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Mina wiped the blood from her lips with the back of her hand.
'Mina, what have you done?' the Doctor asked.
Mina looked puzzled.
'I was hungry,' she said, 'so I drank.'
'You drank,' the Doctor repeated. 'Was it was it already dead?'
'Yes, he was,' Janine replied. 'I put Timmy out of his misery. I couldn't stand the thought of him growing up in a place like this.'
'So you killed him?'
'He'll be in a better place now,' Janine said. She turned to Mina. 'Isn't that right?'
Mina linked hands with the other woman.
'That's what they say,' she assured her.
The Doctor slammed a fist against the wall. Chips of blue paint flew off revealing the white plaster beneath.
'What is wrong with you?' he demanded.
'Wrong with us?' Mina laughed. 'There's nothing wrong with us, not anymore.'
'It's like we can see clearly for the first time in our lives,' Janine agreed.
'When I was raising Quincey,' Mina explained, 'I used to tell him things that I knew were untrue in order to get him to behave or to teach him things. And as he got older he began to learn what things were true and which were lies. Well, we've finally outgrown our parents and have exposed the lies for what they are.'
'And now we can live our lives as they were meant to be,' Janine added. 'Free from other people's shackles.'
'Who are you anyway?' Mina asked.
'Don't you recognise me, Mina?' the Doctor asked. 'No, of course you don't. I'm the Doctor.'
'No, you're not,' Mina replied.
'You'd be surprised,' the Doctor responded. 'Listen, we don't have time to debate this. Can you just accept that I'm here to help? Now, have either of you seen a red-headed boy? About so high? Yes, I thought as much. Come on, I'm getting you help.'
The Doctor left the room, then turned when he realised the women were not following.
'Well, what are you waiting for?' he asked. 'We've got to fix this before it's too late.'
'We like it here,' Mina said.
'And we don't need fixing,' Janine added.
'Look at yourselves,' the Doctor said. 'You've killed a child. You can't believe that's right?'
'Why not?' Janine asked.
'Because because all life is precious. Think of all that you've deprived him of, all the glorious things he might have done in the future. What right had you to deprive him of that?'
'Look around you,' Janine suggested. 'This was his future. What right had I to subject him to this?'
'I don't have time for this.' The Doctor grabbed both women by their wrists and dragged them from the bed.
'Ow! You're hurting me,' Mina protested.
'It's for your own good,' the Doctor replied.
* * *
Tori was standing in the alley. She did not have anywhere else to go. Someone had painted a grinning devil in green paint over the bloodstain. How easily that could have been Tori's own blood. Not that it would have made any difference. She could not even get dying right. And now..?
There was a commotion at the bottom of the stairs leading up the side of her block of flats. A black man was dragging two women with him. Tori peered closer. One of the women was her mother and the other looked like the woman she had seen in the alley yesterday.
Tori started forwards, then thought better of it. It was not her problem. Or was it? She thought of the man who had come to her rescue yesterday. It had not been his problem either, but that had not stopped him. Maybe it should have.
Tori took another step forward.
The man looked up and his eyes met Tori's.
'Stay here,' he said to the women before striding briskly in Tori's direction.
'Tori Gallagher?' he asked.
'How do you ' Tori began.
'Aren't you supposed to be dead?'
* * *
Scott grunted a greeting back in Aaron's direction. He was standing on top of the canal bridge watching two geese squabbling. If he turned his head he would be confronted by concrete, but as long as he focussed on the geese he could pretend he was in the countryside.
'You're not thinking of jumping are you?' Aaron joked. 'P'raps it runs in the family.'
'And you think that's funny, do you?'
'Oh come on, Scott,' Aaron said. 'I know she was your sister and all, but really. I only wasted my time with her because I couldn't be bothered to walk into town for some decent fun. She should have been thanking me for it.'
Scott grabbed Aaron by the lapels of his jacket and slammed him against the wall of the bridge, forcing him backward over the edge.
