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

The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and smiled widely as he saw where it had materialised.

“Very clever, old girl,” he said patting the blue painted woodwork fondly.

“Why clever?” Grace Holloway asked as she stepped out and looked around.

“She’s beside a ‘koban’,” he answered. “A Japanese police box. Same principle as the English design she’s been stuck with for the past half a millennia. There should be a couple of policemen inside, but that one has a sign saying ‘back in five minutes’.”

“I hope nobody needs a policeman in the next five minutes,” Grace commented as she turned from the simple wooden koban and looked at the front façade of a much more remarkable complex of buildings.

“I knew you’d love it,” The Doctor said to her. “And it seemed appropriate, somehow. After all those hours in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park - a day at Kiyomizu-dera, the Temple of Pure Water in Kyoto.”

“Only you could take me on a day out on the other side of the world,” Grace noted. “You’re amazing, Doctor.”

The Doctor smiled at the compliment and grasped her hand in his as they mounted the breathtakingly wide white stone steps that led to the entrance portal into the temple that had only narrowly missed being named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

For Grace, part of the wonder was that hand holding hers. The Doctor had stayed with her for a fortnight in San Francisco. It had been a pleasant time for them both. He was in need of a rest after the emotional trauma of his last adventure in time and space. She was weary of the usual dating routine. A man who didn’t disappoint her, who treated her with kindness and consideration, was so very refreshing.

He slept on the sofa. He never even attempted to take their relationship any further than that. She had known men for far less time who assumed they could move their clothes into her closets and make decisions about which side of the bed to sleep on. But The Doctor, when they got back from dinner or the theatre or any other social occasion that other men assumed to be a prelude to the bedroom simply made a late night mug of hot milk for them both and kissed her goodnight before she went to her room and he made a nest for himself with a couple of pillows and the spare duvet.

It was refreshingly wonderful to have a relationship that contained all of the romance, but none of the pressure. As much as it would have been good to consummate that relationship in the expected way, there was a part of her that knew it was better like this.

Besides, she knew he would never be keeping clothes in her closet. He was never going to park his TARDIS and stay with her. And she couldn’t imagine being with him, wandering in time and space without anywhere to call home.

So she knew it was never going to last. This was a beautiful interlude for them both. She expected it to be over already. The fact that he chose to extend it by bringing her on this trip in his TARDIS was nice, but she was under no illusions that this was anything but his way of saying thank you for the hospitality back in San Francisco.

Even so, she was aware that people around them thought they were a couple. As they walked towards the main hall with its famous veranda and the Otowa-no-taki waterfall, she heard an elderly Japanese man in a traditional kimono speak to his equally beautifully dressed wife, saying that they had no need for the Jishu-Jinja shrine.

Grace wondered for a moment why she had heard them speak English. Then she realised that she hadn’t. She had HEARD English, but they had spoken in Japanese. A few moments further thought and she decided it was something that the TARDIS did, or perhaps it was a side effect of being near The Doctor himself. Anyway, it was a useful thing when her conversational Japanese extended to asking for the bill in sushi restaurants.

“What’s Jishu-Jinja?” she asked. “And why don’t we need it?”

“It’s the Japanese god of love and match-making,” The Doctor replied. “The shrine contains the ‘love stones’. Those seeking love have to walk from one love stone to another several yards away with their eyes closed. If they succeed, they will find true love.”

“Nice little tradition,” Grace said. “But... I’m not sure if I’d want to try it. I might end up wandering right off track. The sort of men I’ve dated...”

Any other man in this situation might have taken that as a hint. The Doctor didn’t. She wondered if she wanted him to.

“You don’t need it,” he told her. “And you don’t need this, either. Nor do I. But I thought you’d like to see it.”

They reached the top of a flight of steps and came out onto the covered gallery in front of the Otowa-no-taki waterfall. It wasn’t especially impressive in itself. The word ‘waterfall’ conjured up images of sheets of rushing water. This was three rivulets that were channelled by wooden gulleys on the roof. They fell into a shallow pond below. Dozens of people were using metal cups on long handles to catch the water and drink it.

“Each channel is said to convey different blessings upon the drinker –health, longevity and wisdom.”

