way. If he slips up about that, he can always brush it off as having seen pictures.”

Aaron nodded and stood up, his eyes fixed on the blue, green and white ball in the sky that was Earth. “She looks so beautiful and peaceful from up here. And so fragile.”

“She’s strong a resilient, just like her people. And there’s lots of beauty to be found down on her surface as well.”

“I know. But sometimes it’s so easy to forget when you’re confronted with the worst humanity has to offer all the time.”

“You just have to remember that humanity includes a lot more people like your curious, optimistic, generous son, whose only wish was for his dad to find happiness. And people like you who dedicate their lives to the protection of others. Every culture has its monsters. It’s about how hard the others fight those monsters.”

Aaron looked at him long and hard and Spencer didn’t know what he was looking for. When Aaron’s eyes softened and his lips moved into a smile, Spencer figured he had found it.

“You look good in that suit. I don’t think I’ve said that earlier.” This time it was Aaron who reached for Spencer’s hand and pulled him close and into an embrace.

They were distracted by a rumbling sound from the Tardis.

“What’s wrong?”

“Our time is almost over. We have to make it home in time, or we’ll be stuck.”

“That sounds an awful lot like Cinderella’s fairy magic ending on the stroke of midnight.”

“Something like that. You better make sure you’ve watched your fill of that view.” He pointed towards Earth but Aaron didn’t turn around.

“I think I’d much rather watch my fill of you. Because I’m seeing you, the real you, for the first time. And that’s even more amazing.”

“So, you’re not super freaked and mad at me and want me gone from your life?”

“Do you mean Jack or me any harm?”

“Of course not!”

“Then I have nothing to worry about. Has anything about our relationship been fake?”

“No. I neither would nor could ever pretend to love someone.”

“And do you? We never say it, Spencer. And I know I’m as much to blame for that, but in the face of all of this,” he gestured around them, “I think I’d like to hear it. Because I do love you, mind-boggling secrets and all. I love you, Spencer Reid.”

“I love you, too, Aaron Hotchner. I love you more than is probably good for me.” He didn’t get any further because Aaron was kissing him with a knee-weakening tenderness. His lover was cradling his head in his hands and Spencer looped his arms around Aaron’s waist, pulling them as close together as he could.

He lost all feeling of time, and for a Timelord, that was saying something. When they finally did pull apart, they were both smiling like loons.

“Now I can say that kissing you feels like being among the stars, and nobody will know how much I mean it.” The sparkle of joy in Aaron’s eyes made Spencer’s hearts swell with love. He wanted to put that look there a lot more.

The moment was interrupted by a repeat of the rumbling noise with an urgent whine mixed in coming out of the Tardis. “We really have to go now.” Spencer physically pulled Aaron along, slammed the doors and hit the button for their home coordinates, then pulled the lever to get them going. The trip was a bit bumpy but they materialised safely.

Exiting the Tardis, they found themselves in the toy section of Spencer’s shop, the door having appeared in a freestanding shelving unit full of board games.

“Why did you bring us here?” Aaron sounded surprised rather than angry.

“We were cutting it close, so I had to take her home. Otherwise, she might have gotten stuck attached to your apartment wall for the next year and I’ve had, let’s say, mixed experiences with her in places I can’t properly control. Good thing you picked me up yesterday. We can take my car to get back to yours.”

He stepped back into the Tardis to shut down some systems properly and make sure she was doing okay. “There old girl, back home safe and sound. Did you enjoy our adventures this year?” The content hum and gentle pulsing of light from the centre console was all the answer he needed. “I should take you away from the planet more often. Just little hops around the solar system, we can manage to fit those in every Christmas night. Would you enjoy that, Diana?” This time he got a chirping noise in response.

“Sounds like she approves of your idea. Maybe we could make it a family trip one of these days,” Aaron had stepped up behind him and slung his arms around Spencer’s waist.

“Yes, maybe. I think she enjoyed having somebody else aboard than just me. She gets lonely, which is why I have her in the shop rather than in my apartment. She especially enjoys having the kids running around her. Okay, we’re all set to go. Good night, Diana!”

“Sweet dreams, Diana. It was very nice to meet you. And thanks for the adventure.” The way Aaron actually addressed his old friend as a person rather than treat her like a vehicle made Spencer fall in love a little more and he showed it by pulling Aaron into a very enthusiastic snog. “Whatever that was for, I need to do it more often.”

“Just stay your respectful and accepting self. I’m sure I’ll find more reasons to snog you.”