'Don't you ever mention my sister again,' he warned.
'Or what?' Aaron asked. 'You don't have the guts to do anything to me.'
'Oh yes, you do, don't you.' Aaron smiled. 'What would your precious sister think if she knew?'
Scott slammed him against the bridge again.
'I said '
'Hey, chill,' Aaron replied. 'I heard. I'm not going to say anything. Not as long as you help me out.'
Scott let Aaron go.
'What do you want?' he asked.
'That's better,' Aaron said, dusting off his jacket. 'You remember that guy yesterday.'
'What guy would that be? The one you murdered?'
'We murdered,' Aaron corrected. 'Your hands aren't clean either, remember.'
Scott looked away.
'What about him?'
'Seems there was a witness.'
'Hey, don't worry about it. Everything's under control. You and I are going to make sure he keeps his mouth shut. Permanently.'
* * *
'Who are you?' Tori asked.
'Someone who should probably be dead too,' the man replied, 'but you can call me the Doctor.'
'Doctor. Right. Sorry, but I left my nurse's outfit at home.'
'I don't follow,' the Doctor admitted.
'Yeah, sure you don't,' Tori said. 'So, what'll it be, a quick one against the wall or were you planning to take me home with your lady friends over there?'
'Tori, I ' The Doctor tentatively reached out a hand and brushed a strand of hair from her cheek. Tori did not flinch. She simply looked defiantly back at him.
'Well?' she demanded.
'I don't want to hurt you.'
'Bet you say that to all the girls.'
The Doctor frowned.
'You think I'm going to '
'Shouldn't you be, well, frightened of me?' the Doctor asked. 'If you really think I'm going to '
'Doesn't matter,' Tori said. 'Nothing matters any more.'
'That's not true,' the Doctor insisted. 'You're alive aren't you?'
'And therein lies the problem.'
'Ah.' The Doctor paused. 'Tori, I know that you've know reason to trust me, but please believe that I'm here to help.'
'Strangely enough, I do,' Tori admitted.
'Good.' The Doctor beamed. 'Now let's go and '
'Problem?' Tori asked. Then she followed the Doctor's gaze.
Her mother and the other women had disappeared.
* * *
A bible was open on the desk in front of Reverend Keating. He was looking up a reference to use at Tori's funeral. He had a gift for references, able to pluck something appropriate out of the ether at any given moment. Or he usually did. Today he was distracted.
Without looking up, he reached for his cup of tea. He misjudged it and caught the cup a glancing blow, knocking it over. Brown liquid seeped into his notes, causing the ink to run. With a sigh, Keating went into the kitchen to fetch a cloth. Then he started lifting items off of the desk with one hand while he attacked the growing puddle with the other.
He paused when he licked up the framed photo of him and his wife. Maureen had hated having her picture taken and she was frowning out at him.
'It was an accident,' he told her.
She continued to frown. The shadow of the church cast his younger self in shadow, but Maureen's cold eye's gleamed.
'It wasn't my fault,' Keating insisted.
Maureen's chin was slightly up-turned and she was looking down her nose at him.
'Don't be like that,' he protested. 'What should I have done? I couldn't know.'
Keating collapsed onto the settee, the picture slipping from his fingers.
'It wasn't my fault,' he insisted.
The glass shattered as the frame crashed to the floor.
* * *
'Shouldn't we go after them?' Tori asked.
They were walking past the swings, which hung motionless and neglected.
'Go where?' the Doctor asked. 'I don't know where they've gone, do you?'
'Sorry, I didn't mean to snap,' the Doctor said. 'I seem to have quite a temper in this body.'
'This body?' Tori repeated.
'Yes,' the Doctor said. 'I thought I was dead. I could feel my life slipping away. And then I woke up looking like this.'
Tori's eyes widened.
'That was you in the alley, wasn't it?' she said.
'That was me,' the Doctor agreed.
'You saved me,' she said. 'Well, except for the bit where I killed myself afterwards.'