Grace could immediately see why The Doctor thought he wouldn’t need any of those things. He was the man who had come back to life after dying on her operating table. He had already told her he could live for thousands of years. And he had the wisdom of eternity behind those soft brown eyes of his.

“You’re one of the smartest humans I’ve ever met,” The Doctor told her. “Health and longevity... Well, if I told you anything about that, I’d be breaking my rule about not revealing the future But I can promise you have nothing to worry about.”

If longevity meant that her name and reputation would live forever, then that was certainly assured. He remembered the SS Grace Holloway doing its great work wherever in the galaxy a medical emergency occurred. She WOULD be proud of that kind of immortality, but he didn’t dare tell her for fear of daunting her completely.

“Of course, like all blessings, there is a downside for the greedy,” The Doctor said. “The pilgrims must only choose one blessing or they will have bad luck instead.”

“Sounds fair,” Grace admitted. “But I can’t help wondering... does anyone check that it IS pure water? Wooden channels aren’t exactly the most hygienic of surfaces for it to be constantly running over. There could be bacteria or algae or....”

She stopped herself in her tracks. She was thinking like a physician, with her intellect and education. She should have been thinking of it with her instinct, with her soul.

“It’s a fantastic idea. But since I really don’t need any of those blessings, let’s leave it to those who do. And I hope it works for them.

They went up another set of steps to the great wide stage at the top of the main hall, held up by pillars of wood and offering a fantastic view over the city of Kyoto. The English speaking tour guide was telling a group of students with backpacks about the former practice of jumping from the stage in order to have a wish granted. Of the two-hundred and thirty-four people who tried it, most survived, but the practice was now banned on account of those who didn’t.

“It’s not exactly jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge,” Grace noted, looking down at the dense green forest vegetation below that might cushion those falling from the stage. “Not suicidal, but foolhardy, maybe. It would have to be a really big wish for me to want to do that.”

“I agree,” The Doctor told her. He grasped her hand again and they walked on, out of the main hall. Kiyomizu-dera was a vast complex of temples and shrines, some charmingly hidden within the hillside forest that Kyoto was built right up against. By mutual but unspoken agreement they sought out those hidden places rather than the busier parts where Japanese people in various styles of dress from traditional to modern jostled with tourists from the west. They enjoyed the quieter places much better, the shrines where offerings were made for various kinds of good fortune, or where maiko, the trainee geisha in their traditional white make up and colourful clothes, played traditional instruments to lull the gods into granting favours to the faithful.

One such shrine seemed very remote indeed. They couldn’t even see the pagoda tops of the main concentration of temples and there were few sounds to be heard other than birdsong and the gentle thrum of a musical instrument that The Doctor identified as a three stringed shamisen. Grace knew better than to question him about that.

She was a little puzzled by the elaborate gate they stepped through before entering the shrine.

“It’s a Niomon Gate,” The Doctor noted. “They are supposed to prevent evil entering the place. The front entrance to the complex, of course, was one big Niomon Gate. But somebody seemed to think this place needed some extra help.”

Grace looked at The Doctor with trepidation. Could there be something frightening around here? Her western upbringing and her education in scientific fact railed against the feelings evinced by her presence in a place where people believed that drinking water could bestow blessings and jumping off a stage could grant wishes, and where offerings to various gods were made in all sincerity. It was easy to be carried away by the place and its complicated spirituality.

The Doctor grasped her hand a little more tightly and she was glad of his touch as they passed under the gate.

“That’s odd,” The Doctor said when they were on the other side of the gate.

“What is?”

“I assumed the gate was to prevent evil entering this shrine. But the symbols and statues meant to ward off baleful influences are on this side. I think this gate was meant to keep evil in, not out.”


“I don’t know... let’s see what’s inside.”

“I knew you’d say that,” Grace told him. “Leaving well alone and going back to the main complex just wouldn’t be you, would it?”

The Doctor smiled enigmatically and kept on walking towards the shrine made of highly carved and decorated wood. It was the source of the shamisen music, and also a voice murmuring a prayer of atonement.