Spencer was exhausted enough to let Aaron drive them back to the apartment, their hands resting on his thigh with entwined fingers.

“Why is your Tardis called Diana? Seems a very human name. I guess that’s true about yours as well,” Aaron asked in a pondering tone.

“Spencer isn’t my real name, but it’s fairly close and you’d have an absolutely horrible time trying to pronounce it. I’ve had this name for a long time and I’ve grown very fond of it, especially the way you say it when you slip into your southern accent every now and then.”

Aaron blushed at that. “I do not.”

“Yes you do, mostly when you’re really tired. It’s both cute and sexy. Diana’s name came about when we were visiting the ancient Roman Empire. We ended up staying in a small temple dedicated to Diana for a while. The ancient worldview being what it was, when the people noticed some of the effects the presence of my Tardis had, they attributed them to the goddess. I started calling her Diana as a joke, but she liked it and it stuck.”

Aaron parked the car in one of the visitor spots and they made their way up to the apartment in silence. After a quick check on Jack, they curled up in bed together.

“You have no idea how glad I am to still be here right now,” Spencer said. “I wasn’t at all sure how you’d take the whole thing and the fact that I had kept it a secret from you.”

Aaron took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all but I also know that some things can’t be shared straight away and then there’s no good way to broach them later. Do you want to tell me what held you back specifically?”

“Partly I just wanted to see if we would really work out before I dragged you into that kind of knowledge. I haven’t allowed myself to fall for a human in a very long time and I just  wanted to be sure.”

“And the other part?”

“Would you have believed me? If I hadn’t been able to show you all I did tonight? If Diana had been little more than a curiously designed room hidden in my shop? Would you have believed me or would you have thought me insane and potentially dangerous?”

“I’d like to think I’d given you the benefit of the doubt but it would have been difficult and potentially damaging to our relationship, that’s true. But what’s with the time limit on Diana’s ability to travel anyway? That doesn’t sound the most practical.”

“No, it isn’t. And it isn’t the normal way these things go. Diana got hurt when we stumbled into a big space fight we had nothing to do with. It pushed us off course and right into an ionic storm that flushed her already vulnerable systems. She made an emergency landing and picked Earth for it. Her or my homeworld would have been better places to find help, but Earth was closer to our trajectory at the time and therefore less taxing on her navigation systems. And we’ve both been always partial to your world. I blame my mentor.

“Anyway, here we were and I did my best to help her heal. She got better but some of her systems took irreparable damage and she will never do large jumps through time or space again. And even small hops around the planet or solar system and a few hours back and forth only work under special conditions - tailwinds if you like.”

“Is she in any pain?”

“No, she’s fine but thanks for asking. She’s just stuck here and now.”

“And the tailwinds are somehow tied to Christmas? You’re not going to tell me it’s the magic of the season.”

Spencer chuckled. “No, you’re a little too old for that explanation. And the tailwinds are a quirk of this region of the universe that happens to coincide with your Christmas celebrations. It ripples and folds time and space in such a way that Diana can slide along those folds, costing her less energy and effort. Once the conditions smooth out again, she can’t create the bends needed for travelling herself like she normally would.”

“And can’t somebody from your planet or hers come and pick you up? Help her get better at home?”

“Do you want to get rid of me?” Spencer asked teasingly.

“No! No, not at all.” Aaron tightened his arms around Spencer at the thought. “I just somewhat understand the feeling of being stuck and unable to act as you want to. So if there’s a way to make her better, I would want that for her.”

“That’s sweet of you. But the problem is that she healed here and the specific energy of Earth and its surroundings bled into her systems while she did so. Now she can’t be separated from it. I had lots of offers to take me back home and quite frankly, my people think me a little mad that I prefer to stay here with Diana. But she’s my friend, has been for a long time. And Tardisses form relationships with their travellers; it gives them purpose. Without such a purpose they wither and die. What kind of friend would I be if I just left her to such a fate?”

Aaron just hummed in understanding and slowly stroked his hand up and down Spencer’s back. “I won’t complain if it means that I get to keep you.”

“Who says I’m not the one keeping you?”

“I don’t mind. Being a kept man has its advantages.” Aaron’s voice was slipping into his accent again but Spencer didn’t think it wise to point it out to him. His lover let out a spectacular yawn and snuggled impossibly closer. “I know there’s more we haven’t addressed but I’m too tired to do that tonight. Sweet dreams, Luv. And Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Aaron. I love you - with both my hearts.”