Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Davie Campbell materialised his TARDIS beside the big crystal clear lake in the late afternoon of a summer evening on Tibora. Brenda looked at it briefly in the viewscreen and then ran for the door. Davie flicked several switches that completed the landing and then went to join her.

“It looks great, don’t you think?” she said as she stood on the lakeside looking across it with slightly misty eyes. “Remember how escaping gases from the volcano had turned it acidic and killed all the fish and wildlife. Look…” She pointed as a fish something like a silvery-red salmon streaked through the clear water. “It’s all back to normal, now.”

Davie carefully studied the mountain that rose up above the lake. From this side it still looked a perfectly symmetrical cone shape with a permanent snowline and pine trees covering the lower levels. From the other side, of course, it was jagged and broken where he and his brother and The Doctor had blown a chunk out of it to channel the lava away from the homes and farms that lay on this side of the mountain.

It was dormant now. It probably wouldn’t erupt again for hundreds of years. The lake, the forest, the wildlife, and the people who made their livelihoods in this lovely setting could relax.

Which was just what he intended to do this weekend. He was looking forward to spending the time here in Brenda’s family home with her parents. It was well overdue. They were, after all, his future in laws and he should have accepted their invitation to visit long ago.

Visiting his future in laws was a bit more troublesome than it was for most young men of his age, though.

“Do you think they’ll want to bow to me?” he asked as he turned away from the lake view and looked towards the long, low, log-built bungalow where Brenda’s parents lived. He was always conscious when he came to Tibora of that deference the people had towards him as one of the Lords of Time. He felt it was completely undeserved. He wasn't even a Galifreyan, and it was from Gallifrey that their ‘gods’ had come generations ago. Besides, he felt sure that his future in-laws should not be in awe of him.

“I’ve told them to treat you as one of the family,” Brenda answered. “But mother will probably forget. She was excited when I told her we were coming.”

He gripped her hand as they walked up to the house. The door was opened before they reached it by Brenda’s father. He bowed, but not in the deep, reverential way, more as a gesture of welcome and hospitality. Davie returned the gesture and then shook hands with him in the Human way, too.

“Come in,” Mr Freeman said to them. “My wife has prepared a meal.”

She had prepared what looked like a banquet. There were just the four of them at the table, but it groaned under the weight of three joints of meat; a baked ham, roast pork and a saddle of beef, as well as several pies, potatoes, a huge mixed salad, beans and flavoured rice, while a sideboard was covered in desserts and platters of cheese. Mrs Freeman seemed to think that it was necessary to worship him with food.

“You really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble,” he told her.

“It is the least I can do for you, My Lord,” she replied.

“And you really don’t have to call me that,” he added. “Please, can’t you both call me Davie. I just want to feel a part of your family – as I will be when Brenda and I are married.”

“Davie…” Mrs Freeman smiled and blushed as if the idea of calling him by his name was new and surprising. “Let me put on a spread of food, then, to welcome my daughter’s fiancé. Is that acceptable?”

“That is much better,” he answered. He helped himself to a portion of game pie and a slice of ham and enjoyed the food. The conversation became easier as he broke through their reserve and they began to accept him on less exalted terms. He asked Mr Freeman if all was well around the mountain and the nature reserve now, and he replied that they were, at least so far as recovering from the catastrophe of the volcanic eruption were concerned.

“There are other problems?” Davie inquired.

“Nothing on that momentous scale,” Mr Freeman answered. “There have been some incidents of livestock killed by some kind of wild animal, most likely a mountain cat. It has been known to happen. I and the other wardens of the mountain may have to hunt the beast and kill it if the problem becomes acute.”

Davie nodded. He didn’t like hunting as a sport, but he understood the need to protect livelihoods. He wondered what sort of wild cat it might be.

“The most likely culprit would be a Zellic’s Leone,” Mr Freeman answered. “They are a similar creature to the Leonate that used to roam the plains of Gallifrey. But… of course you have never visited Gallifrey… I forgot, for a moment…”

“I have studied the flora and fauna of Gallifrey,” Davie answered. “I understand what you mean.”

