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The Doctor's eyes narrowed as he studied Nana, Violet and the baby.
'Megaera, Tisiphone and Alecto,' he said slowly. 'Maid, mother and crone together.'
'Did you hear what he called me?' Nana said. 'The cheek of it.'
'We are the Three-Who-Are-One,' Violet said.
'We are the Kindly Ones,' the baby continued, blinking her frog-like eyes.
'You are the Furies,' the Doctor said.
'You know these three?' Ellie asked him.
'We've met before,' the Doctor said, not taking his eyes from the Furies. 'They see themselves as a form of classical justice.'
'We are justice,' Violet said.
'We punish those who spill the blood of their own kin,' Nana added. 'That is the way of it.'
'You kill,' Dr Smith said. 'How are you any better than those you take it upon yourselves to punish?'
'We are the Furies,' the baby said. 'Our role is ordained.'
'Fate?' the Doctor asks. 'I don't believe in it.'
'So what are you doing here?' Ellie asked the Furies. She had crossed the hallway to stand with the Doctor and Mr Tapton - or Patton, or whoever he was - the three of them arranged against the three women.
'Haven't you guessed, girl?' Nana asked.
'We are here to right a wrong,' Violet said.
'One hundred years in the making,' the baby added.
'I'll stop you,' the Doctor said. 'There's been too much killing already.'
'We hope you try,' the baby said.
'We would revel in the chance to punish you for your interference,' Violet said.
'Especially after our last encounter,' Nana added.
'I don't have time for this,' the Doctor said, storming past the Furies and up the stairs.
'Try your hardest,' Nana cackled after him. 'It won't be enough.'
'I don't understand,' Ellie whispered to Tapton. 'Who are these people? What's Dr Smith doing here? Basically, what is going on?'
'If all goes well, Miss Walker,' Tapton replied, 'this will be the final move in a game begun a century ago. The Doctor made a promise to Lord Searle that he would do whatever was in his power to save his daughter. He is here now to make good on that promise. The Furies, I suspect, are also here to fulfil a promise, one to avenge the spilling on kin-blood. Regrettably, I fear that their respective oaths have drawn them into conflict.'
'And what about you?' Ellie asked. 'Where do you fit into this? Are you Mr Tapton or Reverend Patton or what?'
'What? A very astute remark,' Tapton replied. 'Yes, you would probably consider me a what.'
He grinned and his flesh rippled. His frame distorted as his legs buckled and his back twisted and hunched. Coarse, brown fur sprouted up from his skin and he tore at his clothes with claw-like fingernails. A tail flicked behind him.
Ellie's mouth hung open.
'My appearance is rather striking, isn't it?' Tapton said. 'Before you ask, I will tell you that I am a Brag. Or a Bogart. Or whatever term you mortals are using for us this year.'
'Youre a faerie,' Ellie managed.
Tapton pulled himself up haughtily.
'I prefer to think of myself as a member of the Unseelie Court,' he said, 'but yes, you are quite right, Miss Walker.'
'And is Dr Smith part of this Unseelie Court as well?' Ellie asked.
'I thought so,' Tapton said, 'when I first met him. I am older and wiser now.'
'So what is he then?' Ellie said.
'Hm, let me try and explain,' Tapton began. 'There is a tale they tell in Africa about a lion and a hare. One day the lion caught the hare and was about to eat him.
''You cannot eat me,' the hare said to the lion. 'I am too small and thin for the likes of you. After you have eaten me you will still be hungry. Why don't we go hunting together that we may catch you something fat?'
'The lion thought the idea ridiculous so the hare continued, 'Let us go to the village where men live. If we cannot find you something fatter than I, then I will let you eat me.'
'This seemed fair to the lion so they went together to the edge of the village and they hunted. The lion caught a fat young bull, but the hare found nothing but a mangy donkey that was rolling in the dust of the road. As they were walking home together, the hare looked at the lion's bull and his mouth watered.
''Lion,' he said, 'what bad luck you've had. You bull is so thin and undernourished. Better you had eaten me than that poor creature.'
