This was a beautiful planet. A perfectly peaceful garden spot with rolling hills and watered valleys. They had enjoyed the hospitality of a friendly village people and light walks that didn't tire Cassie out too much.

"Five days with nothing trying to cause us trouble," Cassie sighed. "I'm sorry we have to go. We need more planets like this. Not like the one we were on before, with those horrible worm things."

They none of them wanted to remember that planet if they could help it. A city plagued by giant killer worm creatures whose nest Chrístõ eventually traced to an old and abandoned cave system under the outer city limits. They had a long, anxious time when he went in alone to plant explosive devices that would incinerate the worms and seal their lair forever under several tons of rock. They had all been relieved when he emerged from the cave entrance safe and unscathed. And completely unsurprised when, instead of accepting the praise and thanks of the citizens he brought them all to the TARDIS and set a course for this quiet place they had spent a pleasant and worm free week on.

Strangely, though, Chrístõ had been the only one who didn't seem to enjoy the experience. At least he had for the first few days, but then he seemed to become quiet and untalkative. When anyone looked at him he seemed distant and distracted and when he did contribute anything to the conversation it was a few vague words, barely whole sentences. He was eating very sparsely too, and at night spent whole hours in meditation while the others were enjoying the company of the friendly locals.

"I'm bored here," Chrístõ said rather suddenly and in a sullen, dead tone of voice. "I'm glad we're leaving."

The others all looked at him, surprised by the tone and the nature of his comment. He looked strangely out of countenance, too. His face was waxy and his eyes seemed to be distant and odd.

"Are you ill, Chrístõ?" Bo asked him, touching his hand. It felt clammy and cold. "What is wrong?"

"If I'm ill or not is no concern of yours," he snapped. Bo looked hurt. Everyone expected him to apologise for his momentary lack of manners, but he didn't. He took his TARDIS key from his pocket and pressed it. A moment later, it materialised as a rough built stable. Chrístõ opened the door and walked in without a word. The others looked at each other and hurried in after him. In the mood he seemed to be in they were all a little worried he might leave without them.

"Chrístõ?" Sammie went to him as he stood by the console and put the TARDIS into temporal orbit. "What's going on with you? You were very rude to Bo before. What's with the moodiness all of a sudden? You're acting very odd."

"I'm doing nothing of the sort," he answered. "We can't lounge around forever on a boring planet with nothing happening. I've got to fulfil my duty to the High Council of Time Lords."

"When we arrived on that planet you said stuff the High Council of the Time Lords, you want a holiday." Sammie told him. "Besides, we've done at least five of those presets they stuck you with in a fortnight. We stopped an entire solar system from being blown to atoms by a homicidal maniac. You cured a whole planet of blindness. We toppled two tyrants and established peaceful democracies and you single-handedly destroyed the worm creatures of Beoran IV. If that wasn't enough to satisfy the Time Lords, then they should get off their backsides and do some work themselves instead of leaving it to you."

"Don't speak in that disrespectful way about the High Council of Gallifrey," Chrístõ replied. "You have no right."

"Hey," Terry came by Sammie's side and faced Chrístõ with him. "THAT was uncalled for. You've been just as rude about the High Council yourself in your time."

Chrístõ said nothing. He turned away and checked another console. "The TARDIS engines are a little out of tune. I need to run diagnostics before we go anywhere else. It will take fifty-two hours."

"Then why couldn't you do that while we have a couple more nice days down there on the planet?" Terry asked him. "Do you mean we're going to be stuck in temporal orbit for more than two days?"

"If I tried to explain why diagnostics of this kind have to be done in temporal orbit I doubt your brains could comprehend it. Besides, it is EXACTLY two days by Gallifreyan time. Since this is a Gallifreyan ship, I think it's time you all adopted the 26 hour day. It is really rude of you to expect me to think like an Earth Human all the time."

"It's rude of you to think it matters," Terry told him. "What's with you?"

