Terrified, she clawed at the bottom of the wooden panelling.
She’d been trapped in here for days, weeks, without food or water. She’d almost given up hope of seeing her family again. Her throat dry, she tried to shout out but all she could manage was a fragile cry.
The dirt and splinters cracking her nails, she carried on scraping.
And then it happened. A weakened segment gave way, exposing enough space for her to squeeze through.
Energised, she pushed her head through, inhaling fresh, natural air.
Ignoring the pain in her head, she crawled under the rough new ceiling and started to make her way home.
Mary placed her magazine to one side and looked at the bed, and her father.
The oxygen mask covered his face, but she could tell he was still sleeping. He’d been sleeping for three days now, ever since his heart attack.
Mary leaned in closer, brushing a strand of his hair back from his forehead. Surely it couldn’t end like this, and so soon? She had so much she had to say to him, questions she wanted to ask … stupid things from her childhood that she had to apologise for.
The steady, regulated bleeping of the machinery was hypnotic and she thought back to days and events long since recorded in history. In that hospital room, though, they played back with more clarity than when they had happened.
Mary swung around, seeing the nurse. “Sorry,” she said, “I was just remembering a few things…”
Nurse Simmons smiled gently. “That’s only natural,” she said, her voice compassionate.
Mary noticed a healed cut on her forehead. “Ouch! That looks as though it was nasty.”
Nurse Simmons pulled a face, “It was my stupid fault. I’m still rather new, you see. I walked into a door. I forgot they swung both ways. I’ll learn. Anyway, there’s a visitor for your father.”
Mary frowned. Aside from her husband, she was the only one who knew about her father’s condition. The rest of the family were miles away, or so far removed emotionally that they didn’t care.
“Who is it?” she asked, finally.
Nurse Simmons shrugged, “A Simon Hickman. Says he used to work with your father.”
Although Mary had never heard of him, she wasn’t surprised. Her father never talked about work while he was at home so she had no idea about his friends. She was more interested in how this one knew of the heart attack.
“Oh, very well. Show him in.”
Nurse Simmons didn’t move. “There’s just one thing. He asked to see him alone.”
“He was most insistent.”
Mary was about to protest, but a sudden twinge in her back made her realise she could do with stretching her legs. And, after all, she was in a hospital. What harm could there be?
Mary stood up, wincing. “Okay. But keep an ear out, will you. I’ll only be in the canteen.”
Nurse Simmons assured her she would over see the visit and Mary left the room, glancing back for a brief look at the prone figure of her father.
Mary took a sip of her tea and grimaced. It was cold. She’d been reminiscing again. Looking at the wall clock she was alarmed for just how long.
She’d better get back to her father.
She walked through the corridors on autopilot, now oblivious to the clinical smell. She reached her father’s room and pushed on the door. It swung inwards.
“Where’s my tea, then?”
Mary couldn’t believe her eyes. Her father was sat up in his bed, the oxygen mask hanging loose from the machine. And he was smiling, no sign of pain.
Mary felt the tears rolling down her face and ran over to the bed. Falling into a mutual embrace, she wept openly.
“Oh, father! I thought I’d lost you.”
“Non-sense, Mary. I don’t even know why I’m here. I feel fine.”
Mary pulled away slightly, looking him directly in the eye. “But you had a heart attack. A severe one.”
Her father winked, “Simon says I didn’t. Apparently, it was only indigestion.”
Mary remembered finding him at the foot of his stairs, the paramedics and the grim looks on the doctor’s faces.
“No, father, you had a heart attack, just ask Nurse…”
It was only then that she saw Nurse Simmons. She was slumped in a visitor’s chair, fast asleep and smiling peacefully. With a start, Mary realised that there was no sign of her recent injury.
Her father ruffled her hair, “Leave her, Mary. They work these nurses too hard, in here. I won’t tell if you won’t.”
Mary looked from Nurse Simmons and her father and back again. How could she say anything? She didn’t have a clue as to what had just happened.
Just who was this Simon Hickman, and what had he done here?