'The lion looked first at his bull and then at the hare's donkey. 'He doesn't look so thin to me,' the lion said.
''But everyone knows,' the hare told him, 'that when you strike a fat animal it gives off steam.'
'The lion had not heard that before, but not wanting to appear foolish in front of the hare, he said, 'Yes, everyone knows that.' He picked up a stick and hit his bull across the back, but there was no steam. He struck it again, but still there was no steam.
''He is fat,' the lion insisted without conviction.
''Poor lion,' the hare said, 'your bull has been starved near to death.'
'The hare took the stick from the lion and used it to strike his donkey. A cloud of dust rose into the air. It was dust from the road in which the donkey had been rolling.
''See,' the hare said proudly, 'there is a fat animal for you.'
'The lion thought about this for a moment and said, 'I will take the donkey and you can have my bull.'
''Oh no,' said the hare. 'I caught the donkey so he is mine to eat.'
'But the lion became angry so the hare traded with him and the lion took the mangy donkey and the hare took the fat young bull.
'As they continued on the trail, the hare gather up eight feathers and put them in his belt like knives. When they stopped to rest and to drink, the hare turned to the lion and said, 'Lion, I have a set of eight knives. If I lose one then I will still have seven left. You only have one knife. What will you do if you lose it?'
'The lion thought about this for a moment and said, 'The mighty hunter should have the weapons. Let us trade.'
''Oh no,' said the hare. 'Since I am so small, I need the weapons more than you do.'
'But the lion became angry so the hare traded with him and the lion took the eight feathers and the hare took the lion's knife.
'When they came to the lion's cave, the hare stopped and looked at it. It had only one door.
''Lion,' the hare said, 'your house is a trap.'
''How so?' asked the lion.
''You have only one door,' the hare explained. 'Aren't you afraid? Look at my house over there. It has many doors. If a hunter comes for me by one door than I leave by another. But if a hunter enters your house, where can you go?'
'The lion thought about this for a moment and said, 'I have never thought of that before. We must trade.'
''Oh no,' said the hare. 'I could not live in a trap.'
'But the lion became angry so the hare traded with him and he went into the lion's house and he closed the door behind him. He killed the bull with his new knife and he cooked it and he grew fatter than before. The lion moved into the hare's home and took on of the feathers from his belt and tried to kill the donkey with it. But the feather would not cut the donkey. It only tickled him. So the lion took another feather from his belt and tried again. It tickled the donkey worse and he laughed. He could not stop laughing. The lion took another feather, but the donkey could stand no more so it broke free and escaped into the fields.
'And now, whenever the donkey thinks of how the lion tickled him with the feather, he laughs.'
'Are you saying that Dr Smith is the hare?' Ellie asked.
'Perhaps,' Tapton said. 'The tale is older than I am, as is the Doctor.'
'He looks younger.'
'Never judge a book by its cover,' Tapton said, 'or a faerie by his glamour. The point is that there are trickster stories in ever culture across the globe and it is my opinion that you will find the Doctor at the heart of most of them.'
'But can we trust him?' Ellie asked.
'I would trust him with my life and I owe him far more than that,' Tapton replied. 'The Doctor asked me to stay here and keep watch over Alice until he returned and, excepting the occasional change of identity, this is where I have been ever since.'
'You kept watch for a hundred years?' Ellie said.
'I would have gladly guarded her for longer,' Tapton replied. 'You don't understand just how important Alice is to Unseelie everywhere. And that is why I cannot allow the Furies to get hold of her.'
He turned to Nana, Violet and the transformed baby.
'Now ladies,' he began, 'if you would be so kind as to vacate the premises. Your presence here is no longer required.'
'We go where we will, guardian,' Violet said.
'There can be no barriers to our vengeance,' Nana agreed.
'We shall see about that,' Tapton said.
He sprang at the Furies, claws outstretched. Ellie did not see Nana move, but one second Tapton was sailing through the air, the next he hung limp in Nana's grip, her hand around his throat.