The Doctor pushed open the door to the shrine and the smell of incense was overpowering. The music and the prayers stopped. Two of the three people within, a middle aged geisha who was playing the shamisen and an elderly woman dressed in the robes of a priestess looked at the visitors with something like a mixture of shock and astonishment on their faces.

The third occupant of the shrine was a maiko, no more than nineteen years old, still wearing the make up and clothes of her profession, but clearly very ill. Her real complexion where it could be seen was as pale as the make up and her eyes were sunken. Her lips were cracked as if she hadn’t taken any liquid through her mouth for some time and her body looked emaciated.

“I’m a Doctor, I can help,” said Grace and The Doctor both at the same time. Then The Doctor stood back and, partly in deference to gender, he let Grace bend and look at the girl.

“She is starving to death,” Grace said in astonishment after a very short time examining her. She looked around. The shrine had abundant food in it. There were bowls of saffron coloured rice, fruit, cheese. “Why? Is this some kind of sacrifice? Is she deliberately starving herself to receive some blessing from the gods? Is it a punishment? If so, I order it to stop, right now. Give her food and drink and then let me get her to a hospital.”

“It is not by choice or by anyone else’s instruction that she is in such a state,” the Geisha answered. “She is possessed by a gaki.”

“By....” Grace looked at the two women who were attending the girl, then to The Doctor. He knelt and put his hand on the girl’s head very briefly then drew it back as if he feared contamination.

“Gaki... a hungry ghost. A particular type of Oni... demon. They are said to be the spirits of people who were greedy and selfish in life. Perhaps it’s the punishment for taking all three of the blessings of Otowa-no-taki. In spirit their desires – their hungers - are increased tenfold, but their ability to satisfy those desires is diminished or taken away altogether. In this case... the gaki desires food and drink, but cannot get enough of it to satisfy. What happens when she tries to eat?”

The last was addressed to the geisha and the priestess.

“Watch,” the priestess said. She lifted the girl’s head while the geisha brought a bowl of rice to her and tried to feed her just a few grains picked up between two chopsticks. Grace was astonished. The maiko’s mouth shrank so that no more than those few grains could be placed between her lips, and when she swallowed it was difficult, as if her oesophagus had shrunk as well.

“That’s... not possible,” Grace said. “It’s not natural.”

“No, it’s not natural at all,” The Doctor agreed. “It’s beyond nature. But I can help. I can save this girl, if you will let me.” He looked at the geisha and the priestess. It was for them to give permission. He was, in their eyes, at least, a westerner who was interfering in something that was of their culture. The truth in both cases was far different, but he hoped he could have their trust and consent. It would be so much easier on them.

“Your eyes are deep wells of aged wisdom,” said the priestess. “You see further than any man. You have travelled far and lived long.”

“Yes, I have,” The Doctor assured her.

“I give way to your great wisdom,” she continued.

The Doctor thanked her in Japanese which translated to English for Grace’s ears. Then he leaned over the dying girl. He placed his hands either side of her face and bent still closer to kiss her on her parched lip. Grace watched in horror as the girl’s mouth became fixed on his. She was certain he was being suffocated by her. But he didn’t struggle.

Then he leapt up in one smooth move and ran out of the shrine. Grace was torn between concern for the sick maiko and concern for The Doctor. She chose the latter. The maiko had her two elder friends to care for her. She rushed after The Doctor and was in time to see him step under the Niomon Gate. He screamed as if in terrible agony and his body convulsed. He fell to his knees, crying out strange, disjointed words in Japanese, English and what she could only assume was his own home language. She didn’t see anything else, but there was a slight rush of wind around her just before The Doctor became silent and still.

She ran to him. He was still kneeling, his eyes closed, his breathing shallow. She touched his chest over his two hearts and felt they were still beating.


“I’m all right,” he said opening his eyes. “The gaki passed from the girl to me... and I forced it out. It will be too weak from possessing me to try to take another host.”

“So she’s...” The Doctor stood up, leaning on her shoulder for a moment as he gathered his strength. They both returned to the shrine.