The conversation stretched pleasantly through the meal, and through coffee and brandy sitting in the comfortable lounge in front of a crackling log fire. At some point the topic under discussion had turned upon Davie’s employment prospects and he told them about his deal with the National Power Company that had meant he was comfortably and independently wealthy. He mentioned that he was investing some of his money in other projects, and he talked very briefly about spending some of the money on his new found passion for motor sports. Earth seemed to be the only planet where driving combustion engines at speed was something that excited people. He also talked about his most recent plan, to build an apartment over his workshop. At present, he slept at night in the room he shared with his brother in the Sanctuary. That suited him perfectly well. But by next spring, as long as the design for the extension was approved, he would have two en suite bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen and study to call his own.

And that led to another topic of conversation – one which Mr Freeman broached to Davie alone when his wife took their daughter to the kitchen to make a fresh round of coffee. Davie was a little surprised by what he had to say, but not displeased. He wouldn’t make a decision, though, until he had spoken to Brenda about it.

“Why don’t you two young people go for a walk by the lake,” Mr Freeman suggested a little later. “The moon will be rising before sunset tonight. It will be very pretty.”

Brenda liked that idea. She allowed Davie to put a shawl around her shoulders before they stepped out into the still warm evening and walked past the TARDIS, disguised as a fishing hut. The sun was low and its reflection turned a glittering stretch of the great lake to golden red. Davie watched the sunset and the moonrise appreciatively as he walked with his arm around Brenda’s shoulders. They walked that way for nearly twenty minutes in near silence before Brenda finally gave in.

“My father said something to you, didn’t he?” she said. “Something about us? That’s why mother wanted me out of the way. So that he could be ‘man to man’ with you about it.”

“Yes, but it’s nothing bad,” Davie assured her. “It… depending on how you feel about it… it could be something very good.”

He paused and took a deep breath. He held both her hands in his as he turned to look at her in the moonlight.

“You look beautiful like that,” he told her. “Utterly breathtaking.”

“That’s… nice to hear,” she answered. “And… any other time you could keep on saying it. But it isn’t what my father talked to you about, is it?”

“No, it isn’t,” Davie admitted. “He asked me if I would like to bring our Alliance forward, and be married next year instead of waiting another five years.”

“Oh.” Brenda caught her breath and her expression was almost impossible to gauge. “Oh… And… what did you say to him?”

“I said I would talk to you, first. I know tradition counts for a lot with you. If you would like to wait the full term of our betrothal, then I will understand. But if it works for you…”

“Do you want to do that?” Brenda asked. “I mean… I have sometimes wondered if you do still WANT to marry me…. I wouldn’t blame you. I know I was the first girl you really considered that way. And we had only known each other for a few days. And if you had second thoughts… if you really thought that there was somebody you cared for more…”

“This is because of the time I spend with Spenser?”

“Yes,” she said. “And I don’t blame you for that, either. Spenser is… very much in love with you. And it must be nice being with him… I know you like spending time with him. I know you kiss him all the time… and…”

She paused. There was an issue here that she had never mentioned before, and Davie knew it was awkward for her. But she summoned the courage to say it.

“I know that he sleeps with you, sometimes.”

It wasn’t an accusation. It was just a statement of fact. It never happened when he was at home, in the Sanctuary, of course. But when he and Spenser travelled in the TARDIS, it had become almost taken for granted, lately. Spenser had abandoned his own room and slept beside him at night. It was an arrangement that suited them both and which only became a problem when his fiancée looked at him in the moonlight and the reasons why it wasn’t right to sleep with another man all crowded guiltily into his mind.

“Brenda… I…” he began. “Yes, Spenser sleeps with me, sometimes. But you could, too. If you wanted. I mean… not with me and Spenser… I mean… I would love to spend the night with you, cuddled up close, feeling you near me. That’s all I have ever done with him, I swear.”

“You’ve never asked me,” she said.

“You’re so traditional, a rural Tiboran girl,” he answered. “I thought you would probably slap me or something. Besides, I never actually ASKED Spenser. It just happened. One night… he just came into my room and climbed into bed with me. It was nice, sleeping with somebody to hold onto, to feel another warm, living body beside me. That’s all it was.”

“Do you think of me when you are in his arms?”

“No,” Davie answered. “Because that isn’t fair on him. He shouldn’t feel second best, or a poor substitute for you. When I hold him, I think only of him. When I am with you, I think of you… when I hold you, there is nobody else in my thoughts. And I’m prepared... I will give up Spenser if it means being with you for a lifetime. I love you, Brenda and I want to marry you.”

“I believe you, Davie,” Brenda told him. She paused and looked around at the bright moon before continuing. “Yes, I believe that you love me. And… yes… yes I want to marry you… as long as you still want to marry me.”