'You wish to do us harm, guardian,' Nana said. 'Many have tried.'
'And yet he we are still,' Violet added.
'Or, to put it another way,' the baby said, 'you can't kill us, but we can kill you.'
Tapton screamed and Ellie put hid her face behind her hands. Tapton was being stretched like soft toffee, spread far too thin for any man or, judging by the agony in his screams, for a faerie. And then, as if someone had turned off the television, complete with the brief residue of light, Tapton was gone.
'You killed him!' Ellie yelled.
'He would have done the same to us,' Nana pointed out. 'It's survival.'
'And now what will you do?' Ellie asked. 'Kill me?'
'No, not you girl,' Nana said.
'We'll do what we came for,' Violet continued.
'Kill Alice,' the baby said.
Then the Furies faded away like smoke leaving Ellie with tears staining her face.
* * *
There was no time for the luxury of mourning. Ellie forced herself into motion and raced up the stairs to Alice's room two steps at a time. She was just in time. The Furies were appearing at the top of the stairs, like an image slowly coming into focus. Ellie positioned herself between the three women and the door to Alice's bedroom.
'Get out of our way, girl,' Nana said.
'No,' Ellie replied. 'I won't.'
'We don't want to have to hurt you, Ellie,' Violet said.
'We feel your pain,' the baby added.
'I don't feel much like sharing,' Ellie said, 'and I don't feel much like letting you kill Alice.'
'Her mother spilled kin-blood,' Nana explained. 'Now the daughter must pay for her crime.'
'How can you justify that?' Ellie asked. 'Alice was just a baby at the time. How can she be held responsible for what her mother had done?'
'She would be dead had her mother not intervened,' Violet replied.
'We are simply setting right a wrong,' the baby said.
'Well if you want her,' Ellie said defiantly, 'then you'll have to go through me.'
The Furies seemed to hesitate.
'Come on then,' Ellie said. 'Aren't you going to kill me like you did Mr Tapton?'
The Furies began to fade.
'We will return for you, Ellie Walker,' Violet said. 'If you believe in any higher powers, now is your chance to make your peace with them.'
And then they were gone.
* * *
The Doctor was sitting at Alice's bedside, occupying the same chair Ellie had sat in when she read to the girl. Alice herself was sitting up in her bed and drinking from a plastic bottle of water.
'Take it steadily,' the Doctor was saying as Alice gulped greedily. 'You don't want to drink too much too fast.'
'Tapton's dead,' Ellie said.
'Tapton?' the Doctor asked, confused.
'Tapton? Patton? Whoever your buddy was,' Ellie replied. 'Those things killed him.'
The Doctor closed his eyes.
'No,' he said, the word barely loud enough to qualify as a whisper. 'I wanted to prevent this. There wasn't supposed to be any more killing, but I'm running out of time and there's still so much left to do.'
'You managed to wake her up,' Ellie said, nodding towards Alice. 'That must count for something.'
The Doctor looked up and smiled at her.
'No, Ellie,' he said. 'You woke her up. You were the trigger, you see. It had to be someone nearby. Someone I could trust.'
'I don't understand,' Ellie admitted. 'Are you saying that I'm over a hundred years old as well. That I'm a faerie too.'
'No, you're a mortal, Ellie,' the Doctor said, 'as old as your tongue and slightly older than your teeth. The Ellie Walker that wrote your diary both is and isn't you.'
'Well that's real clear,' Ellie said.
'You're an echo, Ellie,' the Doctor said. 'A photocopy of the original, the latest in a long line of photocopies. Each copy is imperfect so while you share some traits with your Victorian counterpart, you are still very much your own person, I assure you.'
'Dr Smith ' Ellie began.
'Dr Smith? Is that who you think I am?' the Doctor asked with amusement.
'I haven't a clue who anybody is anymore,' Ellie snapped.
'Call me the Doctor,' the Doctor suggested gently.
'The Doctor? That's not a name,' Ellie said.
'Maybe so,' the Doctor replied, 'but it is who I am.'
