A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS

Chapter Nine

"Guess what!" Mandy said when she came back downstairs.

"What?" the Doctor said.

"We're gonna put up Christmas stuff now and Mommy made nachos and Daddy's gonna pop popcorn in the fire," she squealed as she ran over to them. "Mommy says she wants you to help us get all the Christmas stuff out of the storage room and we can have fun putting up the Christmas tree and stuff."

Brittany came downstairs carrying a huge platter filled with warm nachos. The nachos were laden with gooey cheese, sour cream and black olives. The rest of the family came downstairs after her and Mandy ran to the foot of the stairs.

"I told them, Mommy," she said to Lori.

"Good, baby, I'm glad you did," Lori said. "We made some nachos to snack on while we do this and Jim's gonna pop popcorn in the fireplace," she said, gesturing to her husband who was coming down behind her with a large yellow bowl and a metal popcorn popper. The popper was a large rectangular pan with a lid on top with a clasp on the side that had small holes drilled into it and a long metal handle. Jim had the oil and the popcorn inside it. He removed the fire screen and stood by the fire, holding the popper above the fire while Brittany put the platter of nachos on the sofa and the others went into the back room and brought out all the boxes holding the tree and ornaments. Brittany joined them and they carefully brought out the boxes and set them near the sofa. After they were finished, Lori turned on the TV and found a cable channel playing Christmas music. Then they proceeded to open the boxes while Lori told them what each box contained. Lori assembled the tree while Rory and Amy sat on the sofa and helped each other unravel the Christmas lights.

"I think we'll put the tree here," Lori said, pointing to the large window.

The Doctor and River helped her assemble the six foot fake tree while the children pulled figurines and non tree ornaments out of the boxes. While they did that, Jim cooked the popcorn and the sounds of popping mixed with the music coming from the TV.

Michelle pulled out a small painted ceramic Santa statue and brought it over to the Doctor.

"This is mine," Michelle said, showing it to him. "Mommy got it for me when I was a baby."

"Ooo, that means I can chuck it in a black hole then," the Doctor said.

"Noooo!" Michelle said, holding it close to her body while the Doctor and Lori laughed.

She set it down and helped her mother and aunt and uncle get the tree up. While they did that, they snacked on the nachos and popcorn after Jim was finished making it. When the tree was up, the put the lights on it and some gold garland and then put the ornaments on it. When the Doctor found the snowflake ornament in the box, he grinned and pulled it out.

"Oh! Look at this! I want this for my TARDIS!" he said, making a big show of holding it up.

"Noooo!" Michelle said, rushing to him while everyone laughed.

They spent a couple of hours decorating the house while snacking and when they finished, Jim turned off the lights downstairs and left the Christmas lights burning. Lori and Jim were about to go back upstairs with the popcorn popper when the Doctor stopped them and took them aside.

"Listen, I want to offer you the use of my TARDIS if you need any extra gifts," the Doctor said softly. "If the children wanted something and you weren't able to get it, my ship can make it for you. It's another way of saying thanks for inviting us into your family."

"Oh my God, thank you, Doctor," Lori said. "Yes, we would like to do that if you don't mind."

"My ship will be more than happy to do that for you," the Doctor said.

They thanked him and Jim patted his shoulder before the two of them went back upstairs.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

After a bit, everyone except the children decided to go to sleep. River lay with him on the sofa while everyone else slept in front of it. The Doctor and River cuddled while they stared at the lights on the tree. Eventually, River's eyelids grew heavy and after a kiss goodnight, she drifted off to sleep beside him. The Doctor stared at the lights, enjoying it and the heat of the fire. He became aware that someone was watching him and looked over at Amy. She was laying beside Rory, smiling at him and the Doctor smiled in return.

"You're at peace here," Amy said softly.

"Yes, I feel very much at peace," the Doctor said, nodding.

"I think I know why," Amy said. "It's the children. You love them dearly."

"I do," he said, glancing at Mandy and Tom who were sleeping near Amy and Rory.