'Yes, what happened with that?' the Doctor asked. 'Excuse me for saying so, but you don't seem to have been very successful.'
'Hey, I did my best,' Tori retorted, but she was smiling when she did so.
The Doctor beamed back.
Tori's smile disappeared.
'It's been a long time since I was happy,' she said. 'I thought there was a chance, you know. A chance I could get out of here and start up somewhere else, to start over without the baggage. But life has a habit of kicking you when you're down.'
'It's not always like that,' the Doctor insisted.
'Maybe not where you're from,' Tori replied. 'I wanted out. I took the only route available. Well, aren't you going to say something? Tell me what I did was wrong? That there must have been another way?'
The Doctor shook his head.
'I don't have that right,' he told her. 'It's your life and you have to choose your own path, however much I or anyone might disagree with it.'
'You know, it's kind of refreshing not to have someone telling me what to do all the time,' Tori remarked.
'I know what that's like,' the Doctor said. 'Now tell me how you came back.'
'My mum brought me back. Don't ask me how, but she did. Once again she happily comes along and screws up my life. Do you think I wanted to be brought back here? Do you? This is what I was trying to get away from.'
'Then why haven't you killed yourself again?' the Doctor asked. 'Don't tell me you haven't had the opportunity. You've been given a second chance. If you want to end it, no one's going to stop you, not this time.'
I I don't know what I want, not anymore,' Tori admitted.
'Now's your chance to find out,' the Doctor said.
'How come you always know the right thing to say?' Tori asked.
'One of the benefits of having lived for a very long time. You should try it,' the Doctor said. 'Don't blame your mother for wanting to bring you back. She loves you and wants to see you live a long and happy life.'
'No, no I don't think so,' the Doctor mused. 'Rather, she wants to give you all the things she never had. Perhaps it's a little selfish, but you're her chance to get it right.'
'Well, she doesn't need me for that,' Tori said. 'She's always got Timmy to mould in her image.'
'My baby brother,' Tori informed him. 'Doctor, is something wrong.'
The Doctor took a deep breath.
'There's an ice-cream van over there,' he said. 'Would you like me to buy you an ice-cream?'
* * *
Hand in hand, Janine and Mina wandered down the road, zigzagging aimlessly from side to side.
The driver of a Ford Cortina honked his horn at them.
Mina jumped at the noise and Janine giggled. Mina laughed with her.
'Hey, ladies, get off the road,' the driver shouted, honking his horn again.
'How rude,' Mina said.
'He's just trying to get what he wants,' Janine whispered in her ear. 'Isn't that how the world's supposed to work now?'
'But what about what we want?' Mina asked.
The driver stuck his head out of the window.
'Girls, not that I don't appreciate the show, but could you take it some place else. I'm in kind of a hurry.'
'Bored now,' Janine remarked.
Mina began to walk towards the car, swaying from side to side as she did so.
The man ducked back inside the car and wound the window back up.
Mina slammed her fist through the window of the driver's door and dragged the driver out through it.
'You've been very rude,' she scolded him.
Blood trickled into the driver's eyes from a cut in his forehead, but he still stood his ground.
'I'm rude, lady?' he said. 'Look at what you did to my car.'
'Down boy.' Mina backhanded the driver across his face and he fell onto his backside in the middle of the road.
Mina crouched down and cupped the man's head in her hands. Her right hand still had glass fragments embedded in it and she ground these against his cheek.
'I can't abide rudeness,' she said.
'I think we should punish him,' Janine commented.
'L-listen, now I enjoy those sort of games as much as the next man, but '
'Poor little boy,' Janine said, a half-smile gracing her face.
'He doesn't see the truth the way we do,' Mina agreed.
'How can he cope, living through each day like that?' Janine asked.
'He must be in such pain,' Mina said. 'It would be a mercy to put him down.'
Mina tightened her grip on the driver's skull.
'P-please. I've got a wife and k-kids,' the driver begged. 'Please don't do this to me.'