“I want to marry you, next spring. If you will say yes.”

“Yes,” she answered. “Oh, yes.”

Davie smiled widely and reached to embrace her. Their kiss lasted a very long time. When they stopped for breath they walked on a little more.

“What do you think made father decide about this, do you think?” Brenda asked. “I always thought he would insist on the full five years until I am of age.”

“I think it might have had something to do with me being independently wealthy, building my own luxury apartment, as well as being… you know… one of the Lords of Time.”

“Father wouldn’t be so mercenary as that, I am sure,” Brenda answered him with a soft laugh.

“He’s your father!” Davie pointed out. “And he knows you’re onto a good thing with me. No financial worries, ever. A good, secure life. Why wouldn’t he be happy for you?”

“I just have to worry about you going off in the TARDIS and getting into danger on other planets.”

“Family tradition, that. You can compare notes with Rose and Jackie and my mum about what an irresponsible lot we Time Lords are.”

She already did that a lot of the time anyway, so she changed the subject.

“The apartment is going to be beautiful. It just hit me… It was going to be your bachelor flat. But… now… it will be our first home. Two bedrooms… one of them can be the nursery…”

“Not for at least sixteen months after our honeymoon,” Davie responded. “Even if we started on the parenthood straight away.”

Davie looked at his fiancée’s face and drew her close to him. It had just hit him in a big way that he really was going to be a married man. And sooner or later after that, he would be a parent.

Of course, he always intended to be. He had thought about it often. But it always seemed like something that would happen in the future. Suddenly the future was catching him up.

He felt scared. He felt excited. Suddenly it felt real.

“Yes… a nursery is a wonderful idea. I’ll… take a look at the plans… see if there is anything that could be altered to make it a better nursery. Maybe bigger windows – but with a guard rail for safety. Covered plug points, that sort of thing…”

“Oh, Davie!” Brenda hugged him around the neck enthusiastically. “You’ve really thought about it! I am so glad.”

He smiled and accepted her hugs and kisses guiltily. Actually those things had only just occurred to him as they talked, now. But if it made her happy to think he had been considering their future in such detail he wouldn’t disillusion her.

Besides, it was nice, standing there beside a darkening lake in the moonlight, kissing his girl. He was happy. Truly happy. This was what all the times when he struggled, when he faced dangers, when he was wounded and hurting and afraid, were for. So that he could enjoy this perfect moment in her arms.

It would have been nice if the perfect moment had gone on a bit longer. Fate was just a bit too cruel to him that way, sometimes. But as he drew back his head from a particularly lingering kiss, he saw something move in the darkness. It was big… its head would easily have reached his shoulders when it lifted it and roared at the moon. It was covered in thick, luxuriant fur that made it seem even bigger. But he had no doubt that there was a well-muscled body beneath that fur, capable of flattening them both into the ground and ripping them to pieces.

Brenda, to her credit, didn’t scream out loud, though he felt her fear in his head.

“Keep calm, macishlughm,” he told her, using the Low Gallifreyan term of endearment that meant ‘sweetheart’. “And don’t move until I say so.”

He closed his eyes and concentrated hard. Projecting a perception filter mentally wasn’t easy. He couldn’t keep it up for very long. He couldn’t have done it at all if he hadn’t sat in on one of Chris’s meditation sessions at the Sanctuary where he had all of his Gallifreyan students practicing it. He knew The Doctor couldn’t do it, or other Time Lords before him. It was one of the ways in which he and his brother were pushing the envelope of telepathic possibilities.

But they only needed a few minutes. Just long enough to walk, carefully, slowly, past the creature as it went down to the lake to drink. He held Brenda close to him, not only to maintain the perception filter around them both, but because he instinctively wanted to hold her that way and protect her.

“All right,” he said once they had gone a few hundred yards past the creature. He let the perception filter collapse and stood still while the dizziness passed. It had taken a lot of mental energy to protect them both and he needed a moment or two. “Let’s get back to the house. We should tell your dad that the creature is as close as this.”

Mrs Freeman hugged Brenda fussily and thanked Davie over and over again for protecting her. Mr Freeman was alarmed at their news, too, but he was more practical, reaching for the keys to the locked cupboard where he kept his shotguns.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea right now,” Davie told him. “Not in the dark. It’s a nocturnal animal. You’re not. The best thing would be to wait till first light. I can show you where it came down to the water and we can track it to its lair from there.” He glanced at the shotguns and shivered. He knew how to use a gun, if he absolutely had to. But he wished he didn’t have to.