"Nothing is 'with' me," he replied. "I'm tired of being patronised by lesser species." He turned away then and went through the door to the inner corridor. Sammie went to the life support console and tracked his movements. "He's heading to the medical room," he reported.

"I couldn't care less if he was heading to the trash compactor to throw himself in it," Terry commented.

"Yes, you do," Cassie told him. "None of us would like Chrístõ to be hurt."

"Maybe not," Terry conceded. "But what the hell is going on with him? He's behaving like…"

"A total jerk," Sammie looked at Bo. "Will you go see him, love. Maybe you on your own with him can…"

"I'll try," she agreed. "He is still my Chrístõ even if he is cross with us all."

She followed the corridor to the medical room and entered it. She was surprised to see Chrístõ lying on one of the examination tables, his arm over his eyes as if the light in the room hurt him.

"Chrístõ, ai ren," she said, the Mandarin word for lover coming easily to her, and not in any way insincerely. Though she had married Sammie, and loved him dearly, Chrístõ had a place in her heart. She loved him as the dearest friend she ever had, who she would care for and trust in all things.

He took his arm away from his eyes and looked at her. He reached out and touched her face and she bent and kissed him on the lips. He responded to the kiss at first in the way he used to respond and Bo felt the spark in her heart for him kindle and glow as she remembered his love. They had not kissed as lovers for a long time, but for that moment she was willing to do so.

Then he seemed to change. His kiss became hard and insistent and he gripped her by the back of the neck painfully. Then he pushed her away. She saw his eyes hard and angry.

"Go away," he said. "You never loved me. You gave yourself to every man but me. You used me."

"Chrístõ… I…" Bo gasped in astonishment. "You can't mean that. Wo de qing ye zhen. My love for you is real. It is eternal."

"But you left me." Tears pricked his eyes and he put his arm over his face again. "Go away. I don't want to look at you."

Bo left. She went back to the console room. Sammie saw the grief on her face at once and went to hold her. She didn't tell him what went on between them. She didn't want Sammie to be angry with him for treating her so roughly.

"I think we should just let him cool off," Terry said. "I don't know what caused it, but I can't believe he has really changed so much. He's still our Chrístõ. I reckon in an hour or so he'll snap out of it and be so sorry for his rudeness he'll practically be on his knees asking for our forgiveness."

"I hope so," Sammie answered him. "Because I'm quite close to giving him a good kicking."

"Oh no," Cassie and Bo both protested.

"No," Cassie continued. "Don't hurt him. I'm sure it's like Terry said. He might be unwell. He really didn't look right, did he? He isn't usually THAT pale. And his eyes…"

Bo said nothing. She remembered his eyes when he pushed her away. As hard as they were, they were hurting, too.

Had she wronged him? She wondered. He always said it was her destiny to love another, not him. And he had encouraged her and Sammie to love each other. He had JOINED them in marriage. Did he now regret that?

If so, she was sorry. But she loved Sammie. He was her husband. He was the man who loved her completely when they lay together at night. Chrístõ would always be her ai ren in her heart, but Sammie was her lover in the physical sense, body and soul.

It was a sad group of friends who sat together in the console room. They played music for a while, but when the CD finished nobody felt inclined to change it. The two girls sat close to their men, protective and comforting arms around them. All three thought of Chrístõ and wondered about the sudden change that came on him, and wondered WHAT might have brought it on. The same thought crossed all of their minds. He was NOT Human. How much did they really know about his species? They knew that he was unusual in being a kind, generous and broad-minded member of Time Lord society, without the prejudices and snobbishness of many of his kind. They knew about his two hearts and his respiratory bypass system, and they knew that his brain, though the same size as theirs, was more efficiently used and contained far more knowledge than they could ever hope to have.

But what did they really know about Time Lord mental health? Did this sort of thing happen all the time? Did they snap and become completely different personalities sometimes? Did they snap back?