The young maiko was awake and struggling to sit up. She looked much better already. The geisha was pressing her to drink some fruit juice and take the bowl of rice. Knowing how very much she needed that sustenance, Grace didn’t interrupt her to give her a medical examination. The fact that she could now put food into her mouth and swallow it seemed proof enough that she was free of the gaki.

“How can we thank you?” the priestess asked.

“By continuing to make offerings to release the gaki from their tortures as this shrine is meant to do,” The Doctor replied. “I wish you all well.”

With that he took Grace by the arm and stepped out of the shrine. As they passed through the Niomon Gate, Grace shuddered. The Doctor looked at her in concern.

“I’m ok,” she assured him. “It was all just... a bit... weird.”

“Let’s get back on the beaten path, among noisy, ordinary people,” The Doctor told her. “That’s the cure for weirdness. Good old fashioned ordinariness.”

They went back to the stage at the top of the main hall where those two-hundred and thirty-four people had tried jumping off. Neither of them had any inclination to do that, but they stood and looked at the breathtaking view as the tourists of all nations milled around them.

“I’m still not sure I understand,” Grace said after a while. “This... gaki...”

“A hungry ghost,” The Doctor said. “The concept exists in Buddhist traditions of both Japan and China, as well as Hindu, Sikh and Jain. They are also known as preta, peta or gui. Either way the idea is much the same. As I said before, they are the spirits of people who were greedy or selfish in life... forced to endure longing without fulfilment. Sometimes for food or drink, sometimes for gold or riches, but unable to attain them, or finding them unsatisfying when they do. The shrine back there is dedicated to relieving their suffering through offerings and prayer. But somehow the maiko became possessed by a strong, persistent gaki and you saw the result for yourself.”

“I won’t even ask how you know so much about other people’s cultures,” Grace replied. “Especially Earth cultures. But... that’s just it. Doctor, we’re both scientists. If you’d told me the girl had been taken over by a disembodied alien entity I could have accepted it. But... a ghost... and then it took over you... and the GATE forced it to leave you. A gate made of wood and paint and varnish, no stasis fields or radiation barrier or anything. At least I am presuming that’s what happened?”

“You believe in disembodied aliens,” he said. “But not in disembodied spirits that might once have been Human?”

“Yes,” she said. “I spent years at university dealing with facts, with what is real and what exists. I specialise in a particularly complicated muscle of the body called the heart that breaks down through disease and ill-treatment, but never because of love. I’ve seen enough death, on the operating table, in beds in intensive care despite all my efforts. Dead is dead. Hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys, they stop. The brain stops. The body is just... meat. I’ve never cracked a chest open and found a soul in there. And the idea that this world has things in it like gaki.... It’s...”

She sighed and looked over the parapet.

“A tradition like jumping off here... or drinking from the streams of water down below... I can go with that. Or the thing with the love stones. It’s harmless. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. The fact that some people believe in it... I mean, it’s the fact that they believe that counts. It makes them FEEL that the water gave them a blessing or that walking a straight line with their eyes shut will bring them true love. That’s all right. It doesn’t matter if I don’t really believe it. But what we saw back there....”

“You can’t believe that the demons and invisible spirits of this ancient traditional way of life can exist alongside your science?”

“In a nutshell, yes.”

“I felt like that, once,” The Doctor admitted. “I thought science proved everything eventually. I didn’t think the soul could be real because it couldn’t be located within the corporeal body. But there are too many things that defy science, and what we saw back there was one of them. Gaki are real. Mostly they are unseen. They trouble nobody but themselves. Now and again one of them, perhaps a more selfish, self-centred one than usual, will cause harm to a Human and intervention is necessary.”

“So, what you’re saying is that the world... the universe... is bigger than I thought and science can’t explain it.”

“Yes, but it’s nothing to be frightened of. Just because we can’t open something up and examine it, to see how it works, doesn’t make it wrong. It just makes the universe much more colourful and exciting and full of possibilities than you thought it was. And that’s a wonderful thing.”

“Yes... yes, it is,” Grace agreed, feeling as if his words had touched her own soul wherever it was. “It’s... wonderful. And... so are you.”

“I’m hungry,” he said, deflecting the compliment. “Let’s go and find a nice Japanese restaurant.”