“It’s a shame,” Brenda said. “It was an absolutely magnificent creature. I wish we didn’t have to kill it.”

But she had grown up in this house in the midst of farming country and surrounded by wildlife. She understood the necessity of preserving the balance between the two.

“There’s nothing to be done until morning, except lock up this house securely,” Mr Freeman said. “I’ll call Jake Favia and let him know. He and his son can join us in the hunt tomorrow morning. Four of us together should be enough. Meanwhile… did you two young people come to any decisions before you were disturbed?”

Brenda’s worried face changed instantly as she was reminded. She and her mother beamed with happiness as Davie reported their joint decision. To celebrate Mr Freeman opened a bottle of a northern Tiboran liquor that was so close to a highland malt whisky Davie thought even his father wouldn’t know the difference. Mrs Freeman bubbled over with talk about wedding preparations, despite the fact that there was still a full year before it would happen. Davie smiled conspiratorially at his future father in law.

“I’ll have to go through this all over again back on Earth,” he told him. “Only in triplicate, when my mum, Rose and Jackie hear about it. My dad will take it calmly, at least. He’ll just break out his own stock of single malt and pour me a double measure.”

He would have to break the news to Spenser, too. He was the only one likely to have any regrets about this decision. And he did feel a little guilty about that. But it couldn’t be helped. As much as he loved Spenser, Brenda was the one he was engaged to, the one he saw his future with. He just hoped he could let him down gently.

He heard Mrs Freeman say something then that made them all pay attention. She was regretting the fact that he and Brenda would be living so far away from Tibora, and then she mentioned something about a dowry plot.

“A what?” Davie asked. “I thought… our betrothal was in the Gallifreyan tradition. I paid you for the honour of your daughter’s hand. You don’t owe me anything.”

“It is an old tradition of rural Tibora,” Mr Freeman explained. “A plot of land would be given for the new couple to build their first home upon. The tradition fell into abeyance centuries ago for obvious reasons – land was becoming so subdivided that farms were unviable. But when Brenda was born, we picked out a site by the lake that we planned to give her as a wedding gift.”

“Oh.” Davie looked at Brenda and thought he saw a look in her eyes. But she was deliberately blocking her thoughts from him. She wanted him to make the suggestion without any prompting from her.

“Well…” he said. “I mean, I certainly don’t intend to keep Brenda away from her home forever. We could… build a holiday home… a place where we can spend a few weeks… a few months… each year… It would be a wonderful place for the children… at least as long as we deal with the dangerous carnivores in the area.”

As soon as he said it, the idea felt real, just like their wedding. He could see himself and Brenda, and an unspecified number of children in the setting. The house would have a veranda where they would sit and watch them play. And a jetty with a small boat tied up. They would go out on the lake in the evening, he rowing and Brenda and the children enjoying the view.

“Oh, yes,” Brenda whispered as she shared the vision with him. Oh, yes.”

That was enough to keep Brenda and her mother happy until bedtime. Davie let himself be swept along by their plans and didn’t mind that he seemed to have nothing to do with any of them except signing cheques.

Later, though, when he went to the guest room and showered and put on a pair of pyjamas, he sat at the window overlooking the moonlit lake and thought some quiet thoughts to himself.

He thought about how he and Brenda had met, right here in this house on Tibora. He had barely known her a day when he began to court her in earnest. He had asked her father for permission to do so. Within a week of their first setting eye on each other he had made a Bond of Intent, which was translated to a Bond of Betrothal on his eighteenth birthday.

And from then on, Brenda had been his moral, legal and financial responsibility. She had spent as much time with him on Earth, or travelling in the TARDIS, as she had spent here at home. She had been with him, familiar, loyal, comforting.

He had thought he was lucky. He had found true love the very first time he looked for it. His future was assured.

Then Spenser came into his life, and though the idea of a male lover had startled him, it didn’t displease. At first, Spenser’s affections had been flattering. Slowly they had become more than that. They had become something he treasured as much as he treasured Brenda’s love. He couldn’t quite remember when he first admitted to himself that he loved Spenser, too. He did remember the first time he told him he did. It was up on the cliffs in Northumberland. They had been lying in the grass, watching clouds drift by. Their hands had touched, they had embraced and kissed each other, and he had whispered those words that sealed any relationship.