Ellie considered this for a moment and then nodded her acceptance.
'Doctor,' she said, 'you do realise I still haven't a clue what you did to Alice.'
'Would it help if I called it encephalitis lethargica?' the Doctor asked.
Ellie pulled a face.
'I think I preferred it when we were just talking about magic.'
The Doctor smiled.
'Once upon a time,' he said, 'there was a little weaver bird. One day, a mouse visited the weaver bird and, twitching its tiny nose, the mouse said, 'If I might be so bold, could you tell me which wing you lift first when you start to fly? Is it your left or your right?'
'The weaver bird paused. It had never thought about this before and it occurred to the bird that it did not know. So it flapped its wings, thinking that when it took off, it would see which of its wings it used first. And the bird tried first with its left wing and then with its right and a third time it tried lifting both wings at the same time, but in no case did the bird leave the ground. It was concentrating so hard on how it should fly, you see, that it had completely forgotten how it did.'
'And is that little parable supposed to mean something to me?' Ellie asked.
'Yes,' the Doctor replied. 'Don't think about things too hard.'
Ellie threw her hands up into the air in exasperation.
'Why is everyone in this place so obsessed with telling stories?' she demanded.
The Doctor looked thoughtful.
'As a good friend of mine once said,' he replied, 'fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated. There are dragons abroad tonight, Ellie, but you and I are going to find a way to beat them.'
* * *
'Daniel,' a female voice called to him.
He looked around for the source.
'Hello?' he said. 'Where are you? I can't see you.'
'We're all around you, Daniel,' said another voice.
'We're in your head,' said a third.
'Look, I've had a bad enough day as it is,' Daniel shouted at the empty corridor. 'Why don't you just come out where I can see you?'
'Yes, you have had a bad day, haven't you?' the second voice said.
'When do you think it started going wrong?' the first voice asked.
'Was it when you met Ellie Walker perhaps?' the third voice suggested.
'No,' Daniel insisted. 'I like Ellie. She's good people.'
'But she doesn't like you, does she, Daniel?' the first voice said.
'She thinks you're only here because of your father's will.'
'I told her that wasn't true,' Daniel said.
'Of course you did, Daniel,' the second voice said, 'and I believe you. But she didn't, did she?'
'You were trying so hard to be her friend and still she didn't trust you,' the first voice added. 'What kind of a person does that make her?'
'She used you, Daniel,' the third voice said. 'She led you on and then laughed when your hopes were dashed on the rocks.'
'She's cruel, Daniel.'
'What are you going to do about her?'
'You're twisting everything,' Daniel protested. 'Get out of my head!'
'And how do you think we got in there, Daniel?'
'We've always been there, Daniel.'
'No,' Daniel said. 'No you're not. You can't be.'
'But we are, Daniel.'
'And we're not going away until you do something about Ellie Walker.'
'Something permanent. Something fatal.'
* * *
'How are you feeling?' Ellie asked Alice.
Alice opened her mouth to reply, but all that came out was a dry, scratchy sigh.
'She's not strong enough to talk yet,' the Doctor said. 'She had to remain asleep long enough to purge the Seelie poison from her system but now it's going to take a while for her body to come out of hibernation.'
'Well, while we wait,' Ellie said, 'maybe you can explain what you're trying to accomplish here?'
'I'm trying to stop a war,' the Doctor said. 'For as long as anyone can remember, the Seelie and the Unseelie have been at war. I'm trying to get them to declare a truce.'
'But aren't the Unseelie the bad guys?' Ellie asked. 'I mean wasn't Lady Searle some kind of vampire or something?'
'Being Unseelie doesn't make you evil, Ellie,' the Doctor said. 'Morality is about who you are, not what. Yes, Lady Searle was evil, but that was her decision, nothing to do with her biology. The Seelie are the pure blooded, beautiful faerie-folk. The Unseelie are everything else. But they're not good faerie and bad faerie. Not even pretty faerie and pretty ugly faerie. Just like faerie and unlike faerie. But the similarities between the two groups far, far outweigh the differences. If only I could get them to see that.