"I think children bring out the best in you because in many ways, you're like a big kid," Amy said. "I think that's why you said you will interfere if children are crying. You have a special connection to them. You were the one that insisted we come back straight away and spend Christmas with them. You keep saying you don't do domestic but deep inside, Raggedy Man, I think you do yearn for a family. I'm glad they adopted you. You should have a bigger family than just the three of us."

"I do have a bigger family. All the people I've ever traveled with are my family," the Doctor said.

"Yes, but you need some children in your life. You change when you're around them. You're more relaxed and playful and you're not as…sad."

"I suppose I am," the Doctor said, nodding. "I just love this family. It's nice to take time off to relax and have fun and I'm looking forward to Christmas Eve with Alicia and Tom."

He looked over when Mandy got up and yawned. She turned and noticed the Doctor was still awake so she walked over to him.

"Gotta go pee pee," she whispered to him.

"No, I forbid that," the Doctor said while Amy chuckled.

He feigned shock when Mandy giggled and walked on to the bathroom. She was just about to go in to the bathroom when she heard a slight wheezing sound coming from the storage room. The Doctor and Amy heard it too and the Doctor jerked his head up, watching while Mandy turned on the light in the unfinished room and opened the door to the storage room. The Doctor and Amy got up when they heard the wheezing stop.

"That sounds like the TARDIS," Amy said to the Doctor while they hurried to the storage room.

Meanwhile, Mandy had switched on the light and noticed another TARDIS beside the Doctor's TARDIS. She walked over to the new TARDIS and knocked on the door. The door opened just as the Doctor and Amy ran inside the room and Ten stuck his head out and smiled at Mandy when she gave a little delighted squeal.

"You came back," she said as Ten knelt to hug her.

"Well, Donna and I decided we'd drop off a few gifts for you," Ten said, hugging her. "I see my other self is here."

"He couldn't keep away," Amy said.

"We have something for you and Donna, don't go!" Mandy said, letting go.

The Doctor and Amy stepped aside while Mandy sped out of the room.

"I figured you lot would come back but Donna insisted we leave a little something for the family as well," Ten said to his counterpart. "We tried to come back at night so we could leave the gifts without disturbing anyone."

"Well, Mandy had to go to the toilet and she was about to do that when she heard the TARDIS," the Doctor said. "Amy and I were talking but everyone else is asleep."

He smiled when Donna appeared beside Ten carrying two huge gift bags filled with gifts.

"You're awake?" Donna said to them, stepping out and looking around.

"Just us and Mandy," the Doctor said, taking the bags from her.

Mandy reappeared in the room with the adoption certificates and the Doctor chuckled.

"Oh yes, you lot have been adopted along with us," the Doctor said to Ten while Amy chuckled. "These are your formal certificates. Your last name is now Stevens."

Donna glanced at Ten and saw the stunned look on his face that melted into glee when she and him accepted the certificates.

"Mommy has a photo of us for you to hang up," Mandy said. "But I think it's in her and Daddy's bedroom right now and I can't go in there."

"That's okay, we can come back another time," Ten said.

"You're not coming with us for Christmas?" Mandy said, taking Ten's hand.

"We can't, love, but we'll come back another day," Ten said, squeezing her hand when he saw the sad look on her face. "We just wanted to bring you some gifts so you know we didn't forget about you. And thank you for adopting us."

"Wait, I wanna get my brother and sisters so they can see you," Mandy said before running out of the room again.

"So, what have you been up to lately?" the Doctor said to Ten.

"Just returned from the Oodsphere," Ten said while Donna nodded.

"Okay, well at least I know now it's early days with you and Donna," the Doctor said.

He chuckled when the children ran into the room and embraced Ten and Donna. Ten smiled when the children begged them to stay.

"I would love to but I better not, yeah?" he said to the children. "We will come back on another day when my other self isn't here. I told you before I'm not supposed to be mixing with him which is why we tried to come back when you were all asleep. But I brought you some gifts from both of us and we love that you adopted us as family now."

They hugged all the children and Ten shook his counterpart's hand and wished him and Amy a happy Christmas. The Doctor urged all the children to stand back and they waved while Ten and Donna waved back. They watched while they got into the TARDIS and when it was gone, Mandy went to the bathroom and everyone else went back to bed.

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