He had thought about it many times. He had tested his feelings for both his lovers. He had told himself that he had been hasty when he first pursued Brenda’s affections. He was too young to know real love. He had jumped at the first chance of a conventional marriage that his parents would approve of and that would allow him to continue his family line as his great-grandfather wanted him to do.

It was about what other people wanted and expected, not about what he wanted.

And the fact that he loved Spenser would seem to prove that he wasn’t wholeheartedly committed to Brenda.

He could have dissolved the Bond of Betrothal. It would have been painful for them both. It would have been costly. But then he would have been free to love Spenser. Under the law of the British Federation, he could marry him. They could be happy together.

No, he argued. He didn’t want that. Perhaps his hearts were divided between his two lovers, but Brenda was the one he wanted to marry. She had been his right choice. Spenser was a sweet, wonderful part of his life and he wouldn’t have given up the kisses and caresses, the warmth of his body next to him, the warmth of his love, for anything. But he wouldn’t give up Brenda’s warmth, her kisses and caresses, either. And Spenser had always known that. He accepted the limits on their love. He accepted that he could never be more than a very dear and close friend.

The bedroom door opened as he was thinking those thoughts. He turned his head and saw Brenda, barefoot and dressed in a long silk nightdress. It covered her from neck to ankle, but it clung to her body in ways that even a man who had been thinking about his male lover’s kisses a moment before couldn’t fail to be excited.

“What would your mother say?” he asked as he put his arms around her and felt that soft silk against the satin of his pyjamas.

“She told me to come to you. She said… you’re a Lord of Time… a Son of Gallifrey. You wouldn’t do anything to dishonour yourself or me…”

“You can be sure I won’t,” he promised her. “But… seriously… your mother told you to come to me?”

“It’s not very traditional, I know. But she thinks I need to show my devotion to you in more practical terms. She said it would be all right if we lie together through the night. And… you said… earlier… that I could… just as you lie with Spenser.”

“Yes,” he said. He took her by the hand to the bed and they laid down between the cool sheets together. He held her close to him. She felt warm and soft. He pushed from his mind all possible thoughts of comparing what it was like to hold her body against his and what it was like when Spenser slept beside him in this way. He vowed never to dishonour either of them with such comparisons.

He slept easily and comfortably beside her until a little after dawn, when he felt Mr Freeman shaking him awake. Brenda woke suddenly and was startled to see her father standing over the bed.

“It’s all right, child,” he whispered. “I just came to wake Davie. We have a wild animal to track.”

“Yes, of course,” Davie said as he sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “You go on back to sleep, Brenda. It will all be over by the time you wake again.”

She laid herself down again as he got up and found warm clothes and suitable shoes for tracking a wild animal through the forest. He drank a quick cup of coffee before he and Mr Freeman left the house carrying shotguns and spare cartridges. The air was crisp and cool with the sun not yet high enough to warm it. If he hadn’t been on such a sad mission he would have enjoyed the walk.

“It was just up here, past the place where those trees come nearly to the water’s edge,” he said after they had walked quietly for a while. “Brenda and I were…”

“Doing nothing inappropriate for two people who have been betrothed for some time, now,” Mr Freeman said. “I am quite certain. I am grateful to you for protecting my daughter from the dangerous beast.”

Davie could have pointed out that his daughter wouldn’t have been in danger if they hadn’t taken a moonlight walk together, but that would have been churlish.

They passed the stand of trees and there they were shocked to find a scene of carnage. Davie breathed in deeply as he saw the remains of a large animal, the matted remnants of deep, thick fur soaked in its blood. He found the largest bone, a foreleg, and mentally took a measure of it that confirmed his suspicions.

“This is the creature we saw last night. The leone. But…”

“What killed a beast this size?” Mr Freeman asked, looking around nervously.

“Something amphibious,” Davie answered. “Look…. The mud slides... where it dragged itself in and out of the water. You’ve never had crocodiles or alligators in the lake, have you?”

Mr Freeman looked puzzled. He obviously had no idea what a crocodile or alligator was. Tiborans, of course, were not Human colonists. There was no reason why such Earth animals would mean anything to him. Davie briefly described a crocodile and Mr Freeman admitted that there was an amphibious creature called a Crillis native to the tropical areas of equatorial Tibora, but such an animal had never been seen in the northern hemisphere.