They were all his hostages here in the TARDIS until he DID snap back, Terry reflected. None of them could pilot the ship and they were at his mercy.

Cassie made a meal for them when she judged it to be lunchtime. They ate it without appetite and sat quietly again.

Chrístõ came into the console room. He looked at them all for a long, silent moment.

"You need to come to the medical room for your check up," he said to Cassie and walked out of the console room again.

"I'm not sure I want to go for a check up with him being as rude as that," Cassie said after a long, awkward pause. "And I never thought I'd say that. Chrístõ is a wonderful doctor. He looks after me and the baby so well. But…"

"I'll come with you," Bo said. "He might be a bit better behaved with the two of us together."

"What IS wrong with him, though?" Terry asked as the girls left the console room.

"I don't know. But until he comes out of it…." Sammie looked at the console. He pressed the button that switched on the viewscreen, showing them in temporal orbit above the planet they had enjoyed so much. It was a twin planet with the one with the worm problem. That was how they found it. Peaceful planets with no problems to be solved didn't come up very often in the presets. The Time Lords hadn't intended Chrístõ to have too many holidays from the mission they had sent him on. He had been glad of the respite though. Until a few days ago, Chrístõ had been as happy as any of them had seen him for a long time, enjoying the simple leisure and peace of the planet.

Sammie knew that there was a reason why Chrístõ wasn't entirely happy. He had loved Bo just as much as he did. Giving her up was a sacrifice. He had to resent it sometimes. He wouldn't be Human if he didn't.

Of course, Chrístõ WASN'T Human. But Gallifreyans didn't seem that dissimilar to Humans. They felt the same emotions.

Could it be that simple? Was he resenting Bo and him being together?

That didn't make sense. He may have hurt giving her up, but he did it willingly. Why should he complain now?

There had to be something else.


Cassie clutched Bo's hand as they walked along the corridor to the medical centre. They, too, wondered what had brought such a change in him. They, too, could think of no other reason than jealousy.

"It's hard for him with the four of us. We're all together. I have Terry and you have Sammie. But he is alone. When we're in bed at night, and he's there in the console room, sitting in that position, his body 'switched off' - it must be strange. He must feel so lonely."

"I didn't think he felt anything when he is meditating," Bo said. "I thought that was WHY he did it, so not to feel."

"Well, maybe. But it IS hard on him."

"I DO love him," Bo said to Cassie. "So do you… don't you?"

"From the moment I first met him," Cassie admitted. "When he told us he was from another planet. It was a crazy thing to say. Yet I believed him. He was so sweet, and gentle and unlike a Human in the best ways. No cruelty or jealousy in him, only goodness. Yes, I loved him from the first. Terry accepted that. He knew it wasn't a love that threatened him. Chrístõ is a different kind of being, and the love we have for him is a different kind of love."

"Yes," Bo said, nodding. "Yes, that is it."

They entered the medical room together. Chrístõ was there. He looked at them both but said nothing. Cassie went behind a screen and changed out of her clothes and into an examination gown. She came out and lay on the table and Chrístõ came to her and began to examine her, ensuring that the baby was progressing as it should.

Usually she enjoyed these examinations. Chrístõ had such a gentle touch. She loved it when he put his hand on her stomach and could tell her by the power of his mind how big the baby was, and how well developed. He put his other hand on her forehead and in her mind's eye she was able to see and hear the child in her womb, see and hear its heart beating. And he talked to her all the time, about what she might expect in the weeks to come. He answered her anxious questions about the birth itself. She trusted him completely.

But today it was different. When he touched her, it seemed heavy handed and she felt herself flinch beneath his touch. She was glad he didn't talk. She wanted it to be over so that she could get dressed and go back to Terry.

Chrístõ turned away from her after he had finished the physical examination. He seemed to be doing something she couldn't quite see.

"There's nothing wrong is there?" Cassie asked, biting her lip with worry. "The baby… is it all right?"