That plan suited Grace just fine. She took his hand again as they made their way through the temple complex to that grand front entrance that was, as The Doctor pointed out, a huge Niomon Gate, protecting the temple from evil influences.

“Funny,” Grace said as they reached the bottom of the steps. “I really feel different now that we’re outside. As if I really was in the presence of something... and now we’re outside its influence.”

“Not so sceptical now, then?” The Doctor asked.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe there is something in it.”

“But WHAT is it?” she asked when they were seated at their table in a fine restaurant partway down the zig-zagging road that led up to Kiyomizu-dera. A waiter brought rice wine and put several different dishes of traditional Japanese food on the table. She ate her fill, grateful that she was free to do so, and sparing a thought for the poor maiko for whom food had been such a torture.

“What’s what?” The Doctor replied, though he knew exactly what she meant.

“The temple... there really is something within it, isn’t there? And that gate... when you stepped into it, the gaki WAS affected, just as if you’d stepped into a metal detector at the airport. So what is it?”

“Prayer,” The Doctor answered. “The power of all that positive energy from hundreds, thousands of people, burning incense, making offerings, saying prayers, asking for wishes to be granted. So much of it goes on within the complex, especially in the main hall, that it actually becomes a physical, if invisible, force.”

“And the gate?”

“The Niomon Gate with the defensive symbols, wards off the negative spirits. It’s a sort of repelling force, like magnetism in reverse. Except more complicated than that. While repelling them, it also attracts them. If you could actually see the spirit world, the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera would be thronging with spirits denied access to the blessings within.”

“I’m glad I can’t, then,” Grace said. “It sounds rather dreadful for them. And I’m glad you told me that AFTER we left. If I’d known I was walking past them.... it would be worse than walking past a beggar without giving him a bit of loose change.”

“You give your loose change to beggars?” The Doctor asked with a gentle smile.

“Yes, I do, if I can,” Grace answered. “I’m very well paid for my work. I can spare it.”

“Grace by name, and Grace by nature.”

“I... didn’t always do that,” she added. “I used to be as cynical as anyone else. But... when I see down and outs in the street... I always think of you. When I first met you, you were as lost and helpless as them. And somehow I feel as if helping them, in a small way, I’m... doing right by you.”

“Grace...” The Doctor spoke her name quietly. He looked at her in the soft, ambient light of the restaurant. She was a very special woman. He had always known that. In the past weeks when they had been together he had felt that even more than ever.

“Doctor... I guess what I’m saying is... I’m... more than a little bit in love with you.”

“I know,” he said.

“Are you ok with that?” she added. “I mean... I don’t expect you to feel the same way. You’re a Time Lord. You don’t even belong on the same planet as I do. And I couldn’t possibly expect you to stay with me. I don’t even know if... if we’re physically compatible. Or if...”

“We’re compatible,” he assured her.

“You... know that for definite?” Grace asked. “You’ve been with Earth women before?”

“I don’t make a habit of it. But, yes.”

“So... is there any reason why...”

“None at all,” The Doctor replied. Then he reached and kissed her. There was nothing unusual about that. They had kissed a lot in the past couple of weeks. But this time it went on for much longer and they wanted it so much more.

“Doctor...” Grace whispered. “Do you...”

“Let’s skip dessert,” he answered. “Let’s... just... go back to the TARDIS.”

Grace’s heart skipped a beat in a girlish way. She had never expected it to be so easy. She barely noticed her feet touching the ground as they left the restaurant and walked back to where the TARDIS stood beside the koban, clutching hands in an urgent way as if they dreaded what might happen if they let go. Only when the TARDIS doors were shut did they do so. And then only long enough for The Doctor to put the TARDIS into temporal orbit above planet Earth before he took her in his arms again and kissed her lingeringly.

“Do you... have... a bedroom?” she asked when they came up for air again.

“Yes,” he answered. “Come with me.” She sighed happily and let him lead her through the TARDIS corridors to a door that looked no different from any other grey metallic door they had gone right past. It led to a bedroom with a distinctly masculine style, a room where few women had ever been invited.

Grace felt extremely honoured to be one of the few.