“Come to think of it, a cold blooded animal like that couldn’t live in a lake as cold as this one,” Davie conceded. “And yet…”

He turned back to look at the shredded remains of the leone. He bent and picked something up.

“It got a tooth stuck in the gristle,” he said as he held up a fang that was almost as wide and long as his own palm. “There might be some DNA traces in the soft tissue, or at the very least my TARDIS computer might be able to extrapolate from the size and shape of the tooth. Once we know what we’re looking for, we’ll be able to decide how to deal with it. Meanwhile, we should take some precautions. I’m afraid you’ll have to close the lake to tourists.” He saw Mr Freeman’s expression. “Yes, I know. This is a tourist attraction and that’s bad for business. But so is…”

He stopped talking as he heard the sound of an outboard motor. He looked around to see a small boat heading around the lake.

“It’s Jake Favia and his son,” Mr Freeman said. “Coming to meet us as planned.”

“Yes… but….” Davie began to run along the lakeside, towards the motor boat as it came along the edge of the lake. He was worried. The creature that had killed the leone had gone back into the water afterwards. And he didn’t want anyone in that water with it.

He screamed as he saw something grey rise up out of the water and rip the back of the boat away in one great crunching bite. He saw one man fall backwards into the boat and the other into the water where he started to swim for the shore desperately. Davie folded time and reached the water’s edge in time to drag him to safety.

“My… father….” The young man stammered.

“Yes, I know,” Davie answered him. Run… towards the forest edge. You should be safe there. I’m going to help your father.”

He folded time again and did something he had occasionally done, though if he could help it, without too many people seeing him do it. He ran across the water itself. He was going so fast his feet didn’t touch the surface long enough to sink into it. He reached the stricken boat and grabbed Mr Favia from the water-filled bottom. He had hit his head as he fell and was unconscious. Davie pulled him over his back in a fireman’s lift and ran back. This time he did sink into the waves slightly. The extra weight slowed him down, but only a little. He reached the shore where the injured man’s son and Mr Freeman were watching in astonishment.

“My Lord….” The young man whispered. “I never thought to see one of our masters perform a miracle….”

“I didn’t,” Davie answered. “I just used the skills I have to save your dad. He has concussion, but that’s all. Let’s get him to the Freeman house and we can take care of him there.”

Between them they carried the injured man. When they got to the house, Brenda and her mother were in the kitchen making coffee. Mrs Freeman immediately ran to get the first aid kit and Mr Favia was treated quickly and ably by Davie. His son, Joe, was persuaded to sit down and drink coffee, but he was in deep shock from his ordeal.

“We should put them both to bed,” Davie said once Mr Favia’s injuries were treated. “A few hours’ rest will do them both a power of good.”

“Well, of course,” Mr Freeman said. “We’ll do that. But…”

“Start making phone calls. Get the lake closed off to everyone and everything. I’m going to find out exactly what that creature is and then I’m going to deal with it.”

He turned and headed out of the house. Brenda looked at her parents and her two traumatised neighbours and then ran after him.

“You should stay with your family,” he told her.

“I can help,” she said. “Let me help, please.”

“I don’t really…” he began. Then he saw the look on her face. Even if there was nothing useful she could do, she wanted to be with him rather than with her parents. She belonged at his side.

Of course, she did.

“Come on,” he answered, taking her hand. As he headed to his TARDIS, he kept a close eye on the lake, watching for the slightest hint of disturbance in the water. There was nothing. They made it to the safety of the TARDIS unharmed.

“Was it the creature in the lake killing the livestock then?” Brenda asked as she watched him set to work analysing the huge tooth. “Or the leone?”

“I think some of it probably was the leone,” he answered. “The livestock taken from corals well out of range of the lake. It was a big beast, and good fattened cattle would be a temptation to it. But the thing in the lake… wherever it came from… must have been taking its share, too. That’s why the problem was so acute. The leone, on its own, might just have got away with it for a bit longer, taking one animal here, one there. But this creature got greedy.”

“It must have attacked not long after we were out there,” Brenda pointed out. “We could have been….”

“We weren’t. Don’t think about that. Jake Favia is going to be all right. Joe may never set foot in a boat again, but he’ll be all right, too. And just as soon as I know what we’re dealing with, I’m going to sort it out.”

“My father is calling people, experts, to come and investigate. Shouldn’t you wait for them?”

Davie looked at her and smiled. Brenda laughed.