"No," Chrístõ said in a strange, unnatural voice. "Your baby is not all right." He turned and she stared at the unnatural glint in his eyes and the expression on his face. "It's not a baby. It's a demon, and I have to cut it out of you…."

He lifted his hand and Cassie screamed as she saw the long scalpel he had concealed. She leapt from the table and Bo put herself in front of her and faced him head on, her hands held like a knife to defend her friend.

For a minute or more they were a frozen tableaux. Cassie screaming, Bo defending her, Chrístõ standing there holding the scalpel like a dagger. Then he gave a groan as if in pain. He dropped the scalpel and ran from the room. Terry and Sammie both arrived moments after he left. Bo quickly told her husband what had happened as Terry consoled Cassie.

"He's flipped," Terry said. "He's… he's gone mad."

"He must have," Sammie agreed. "I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it. But…"

"He is not my Chrístõ," Bo said.

"He's not MY Chrístõ either," Cassie added. "He was… He scared me. I thought…."

"Bo, take Cassie to her room and lock the door behind the both of you," Sammie told her. "Protect Cassie and the baby."

"Protect them from Chrístõ?" The idea seemed ludicrous. But Bo did as he said. When the girls were gone Sammie headed to his own bedroom. In a drawer he found his service revolver and loaded it, then he put several pairs of plasicuffs in his pocket.

"A gun?" Terry queried. "This IS Chrístõ."

"It WAS Chrístõ. Now it's… I don't know. Either he has lost his senses or… or it's not him. Something has taken over his mind."

"Would either of us have believed in things taking over people's minds before we met Chrístõ and joined his world?"

"I thought the most dangerous people in the world WERE people," Sammie admitted. "I didn't reckon on demons and slime monsters and… And insane Time Lords."

They went to the console room and checked the life signs monitor again.

"He's in the Cloister Room," Terry said.

"That's dangerous." Sammie took his gun back out of the holster he had strapped on and held it in his hand.

"Is it?"

"That "Eye of Harmony" thing. He could blow the TARDIS up. Or…"

Another thought occurred to them both. They went quickly through the corridor that brought them to the Cloister Room.

Chrístõ was there, and as they feared he was beside the Eye of Harmony.

And it was open. A silver light as if from a huge vat of liquid mercury cast strange patterns on the high ceiling, and the room felt as if it was full of energy.

Sammie went first down the steps. He levelled his gun and called out.

"Chrístõ… for your own sake and for all of us, step away from there. Please."

Chrístõ turned and looked at his two friends. They were both surprised. He looked almost normal now. Except deeply and desperately worried and in pain, too. His expression creased and he hugged his arms around himself as a spasm wracked him.

"While I'm near the eye I'm myself again," he said when he stood up again. "Except the pain is there and I can feel the pressure of it trying to reclaim my brain."

"What?" Terry asked. "Chrístõ… are you telling us that you've been under some kind of influence - because - Well, for one thing, that's… that means it wasn't you that hurt the girls the way you did. And that's good. But… but you can't stay here in the Cloister Room forever."

"No," he said. "I know. This is a respite." He fell to his knees as the pain took him again. Terry stepped towards him. "No… do not… If it DOES get hold of me again, it's getting desperate. It might make me kill you."

"Chrístõ…" Sammie pulled out the plasicuffs. "I know you can bust these easily. I've seen you do it. But, if there's enough of your will in you to know this is for your own good…" Chrístõ put his arms around his back and submitted as Sammie restrained him with the cuffs. "I think we should take you to the medical room," he added.

"If the Eye is left open I might still be able to keep control over myself elsewhere in the TARDIS. But I can't be sure."

"We'll risk it. You can't stay in here, anyway. Whatever that stuff is, it has to be hazardous."

"Artron energy? It's harmless in the atmosphere. Not like the radiation you Humans throw about. But you wouldn't want to fall in the Eye. It would be like being eaten by the sun. Useful stuff though. When we regenerate, it's Artron energy that fills our bodies and makes it happen, you know."