“I should have done this years ago,” The Doctor said. “There... always seemed to be a lot of good reasons not to. But... right now, I can’t think what any of them were. I want... I want to forget my Time Lord honour, the dignity of my ancestors... I just want to be a man... with a woman... who wants...”

“I want you, Doctor,” Grace replied in a soft voice. Then she said nothing at all. She surrendered to his passion as she had often imagined she might do if he ever once forgot that he was a Time Lord.

Many hours later Grace woke in a tangle of satin sheets and looked up at what looked like a bedroom window but had to be some kind of big viewscreen. The otherwise dark room was illuminated by the Earth itself and its moon, glowing against a velvet starfield. In any other situation but this she might actually have savoured the fact that she was looking down at her home planet from space. That was a privilege given to no more than a handful of Human beings.

But that was not what was on her mind right now. She turned and saw The Doctor lying by her side, his body tangled in the same sheets. She sighed deeply and wondered why she didn’t feel happy. She had enjoyed the best of times with a man she loved. The only man she had ever TRULY loved. And yet, now, it all seemed so wrong, as if there had been no satisfaction in it at all.

Then The Doctor stirred in his sleep. She reached and touched him on the shoulder. He pulled her closer and they kissed again. It was obvious from his body language that he was ready to repeat the passions that had fired them before.

“Yes,” she thought as she responded to him. “Yes, I need more. That’s why I feel so unhappy. It wasn’t enough. I need more of him, more of his passion, his love.”

“No,” he said drawing back from her. “No, this isn’t right.”

“It feels perfectly right to me,” Grace answered. “Doctor... I want you...”

“I want you, too,” The Doctor replied. “But I shouldn’t. We shouldn’t... it’s not... Grace... listen to me...”

Grace sat up, drawing the sheet around herself. Something in his voice broke through to a part of her consciousness that wasn’t pre-occupied with sensuality, at least momentarily.

“Grace... this isn’t us. It isn’t how it should be. There’s something wrong. I would never have... If I was myself, if I was in full possession of my senses... And neither would you.”

Grace said nothing. But her actions told The Doctor that she didn’t understand what he was saying.

She was trying to kiss him.

“We’re not thinking straight,” he said, turning his head away from her. “Because we’ve both been possessed... We’re under the influence of gaki.”

“What?” For another brief moment Grace came to her senses. Then the desperate spirit’s desires took over her again. The Doctor fended her off gently but firmly. He was struggling to keep hold of himself. He could feel the gaki within him, clawing at his self control. But he was a Time Lord. Self control, stoicism, resistance to emotionalism, was what they were about. Well, most of them. He had always been too hot-headed and impatient, as his tutors at the Prydonian Academy were fond of telling him. But he knew how to behave like a Time Lord. And for the past few hours that was exactly what he hadn’t been doing.

“We’ve got to go back to the temple,” he said. “We need its atmosphere of peace to calm our blood and let us know what to do.”

“I don’t want to go back to the temple,” Grace answered. “I want to...”

“No, you don’t,” he assured her. “Not really. It’s the Gaki driving you. It’s making you act completely out of character. Grace... please.”

He reached out and touched her face gently. Then he held her either side of her temples and gently reached into her mind, calming it, dampening the fires of passion that had been unnaturally stoked within her.

“Doctor,” she whispered. “How...”

“Don’t worry. Just get dressed quickly. We’re going to sort this out.”

He brought the TARDIS within the Temple itself this time, directly to the stage of the Main Hall. It was the last place they had stood for any length of time, and something of their aura was still there, making a marker for the TARDIS to home in on. He held Grace’s hand gently as they stepped out.

It was night time, now. The Temple was quiet. It was subtly uplit to look beautiful against the dark hills overlooking Kyoto, but the hall itself was in shadow.

“I feel it,” Grace said. “Now that we’re in here... with the force... the accumulated prayers... I can feel it within me. How did it get there?”

“They must have been by the gate... the one outside the shrine. When I cast out the gaki that had afflicted the maiko, I left us both vulnerable. When we stepped through the gate, these new gaki took advantage of us. Only these two don’t desire food. They want... love, passion. They would destroy us both seeking it, yet never finding satisfaction in it. You felt it, didn’t you? When you woke up... you felt empty, didn’t you?”