'Is that the Furies meant when they said Lady Searle had shed kin-blood?' Ellie asked. 'That Lucius Morton was somehow related to her?'
'And that's exactly my point,' the Doctor said. 'All faeries share a common ancestry and if their ties are such that the Furies consider different faeries to be kin then their must have more in common than not.'
Ellie paused. She was turning over an idea in her mind.
'Doctor,' she said at last. 'I don't think the Furies can kill me.'
'What makes you say that?' the Doctor asked. He was standing up now, examining his patient.
'Well, they killed Tapton without hesitation,' Ellie said, 'but when I got between them and you, they went away. Wouldn't it have been easier to just kill me?'
'Yes, that's always been the trouble,' the Doctor said. 'Ending a life is easy.'
'They said they could feel my pain,' Ellie continued. 'You don't suppose that maybe they couldn't kill me because they felt sorry for me?'
The Doctor stared at Ellie.
'I doubt it's anything as prosaic as that,' he said, 'and it clearly isnt that you've been murdered by one of your kin, but I wonder. If you had been harmed by a relative in someway, would that set up enough of a resonance to hold them back?'
'We don't need to know how it works, Doctor,' Ellie said, 'just that it does. If the Furies can't harm me then maybe we have a way to fight them.'
'They can't harm you directly,' the Doctor pointed out, 'but '
'Where am I?' Alice croaked.
Both Ellie and the Doctor focussed on her, their conversation forgotten in an instant.
'Alice, welcome back to the land of the living,' the Doctor said. 'I am the Doctor and this is my friend Ellie Walker. She woke you up.'
'Sorry about that,' Ellie said.
'How how long have I been asleep?' Alice asked.
'A long time,' the Doctor said. 'A very long time.'
The Doctor took Alice's hand in both of his.
'I'm sorry, Alice,' he said, 'but both of your parents passed away. But I promised your father that I would look after you and I will. But first I have to tell you something of your heritage.'
'And then?' Alice asked.
'Well, a long time ago I promised you a Christmas present,' the Doctor said. 'I doubt you remember, but I do and I like to think that I am a man of my word. Your other godparents gave you knowledge and beauty and grace and the ability to travel wherever you willed. I'm going to give you a choice.'
There was a pounding at the door.
'Not now,' the Doctor complained. 'I'm not ready. I need just a little while longer. Please!'
'Don't worry, Doctor,' Ellie said, crossing confidently to the door. 'I'll buy you all the time you need.'
* * *
Ellie expected to find the Furies outside the door. She expected to be able to engineer a stalemate with them being unable to enter the room without killing her, something she was certain they could not do.
She had not expected Daniel to be outside.
He lunged at her with a pair of scissors. Ellie ducked out of the way at the last moment and the points of the scissors dug a deep grove in the bedroom door.
'Stay still, damn you,' Daniel said.
'Daniel, what's got into you?' Ellie asked.
She circled Daniel warily, keeping a close eye on the scissors clenched in his fist.
'The voices in my head,' Daniel said. 'They've told me all about you. I'll only be free of you if I cut you out.'
He lunged again so Ellie dived out of the way. She caught her foot on a loose floorboard and went tumbling head over heels down the spiral staircase. Her fall ended when she slammed into a wall.
'Don't move,' Daniel said as he descended the stairs towards her, 'and I'll make this quick. Its more than you deserve.'
'Daniel,' Ellie said, 'what is it you think I've done?'
It hurt too much to get up, hurt too much to try to escape.
'You led me on,' Daniel said. 'You led me on and then you rejected me. And then you laughed.'
'I so did not laugh,' Ellie replied.
'I thought you liked me,' Daniel said, advancing a step.
'I do like you.'
'I thought you loved me.' Daniel took another step.
'I do,' Ellie said, 'as a friend.'
'But nothing more,' Daniel said. He was nearly on top of her.
'It wouldn't work,' Ellie insisted.