Terry and Sammie looked at each other and tried to decide if that last sentence actually made any sense to them. Then they took hold of his arms, holding him gently but firmly, and walked him back to the medical room. He seemed to be with them still as they made him lie down on the examination table.

"X-Ray," he said, pointing to a machine that stood in the corner of the room. As Sammie set it up under his supervision, he asked Terry to help him take his jacket and shirt off. That meant breaking the plasicuffs. As Sammie noted, Chrístõ could do that easily. "I'm still me," he assured Terry. I think the open Eye is helping. I can feel… my mind is under siege, but for the moment it's still me."

"What's doing it?" Terry asked.

"I think I know. But I need the X-Ray to be sure. Meantime - just in case…" He pointed to the arm and leg restraints the table had. "Those will hold. In case you lose me again. I don't want to hurt either of you."

"I don't want to hurt you, either," Sammie said as he brought the X-Ray machine and anchored it over the table. "But I'll shoot you in both legs if you go after the girls again. It might not hold you for long, but it'll be long enough. So…tell whatever your inner demon is that I'm not kidding. I'll protect the girls with my life, even against you."

Chrístõ looked at Sammie. He smiled. "If I thought I was a risk to them, I'd be grateful to you for stopping me any way you can."

"Lie still now," Terry said as he fastened the restraints firmly but not so tightly as to cause him discomfort. "Let's find out what's going on."

Chrístõ instructed them in how to use the X-Ray machine to take an image of his abdomen and automatically display it on a plasma screen on the wall.

"Oh my…." Terry swore under his breath. Sammie swore out loud. They both turned and looked at Chrístõ. He turned his face away and closed his eyes. Tears squeezed from them no matter how tightly he closed them.

"I was right," he murmured. "Oh… Rassilon have mercy on me. I don't want to die like that."

"Chrístõ… What the hell IS that?" Sammie asked him as they stared at the screen. "And how did it get in…."

"It's a Beoran parasite worm," he said. "The early stage of one of the creatures that we fought on that planet. When I was planting the explosives that destroyed the nest, I thought I felt something sting my back. But I couldn't see anything. It must have burrowed in. But of course, my skin regenerated over the wound so there was nothing to see. And it lodged there in my abdominal cavity and grew."

"What's it feeding off to grow as big as that?" Sammie asked. The thing that was wound around inside him looked as much as three feet long.

"Me," Chrístõ admitted. "It's eating away at my internal organs - my liver, mostly. My regenerative function is repairing it as fast as its being destroyed - which just gives it more to feed on and puts me in this horrible pain all the time." He gasped and strained against his restraints as a spasm of pain wracked his body. Terry and Sammie both held him down until it was over.

And it's tapping into my brain through my spinal cord. The thing is… it's sentient in a way. It can't function on its own, though. It needs something with a brain - an animal or a person. It's trying to take over my brain so that it can use me as a willing host and possibly to use me to get to you guys as new hosts. That's why it wanted me to attack Cassie… She being pregnant… the creature needed space for its own young."

"Oh my…." Terry looked as if he was going to be sick. "Chrístõ…. How… What…"

"What can we do, Chrístõ? We can't let this thing kill you. There's got to be something…"

"You've got to get it out of me," Chrístõ said. "Sammie… You have to do it."

"Do what?" he asked, not understanding. "Chrístõ, what are you asking of me?"

"Cut it out of me," he said. He groaned again as the pain enveloped him again. This time it seemed to go on for much longer. Sammie put his hand on his stomach and was alarmed to feel the thing writhing beneath his flesh. "It's the only way. It'll get bigger and eat away at me until… until I'm no more than a shell… brain tissue under its control, a framework of bones and flesh…"

"Uggh!" Terry really did look sick. He darted away to the sink and Sammie and Chrístõ both heard the distressing sound of him vomiting. When he came back Sammie had worse news.