“I thought I was just feeling guilty for letting sex get in the way of friendship,” she said. “I thought it would spoil the way we were before. And... since it wasn’t even US who wanted it... but some spirit controlling me... I guess it HAS spoilt it.”

“That’s not the problem right now,” The Doctor told her. “The problem is getting these things out of us. And... you’re not going to like the way I think it can be done.”

He told her. She didn’t like it.

“Can’t you just do what you did with the maiko? Sort of... kiss it out of me?”

“No, because I’m already possessed, too. The only way the gaki will let go of us both is if they think we’re about to die. They will release us to avoid their spirits being mixed up with ours on the point of death.”

“But what if we DO die?” Grace asked.

“Chance we have to take. Will you take it with me, Grace?”

“Yes,” she decided. “Yes... but do it quickly, before I change my mind.”

“Don’t forget to make a wish,” he said as he drew her close to the edge of the stage. They mounted the parapet together and got ready to take the plunge.

“I wish we won’t die!” Grace screamed as they stepped off together.

“I wish we will still feel the same about each other when this is over,” The Doctor yelled, his voice mingling with hers so that neither wish could have been clearly heard even if there was anybody to hear them.

The dense foliage below did, indeed, break their fall, as Grace had thought it might. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t painful, even so. The leaf-covered branches slowed them down but they didn’t hold them up. They were grazed and scraped as they fell and the ground, covered though it was with layers of lead mould, was far from a soft landing.

“No bones broken,” The Doctor said to himself as he slowly picked himself up. He looked at Grace and quickly ascertained that she wasn’t badly hurt, either, though she would have bruises in places she probably never had bruises before.

She was unconscious. He lifted her in his arms and fought his way through the undergrowth until he found a set of wooden steps leading back up to the stage. He opened the TARDIS door and carried her inside. He put them back into temporal orbit before continuing on back to the bedroom they had been in before.

When Grace woke again she saw the Earth and its moon shining on her in the otherwise dark room. She was aware of satin sheets and the fact that she was wearing a long silk nightdress. She looked around and saw The Doctor lying beside her. He was wearing a pair of silk pyjamas. When he saw her awake, he reached out and kissed her gently on the lips.

“How much of what I remember was a dream?” she asked.

“None of it, I’m afraid,” he answered.

“So we really did... and then we...”


“And then we jumped off the stage...”


“And we survived.”

“You wished for it.”

“You didn’t. You wished for...”

“For us to feel the same about each other, afterwards.”

“But... we’re in bed together. Before, we were just friends.”

“Yes, but... the gaki that possessed us... they could only have done so because they recognised the unspoken depths of feeling. We’ve known it for a while, but we never admitted it to each other.”

“How do I know you’re not still possessed by a gaki?”

“Because... I know you need a bit of time,” he answered. “And I’m going to give it to you. We’re together... in bed... but... the only thing that will happen tonight, and any night until you say you’re ready... is a platonic hug and a kiss goodnight. You have my word of honour as a Time Lord.”

“I still can’t keep you, can I?” she said. “You ARE a Time Lord. You don’t belong in San Francisco with me. So... whatever happens... it’s still just a wonderful interlude.”

“If I asked you to wait for me, would you?” The Doctor asked.

“Wait... for you... for you to visit again...”

“Yes. I don’t mean that you’re... I don’t have a girl in every port. I’d be happy to have a girl in one port... San Francisco. When I can... when the universe gives me the chance to take a holiday from it... would you be there for me?”

“You wouldn’t be more than ten years this time?”

“No. I promise I won’t stay away that long.”

“Then... yes,” she said. “I’d rather wait a hundred years for you than get into another useless relationship with another unreliable man. You’re the only one I know will never let me down.”

“I’ll never do that,” The Doctor promised.

“I believe you. And... a platonic hug and a kiss would be nice right now. I’m still feeling a bit traumatised from being possessed by a lovelorn demon and then jumping into a tree without a net. But I might be ready for more a lot sooner than you think.”

“Thank you,” The Doctor told her and hugged her platonically.