“You looked so much like The Doctor then.”

“Yes,” he said. “And you just know he wouldn’t wait for the ‘experts’. He’s an incurable nosy parker who has to dive into everything. And so am I. If I can find a way to deal with this thing, without anyone else putting their life at risk, then I will. Because… it’s… it’s what I do. It’s why I took on his mantle. It’s why I am The Doctor now.”

“It’s why I’m proud of you,” Brenda told him.

“There you are,” he replied. “That’s how you can help me at times like this. By boosting my already quite healthy ego with all that kind of praise. But if you want to be a bit more practical, come over here and hold this tooth while I examine it through the sub-ethereal molecular analyser.”

Brenda laughed at such a sophisticated name for what looked, to her, like an ordinary microscope that slid neatly up from the diagnostic panel at the touch of a button. She held the tooth in place under it while Davie carefully examined it.

“It’s quite a young creature,” he told her. “There are no porous parts to the teeth where the enamel would be weak, no cavities, or damage. Yet it’s so big. I would have been willing to bet that it had been living in the deepest part of the lake for decades, growing steadily in size.”

“But it couldn’t have done,” Brenda pointed out. “The lake turned acidic when the volcano blew only a few years ago. And it took a year and a half for the oxygen levels and the PH balance to be restored before father was able to arrange for shipments of plantlife and fish to make it live again. This really is the first season that there has been anything living in that water at all since then. That creature couldn’t have survived through the acidity and the de-oxygenisation.”

“No,” Davie said as he turned to look at the analysis monitor. He was startled by what he saw. So was Brenda as she stood at his side.

The TARDIS computer had identified the species. It was called a Maw. The people who had named it could think of nothing more sophisticated, and it didn’t really need anything more. That fully described the thing they were looking at. It was a huge grey lump of flesh with two fins either side of the body and a mouth full of teeth. The TARDIS had provided a schematic that put a full sized creature in scale. Inside the wide open mouth was a TARDIS in default mode as a gun-metal grey cabinet. It included two figures standing at the door just to emphasise the point – a full sized Maw could swallow a TARDIS.

“The one in our lake can’t be full sized.” Brenda said. “It... I mean… father said the leone had been mauled. And then Jake Favia’s boat… this thing could have eaten it whole. There would be nothing left.”

“It’s not full size, yet,” Davie told her. “It’s… look… what it says here about the species. It grows exponentially. Everything it eats, every ounce of flesh it devours goes into its growth…”

“Well… isn’t that true of any living thing?” Brenda asked.

“Yes, but not in the same way. I mean… we have a balanced diet of up to 2,000 calories a day… but maybe three quarters of that is expended in energy, just living our ordinary lives. The amount that is retained in our bodies is small. But the Maw’s metabolism is so slow, that nearly everything it eats is turned into its own flesh. The cattle and sheep, the wildlife it has eaten, the leone…”

“But how did it get here?”

Davie smiled. That was why The Doctor always had somebody with him, a companion, a friend, a lover. That was why he had Spenser and Brenda with him. As clever as he was, he needed somebody to ask those sort of questions, to help him make a clear picture in his head and know what he had to do.

“It must have started very small… so small it wasn't noticed. When the lake was restocked with fish… or maybe before then… the new plantlife that was put into the water to re-oxygenate it. Maybe it was small enough to be hidden among the plants… feeding on them… then on the fish… aquatic birds… growing with each meal, taking bigger prey…”

Brenda shuddered.

It could have been us last night. It could have been Mr Favia and his son…”

“That’s why I have to stop it,” he said. “The database… usually Time Lord records of species... especially rare species… they encourage, demand, the protection of the species. But this tells me I have to destroy it, for the sake of every other living creature in this neighbourhood… and beyond. Because… look…”

The image on the screen resolved into one that showed Maw procreation. Hundreds, thousands, of small creatures were expelled from the mature creature into the water.

“Our lake couldn’t contain them all. They would eat until there’s nothing left.”

“They wouldn’t stay in the lake. It isn’t self-contained. There is a river that runs out from it, across the countryside. Eventually they would reach the sea and they could be everywhere, all over Tibora. I have to kill this one, now. Before it is full size… before it reproduces. And… I think I know how to do it. But… but you should go back to the house. You shouldn’t be involved.”

“Did The Doctor ever tell Rose to stay in the house?” Brenda asked.

“Every single time,” Davie replied.