"He says I have to operate on him without anaesthetic," he told him. "He says it would kill him."

"Anaesthetic would impair my body's ability to repair itself. I would bleed to death. I'm going to drop into a meditative trance," he said. "It will mask the pain."

"Mask it?" Terry looked at him. "Chrístõ… are you sure…"

"I have no choice. It's not just my life… This thing will hurt you all, too. Cassie and the baby… If anything happened to them…. Sammie… please… I'd rather die on this table, right now, than become a monster that could kill all of you."

"All right," Sammie told him. "I don't like this, but I'll do what I have to do."

"What do I have to do?" Terry asked.

"Take my hand," Chrístõ whispered to him as he steadied his breathing and prepared to enter the trance. "I need… contact with somebody living. To guide me back afterwards. Do you understand?"

"I understand," Terry said. "But… It should be Bo. She loves you, Chrístõ. She'll hold your hand forever."

"I don't want either of the girls seeing this. Terry, you've been my friend the longest. Stay with me." He grasped his hand and squeezed. Terry looked at his face as he dropped into the mysterious levels of meditative trance. On the x-ray screen they saw his hearts and lungs slow down. It was strange to think that he WAS alive like that. His face was impassive as he stopped breathing even, and his eyes were glassy and unseeing.

Terry felt it was a kind of honour that he asked him to be his connection with the living world as he faced such an ordeal. He was determined not to be sick again and let him down. He turned so that he couldn't see what Sammie was doing and watched Chrístõ's unseeing eyes instead.

Sammie felt it was an honour of a kind, too. But one he was undeserving of. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He hoped he could live up to Chrístõ's faith in him. He had some understanding of medical procedures. He was trained to perform first aid in the field. He could remove bullets, suture wounds. But this was beyond anything like that.

But he was Chrístõ's only hope.

"Terry," Sammie said quietly. "Are you sure he's out of it. If he moves… It's going to be hard enough…"

"He is," Terry replied. He put his hand on Chrístõ's face. He was warm, alive, but he didn't react at all to his touch. The eyes remained empty. "I know you're in there somewhere, Chrístõ," he whispered. "Hang in there, my friend."

Sammie made the first deep cut into his flesh. Orange blood poured from the wound as he cut it wide and opened it out to reveal his internal organs. He swore when he saw the creature nestling among his intestines. It was dark green and snakelike, and when it was exposed to the light it raised what had to be a head.

"Get it out of him," Terry gasped. He hadn't meant to look, but Sammie's voice had made him turn. He looked away again but it would be a while before he forgot what he had seen. "For pity's sake, get it out of him."

Sammie grasped the thing and pulled. It hissed like a snake and a mouth with thousands of small teeth opened. Slowly the three feet of green, slime-covered, pulsating creature was dragged out. It didn't seem to resist. It unravelled from the intestines easily. Sammie wondered what he would have done if it had wrapped around and held on. He wouldn't have been able to remove it without harming its unwilling host.

As it was, the thing came away. Terry looked around once more as Sammie lifted it clear. He turned and squeezed Chrístõ's hand. He wondered if he knew what was happening to him. He had told them he could mask the pain. Was masking it enough? Was he screaming in agony deep in his trance, unable to scream aloud because he wasn't in control of his vocal chords. Terry blinked back tears as he tried to imagine his friend's suffering. He clung to his hand and tried to will him to know that he was there with him, ready to share his pain.

"Don't die, Chrístõ," he whispered. He looked at the foul creature that had been hurting him so much. "Kill it."

"I intend to," Sammie replied. He threw the creature across the medical room and reached for his gun. He emptied the magazine into it and was glad to see the head explode into fragments and the body pulp. The blood that poured from it looked like bile and he retched as he caught the revolting smell. But it seemed to have an acidic quality. As it poured out of the creature it began to eat away at itself, dissolving its own gruesome flesh. As Terry and Sammie watched in fascinated horror it dissolved almost completely away, leaving nothing but a strange mark etched on the floor.