'But why wouldn't it work?' Daniel asked. 'Tell me that. What is wrong with me?'
He lifted the scissors above his head, ready to plunge them down into his target.
'Because you're a guy and I'm gay,' Ellie shouted. 'Do I have to spell it out for you?'
'Abigail realised it as soon as saw me,' Ellie continued, her voice soft and wistful. 'I hadn't a clue, even at that age, but Abigail knew. I sort of assumed that I'd be into guys, you know, but I never really connected with them so I was left with my assumptions and not a whole lot else. Then Abigail came along and bowled over my assumptions like so many pins. Let's just say that I was pretty sure of where I stood after a week or two with Abby.
'When Mom found out she was furious. No, Dad was furious, Mom was just ashamed. And it hurt. It hurt so bad that it felt like someone had put there hand on my heart and started to twist it and twist it until it would twist no more. I wanted them to be happy for me. I was happier than I had been in my whole life and here they were ruining it because they couldn't accept that their daughter might be different from their ideal. But I still had Abby and, when all was said and done, she was all I needed. She nursed me through that time and helped me piece myself back together, helped convince me that I wasn't a freak or a monster and that what we had together wasn't a crime.
'Mom threw me out so Abby and I got a place of our own. It wasn't much, but we had a bed and a roof over our heads. I had to get a job to pay my way, had to work really, really long hours to earn anything like what I needed so I got to see less of Abby than I would have liked. But that just made the time we had together all the sweeter. Despite everything, I was in heaven and I felt certain it would never end.
'Then Abby decided to teach me to skate. She had been taught when she was four, but I had never been on ice-skates in my life. It was a bitterly cold day. The snow was thick and the lake had frozen over. I didn't want to go skating, convinced I would make a fool of myself, but Abby was insistent and she knew that I could never say no to her. She told me that the ice was thick enough to take our weight and I believed her.'
Ellie fought back her tears.
'She executed two perfect circles on the ice while I sat on the bank, struggling to get my skates one. She was sliding slowly towards me, laughing at my predicament. I said something in return. If I could go back and change it I would. The ice splintered under her. It all happened to fast for either of us to do anything. She fell straight down through the hole in the ice. I crawled out after her, hoping to pull her out to safety, but the hole was already freezing over again in the cold. She looked up at me through the window of ice. Her skin was already turning blue. I screamed for help, shouted myself hoarse and finally someone came. We smashed a hole in the ice big enough to pull her out through and we laid her on the bank and tried to resuscitate her. But by then it was far, far too late.
'Mom didn't even come to the funeral.
'I I didn't know what to do after that. I went to work during the day and I came home at night to an empty apartment. I slept in a bed that was always cold. When I dream, I see her face and I hold her in my arms and she tells me that she loves me. When I wake the first thing I do is remember that she's gone. What kind of life is that? So, Daniel, if you want to kill me, you go right ahead because I've got nothing left to live for!'
The scissors fell from Daniel's limp fingers and clattered down the stone steps.
'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me.'
'I do,' Ellie said harshly.
She looked over Daniel's shoulder to where the Furies were materialising out of thin air.
'Help me up, Daniel,' Ellie said.
He put an arm around her and helped her to stand and together the hobbled back up the stairs towards the Furies. Ellie wiped the tears from her face with the end of her sleeve.
'You've lost,' Ellie said. 'Daniel won't kill me and you can't.'
'We don't want to kill you, girl,' Nana said.
'We just want to keep you out of the way while we kill Alice,' Violet continued.
'So where is she?' the baby asked.
'Right here,' the Doctor declared, striding boldly out of the bedroom. Alice followed behind him, wearing his jacket over her nightdress.
'So the hunted comes to the hunter,' Nana said.
'Thank you for sparing us the trouble of the chase,' Violet agreed.
'Wait,' the Doctor said, holding up his hand. 'I haven't come here to let you kill Alice.'
'Then why are you here?' the baby asked.
'You can't possibly think that you can protected her,' Violet said.
'She doesn't need my protection,' the Doctor said. 'Why don't you listen to what she has to say? I think you'll find that she has solved both of her problems for us.'