'Don't worry about them,' Janine told him. 'We can always put them out of their misery for you later.'
Mina tensed, preparing to snap the driver's neck.
'Please, think about what you're doing,' the driver pleaded.
Mina met his gaze and read the terror in his eyes. He was petrified. Of her.
She let go of him and his scrambled backwards until he was able to get to his feet and run off.
Janine started after him, but Mina held up a hand to stop her.
'Something's wrong,' she said. 'I wanted to kill him, but there was a voice in my head telling me not to. She was telling me that it was wrong.'
'Wrong?' Janine asked. 'Why?'
'I don't know,' Mina said. 'Nothing makes sense anymore. Everything's supposed to be so clear, but there's this buzzing in the back of my mind.'
'It's that's kid's fault,' Janine said. 'He did this to us.'
'Do you think he can make the buzzing go away?' Mina asked.
'Only one way to find out.' Janine said.
They joined hands once again and continued walking down the road. As they did so, Mina started licking the blood from her wounded hand.
* * *
Tori bit into the flake of her 99 and it crumbled, scattering pieces of chocolate over her face. She and the Doctor were sitting on the swings.
'Here,' the Doctor said, offering her a handkerchief. He started on his raspberry ripple while Tori cleaned herself up.
'Good?' she asked.
'Not bad,' he said, 'not bad at all. I've tasted better, but you have to travel halfway across the galaxy for that.'
'Halfway across the galaxy,' Tori repeated. 'One of us is crazy and I'm pretty sure it isn't me.'
'Because your actions have been really sane lately,' the Doctor retorted.
Tori stuck an ice-cream covered tongue out at him.
'Do you really expect me to believe that you've never looked up at the night sky and wondered if there was anyone else out there?' the Doctor asked.
'Course I've wondered,' Tori said. 'Doesn't mean I expect to ever meet any of them.'
'Well, say hello to your first alien.'
'Yeah, sure,' Tori retorted sarcastically. 'Hang on, you're serious about this, aren't you?'
'I'm not human, Tori,' the Doctor admitted. 'Not entirely, anyway.'
'And I suppose you parked your spaceship just down the road.'
'Not too far from here, yes. I must say, you're taking this very calmly.'
'Well, it's not as if my life can get much weirder. Plus, it explains a few things.'
'You going to eat that?' Tori asked, indicating the Doctor's neglected ice-cream cone.
'Be my guest.'
Tori took a large bit out of the wafer.
'Be honest, would anyone human have come charging in like that yesterday?'
'I don't follow.'
'Oh come one, nobody just helps anyone else anymore and they certainly don't put their life at risk. Everyone's got an angle. I couldn't figure yours out before, but now I guess it's some kind of mysterious alien motive mere humans aren't meant to understand.'
'I can't just have been trying to do the right thing?' the Doctor asked.
'Guys like that only exist in books and movies,' Tori replied.
'Guess someone forgot to tell me,' the Doctor remarked.
Tori cocked her head to one side and looked at the duffel-coated figure sitting on the swing next to her.
'You're really for real, aren't you,' she said. 'Promise me one thing. When this is all over, will you take me away with you?'
* * *
'Hello? Mrs Beckett, is that you?'
Reverend Keating clambered down from the pulpit. He had wanted to have one more run through of his sermon. It still was not quite right and he had hoped that hearing it in the atmosphere of the church might help him polish it up. But before he had even started to read from his notes, he had heard a commotion from down the nave.
Kaeting had only turned the pulpit light on, so the rest of the church was still shrouded in semi-darkness. He could see someone by the West Door, but he could not tell who it was.
'Mrs Beckett? Doctor?'
The shadow had gone, but Keating was sure that the intruder was still there. Intruder? That was an interesting choice of words. Surely everyone was welcome in the house of God.
'Hello?' he called again. 'I know you're still here.'
There was a scuffle behind him and Keating whirled around. He turned too fast and banged his calf against the end of one of the pews. His face creased in pain and he bent down to examine the damage.