“And how many times did she obey?”

“Never,” he conceded. “All right… but… it’s going to be ugly…”

“This is my lake, my home and my family we’re fighting for this time, Davie. I’m with you. Besides… you wouldn’t think twice if it was Spenser. He faces all kinds of dangers with you. Anything he can do for you… I can.”

“Yes, of course you can,” he said. “Take hold of the gravitic anchor – the large yellow lever on that side of the console. That will help keep us level as we go down.”

He didn’t dematerialise the TARDIS. He used it in hover mode, carefully moving out over the lake before descending into the water. The viewscreen filled with greenish light at first, then darkened as they went further down into the deep lake formed by the collapsed caldera of a mountain that used to rival the one that now towered over it.

“The water looks murky from underneath. But it seems crystal clear when you look at it from the surface,” Brenda commented.

“That’s just the way the sunlight is refracted through the water,” Davie explained. “This lake is very pure and clean. Once we get rid of the beast lurking at the bottom, it will be beautiful again. We can teach the children to swim in it in the summer.”

Brenda looked uncertain.

“Yes, we will,” he insisted. “We will have our log-built bungalow with a boat moored up to the jetty, just as we imagined it. And we won’t let this spoil any of it.”

He smiled at her and she smiled back, at least partially convinced. He turned his attention back to his controls. The TARDIS was sending out an aural signal that simulated the blood pulsing through a Human body in water. The creature would be attracted to it, he had no doubt.

“Davie!” Brenda gave a soft cry as she glanced at the environmental monitor. “It’s coming. It’s…. on top of us… It’s bigger….”

“It’s grown in the time we were preparing,” Davie said in a calm voice that belied how he really felt about what he planned to happen next. He wondered if he actually should have told Brenda about it before she decided to stay on board the TARDIS with him.

“Davie!” She screamed as the viewscreen went dark. She knew as well as he did what had happened. The TARDIS had been swallowed by the Maw.

“It can’t harm us,” he assured her. “Even the gastric acids of its stomach can’t eat through the TARDIS.” He glanced at the screen and saw the partially digested remains of the Maw’s last couple of meals floating into view. He turned off the viewscreen before Brenda noticed. Facing danger alongside him was one thing. But things that would make a Sontaran nauseous were another.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Besides, we’re not going to be in here for long. Push the gravitic anchor to negative, now. We’re going up.”

Brenda watched the schematic and wondered what it must have looked like to anyone who witnessed it from the lakeside. The TARDIS, inside the Maw’s stomach, rose up out of the water. The great, huge creature hung in the air. Then Davie pressed another switch. She wasn’t sure what had happened, except that the console was glowing a different shade of green and the engines were whining rather alarmingly.

Then the engines stopped whining and the console glow returned to normal. Davie reached for the viewscreen switch and Brenda looked at a sunlit view of the lake and the surrounding countryside from twenty feet above it.

There was something lying on the lakeside that wasn’t quite so pretty. She looked at Davie questioningly, but he just set about landing the TARDIS beside it.

“Once it was out of the water, I electrified the outside of the TARDIS. Burnt it alive from the inside. A bit gruesome, but I couldn’t do that while it was in the lake. It would have killed all the ordinary fish.

“It smells horrible,” Brenda said as she went to the door and looked once at the huge mound of blackened, charred flesh. It was still burning inside. Even as she watched, a section of the body collapsed in on itself.

“It’ll be reduced to ash in a few hours,” Davie said. “We’ll need your dad and some of the other stewards to act as fire marshals, to make sure the forest doesn’t set alight. They’ve already closed the lake to tourism so there shouldn’t be a crowd control problem. Tomorrow they can tell the Press that they closed the nature reserve because of a fire. Nobody needs to know the truth. I’ll have a talk with Jake Favia and his son about keeping it quiet. They need the tourism as much as anyone does, so I’m sure they won’t want to talk about this. Anyway…. It’s all over.”

He turned and closed the door. Brenda still looked shocked.

“Come here,” he said. He put his arms around her shoulders and held her comfortingly until she stopped trembling and began to enjoy being held by him. As he kissed her lips, he pressed his hand against her cheek and shared with her again that sweet vision of the future – a warm, balmy evening in the height of the Tiboran summer, the two of them sitting on their veranda, looking out over the lake, listening to their children playing.

“Yes,” she agreed. “Yes, it will be like that. Thanks to you, it can be like that, now.”