'The Doctor has explained the current situation to me,' Alice began, 'and he has explained my past and my parentage and I have come to a decision. I am the heir to the throne of the Unseelie Court and I fully intend to take my place on it.'
'Not in this lifetime, child,' Nana muttered.
'Oh do be quiet,' the Doctor snapped.
'I have inherited all of my mother's power and more,' Alice continued, 'and I intend to use that power. I shall create a union between my Court the Seelie Court and then I shall dissolve them both to create a single realm where all faerie folk may be welcome. It is long past time for unity rather than division.'
'Does she really believe this will work?' Nana said.
'Does it matter to you in the end?' the Doctor asked. 'Whether Alice succeeds or not, this will be the end of the Unseelie Court and isn't that what Lucius wanted. He has his vengeance.'
'We wanted blood,' Nana said.
'I thought you wanted justice,' the Doctor countered.
'We do not like you solution, Doctor,' Violet said, 'but you are correct, it does provide Lucius with his vengeance and, as such, we have no choice but to accept it. But be warned, I doubt you will be so lucky should we meet for a third time.'
Then the Furies faded away to nothing.
The Doctor let out a sigh of relief.
'Do you know something, Ellie,' he said, 'I wasn't entirely convinced that was going to work.'
* * *
Ellie found the Doctor in the common-room playing chess with one of the residents. Sunlight streamed through the windows signalling the end of the storm that had trapped them there.
'I was afraid you'd left without saying goodbye,' she said to him.
'Mate in seven,' the Doctor said to his opponent before turning to Ellie. 'Alice still needs time to recuperate and I've promised to escort her to her palace as soon as she's well enough.'
'I bet that's going to cause quite a stir,' Ellie said.
'Indeed,' the Doctor agreed, 'but then that's half the fun.'
'You know,' Ellie said, 'if someone had told me that I would be discussing the fate of the faerie kingdom with a guy several hundred years old this Christmas I would have never believed it.'
'And do you believe it now?' the Doctor asked.
'Not sure,' Ellie admitted, 'but I'm trying to keep an open mind.'
'Good for you,' the Doctor said. 'It's good to see you smiling again, by the way. Have you worked out what you're going to do next?'
'I thought I might stay in England for a bit,' Ellie told him. 'See the sites. Try to get my head together. Daniel's offered me a place to stay. I think he's still hoping for something more but '
'Be true to yourself, Ellie,' the Doctor said. 'That's my advice.'
'Thanks, Doctor,' Ellie said. 'For everything.'
The Doctor inclined his head.
'You're welcome,' he said, 'but it was no less than you deserved considering your part in this affair. Which reminds me '
He produced a book from a coat pocket and handed it to her. It was the diary.
'Yours, I believe,' he said. 'You must have dropped it when you took that tumble down the stairs.'
'Thank you,' Ellie said. 'I'd been wondering what had happened to this. To be honest, I've been feeling kind of lost without it, though I've no idea what I'm going to do with it now that I've got it.'
'Well, there are some blank pages at the back,' the Doctor said. 'Why don't you finish the story. You know what I think it needs?'
'A happy ending.'
'A happy ending,' Ellie repeated. 'You know something, Doctor? I like the way you think.'
'Will I see you again?' she asked.
The Doctor shrugged.
'Who knows?' he said. 'Perhaps. Time will tell. It usually does.'
'Goodbye, Doctor,' Ellie said.
'Goodbye, Ellie,' the Doctor said, standing up and taking her hand in his. 'It's been a privilege and a pleasure.'
He released her and Ellie turned to go. She walked from the common-room, past the reception desk and out of the front door into the snow and the sunlight. In the distance she could see a frozen lake and, if she held her hand above her eyes to shield them from the sun, she could see children on the lake, skating and shouting. A tear formed in the corner of her eye, but it was a happy tear, not a sad one.
Finally, with a shy half smile at the world, Ellie adjusted her bag and set off down the road in search of happy endings.
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