'Hello, vicar,' a voice whispered in his ear. 'I've come home.'
* * *
'You're thinking, aren't you,' Tori deduced. 'Either that or you're desperate for the loo. I've still got the key to my mum's flat if you want.'
'No, thank you,' the Doctor said, 'and yes, I am thinking. You're mum brought you back to life and I'm guessing that Mina did the same for me. It can't be coincidence that both of them are now displaying abnormal behaviour.'
'Abnormal? In what way?' Tori asked.
'That doesn't matter right now,' the Doctor said hurriedly. 'What does matter is trying to figure out how they brought us back. I don't suppose you mother, or anyone else in your family for that matter, has ever been interested in voodoo.'
'Well, that answers that question.' The Doctor got up from his swing and began to pace. 'Someone brought us back. They would have had to bend reality to do it and that's not supposed to be possible. But given that it obviously is, we can posit a third party of some power. A third party who used their power on behalf of both your mother and my friend. But why?'
'Altruism?' Tori suggested.
'I thought you were supposed to be cynical,' the Doctor commented. 'No, if I'm right, I've already met this individual and '
'And?' Tori prompted.
'He scares me,' the Doctor admitted. 'No, if he helped to bring us back it's because he wants something. And power like that doesn't come cheap. Don't you think it's odd that he just happened to be around when your mother was desperate to bring you back?'
'You mean he's been waiting until she was at her weakest and then he makes her an offer she can't refuse?'
'Yes, and once she's given him what he wants there's no going back.'
Tori thought for a moment.
'You know what this reminds me of?' she asked.
'Yes, I think I do,' the Doctor responded. 'I wonder if our serpent believes his own hype?'
* * *
Mina eased open the heavy doors of the church.
'He's here,' she said. 'It's almost as if I can smell him.'
'No, not smell,' Janine corrected. 'Taste. There's a new flavour in the air.'
'And what, pray tell, do I taste like,' the boy asked. 'Something suitably revolting I trust.'
The boy was standing in the pulpit. He was barely tall enough to see over the top. The vicar lay at the bottom of the steps, his left leg twisted at an unnatural angle.
'Don't mind the vicar,' the boy told the women. 'He still clings to the old regime. I did try to re-educate him, but well, to be honest, he isn't really that interesting. You two on the other hand, you understand me, don't you?'
'I want to,' Mina said, 'but there's this voice in my mind that's confusing me.'
The boy's face twisted into a snarl.
'Still the old regime taints you.' He turned to face the altar. 'You can't leave well enough alone, can you? Do you really think you're still relevant here?' He turned back to Mina. 'Don't worry, my child,' he told her. 'Very soon now we'll silence that pesky little voice once and for all. We're just waiting for the guest of honour to arrive so that we can start the final act.'
The West Door swung open once again.
'Ah, Doctor,' the boy said, 'you took your time.'
'I was under the impression I was already the late Doctor,' the Doctor quipped.
'Very witty,' the boy said. 'Yes, it's true that you and your lovely young companion both owe your lives to me. Feel free to say thank you any time now.'
'Some favours aren't worth the price asked for them,' the Doctor said. 'What did you charge for our lives.'
'Nothing these young ladies couldn't afford, I promise you,' the boy said.
Tori was ignoring the boy in favour of her mother.
'Mum?' she said.
'Tori,' Janine responded. 'What are you doing here?'
'I came to find you,' Tori answered. 'Mum, I'm sorry. For everything.'
'Sorry?' Janine frowned. 'What do you want to be sorry for? You took what you wanted with no regard for anyone else. Isn't that how the world's supposed to work?'
'If you still want to be dead, Tori, I'll understand,' Janine continued. 'I'll help if you like.'
'Stay away from her,' the Doctor commanded, interposing himself between Janine and her daughter. He turned to the boy. 'I'll ask you again, what have you done to them.'
'Oh, it's really very simple,' the boy explained. 'They've traded me their souls and there's nothing you can do about it.'
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