"Sammie!" Terry looked from the ghastly remains to Chrístõ. His body seemed to be reacting of its own accord now as it began to close the wound. They both would have been glad turn away and not look, but something compelled them to watch as the flesh slowly knitted together. Terry put his hand on Chrístõ's chest above his stilled hearts and whispered encouraging words to him.

"Come on, old friend," he whispered. "You can do it. I know you've got it in you."

Sammie took his other hand and held it. He thought about his comrades in the Regiment. They wouldn't think he was being a sap holding another man's hand. In a situation like this, when it was a mate, when it was somebody who had pulled him out of the fire time and again, they would understand. They wouldn't go so far as to call it love. But there was a bond between soldiers that made them more than just numbers on a roll to each other. He still had the faces of those who died that day in Kuwait etched in his memory. He would have died with them if Chrístõ had not saved him. Yes, holding his hand, willing him to live now that a gruesome ordeal was over, was something his army comrades would understand.

He looked and sighed with relief to see that the wound was almost closed. Chrístõ was the most incredible being he had ever met. That wound had been deep and wide. And it was almost gone. As he watched, it closed up altogether without even a scar to show where his flesh had been cut open.

Then he felt his hand tighten and he looked and saw his eyes flicker. They were no longer lifeless. He watched the eyes for an anxious moment. To be sure it WAS Chrístõ inside his head.

"It's him," Terry said. He had felt the same anxiety. Even though they had killed the creature, could his head still be under its influence? But the eyes that looked at them, the expression of gratitude and friendship, the lips that whispered hoarsely, "thank you." were his. He was back.

"I'm getting the girls," Terry said and ran off. Sammie unfastened the restraints and let him sit up. Again, there was a moment between them which could be misconstrued by an ordinary onlooker, but anyone who had ever seen combat with other men, who knew about comradeship, knew it for just what it was.

Sammie was swept aside the next moment as Bo ran into the room. And her embraces and kisses were quite clearly those of one who still held a bright burning candle for him. He embraced her as she said words in fast Mandarin that Sammie knew to be words of affection. He had heard them from her lips in their love-making. But for now Chrístõ was the recipient of those vows of love, and Sammie didn't object. Chrístõ replied in the same terms, overwhelmed by the passion that came with her relief that he was both alive and himself again.

"Bo," Terry warned. "Let him breathe now." She laughed and turned and hugged Terry and then embraced her husband and kissed him with the same passion.

"You saved him," she said. "Sammie, you saved him for us all."

"I'm glad," he answered. "But I never want to go through anything like that again. It was the most gruesome…."

"Cassie," Terry said, seeing his own wife hovering uncertainly at the door. "Come on, it's all right." Cassie came nervously. Chrístõ looked nervous too. He remembered the awful thing he had nearly done to her and he didn't know what to say. And he didn't know if Cassie could ever forgive him.

"Are you… Chrístõ, my beautiful alien, are you yourself again?" she asked. He smiled at the expression she had always used for him and reached out his arms. He cried as he held her, for the sweet, unconditional love she had always had for him, and which had been put at risk in those dreadful hours when his mind had not been his own.

"I am," he said. "I'm myself. And I am sorry I frightened you when I wasn't."

"I still want you to be my only doctor," Cassie told him, getting to the heart of the matter that lay between them. "I want you to know that right away."

"Oh!" Chrístõ hugged her tightly. "Thank you. I hardly deserve that forgiveness from you. I scared you so badly."

"It wasn't you. I knew it couldn't be you. We all… We were angry and scared because of the things you were doing. But we all knew it couldn't be you doing it. Not really."

"I think we need another holiday," Chrístõ said. "How about Ireland? Legend has it St. Patrick banished the snakes from it centuries ago!"