Jo had never been inside a television studio before, and if she was being honest she would have to admit it was spoiling the illusion. What had always appeared as solid walls on screen were simply large bits of hardboard held up with planks and roof cables, and the whole thing was harshly over lit.
She had always known that when a presenter spoke to her at home, he was simply looking into a camera lens, but to see it in reality, and close up, well… the magic would never seem as real from now on. Looking around the audience, she spotted the old woman she had nicknamed Ethel. She was chewing on another boiled sweet while knitting. It was almost as though she were at home. Perhaps that was the secret?
“What’s the matter, Jo? Has the bubble burst?”
Jo turned to her right. The Doctor was looking at her, concerned but also clearly amused. He was sat low in his chair, his legs swung over the empty seat in front. His elbows resting on the arm rests, his hands were cupped together beneath his chin. As always he gave off the air of a parent indulging the new experiences of its child. On anyone else, the expression would have been patronizing.
Jo sighed, used to the way he always seemed to know what she was feeling. “Something like that, yes.”
“Well, don’t worry. As soon as we’ve checked out what Lethbridge-Stewart wants us to see, we’ll leave.”
Jo smiled, “Unless you think there’s something to it.”
The Doctor rubbed his chin, “Yes, well. There’s always that.”
“There always is!”
The Doctor slumped further in his seat, sulking.
Jo left him to it and turned back to watching the set. The chat show host was having a cigarette between takes.
It had all started that morning. She’d been helping the Doctor work on Bessie when Yates had summoned them to see the Brigadier. The Doctor, as usual, hadn’t been pleased at being interrupted, but she’d calmed him down and they’d gone to see him. Within seconds, the Doctor was intrigued.
The Brigadier explained that a group of people were proclaiming the arrival of a messiah. People with diseases were in remission, and those with disabilities were claiming they were cured. When the Doctor had immediately dismissed this, the Brigadier produced a list of medical reports. After reading them, the Doctor admitted they were interesting – which both she and the Brigadier knew meant, “I’m in.”
And here they were - at BBC television centre awaiting the headlining interview on the McDougal Show.
An interview with Simon Hickman.
Jo knew that the Doctor was secretly keen to expose him as a fraud.
Jo, however, wasn’t.
She wanted to believe.
In his dressing room, Simon Hickman stared at the light-bulbs that surrounded his mirror. A few were broken. Picking up the cat that was brushing against his leg, he tickled her head. “I know, Tibby. Gas and candles were much more reliable, but what can you do?”
Jo observed the audience, feeling their anticipation. Thinking back to news reports she had seen, the number of ill and disabled people here reminded her of scenes from Lourdes. She saw the Doctor was looking at them, too, but while she felt hope she read pity in his face. “Doctor?”
The Doctor turned to her. “What is it, Jo?”
“What will you do if this proves to be real? What if Simon Hickman really is a messiah?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t even considered that.”
“But he could be.”
“Hmmm. We’ll see.”
Jo knew the conversation was over. Adjusting her position to get comfortable again, she waited for recording to start again. She didn’t have to wait long.
McDougal stubbed out his cigarette at a cue from a cameraman. The audience stopped their own personal conversations.
Adjusting his tie, McDougal looked at camera five, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. We’ve all read about him in the papers and seen the news. The ill cured, the near dead saved. I can see from my audience tonight that many of you already believe, but hero or faker? Simon Hickman – a modern day messiah or a new fakir?”
Jo saw the Doctor bristle, but ignored it. She leaned forward. If this was true, if this was real, she could save …
A fanfare announced the arrival of Simon Hickman. Walking down the staircase, he was smiling at the audience. He looked just as he did in the photographs the Brigadier had shown them – and, she realised, as he did on TV. He was a normal, average guy. Could he really be what he, or rather others claimed he was?
As he settled in his seat, the applause died.
McDougal shook his hand.
“Well, first of all thank you for granting us this interview. You are a tricky man to pin down.”
Simon brushed the thanks aside. That and, Jo noticed, some cat hair.
“I’m sorry about that, but I don’t exactly have a nine to five job, do I? The afflicted rarely chose when to be, err, afflicted.”
The audience laughed. Jo took the opportunity to see the Doctor’s reaction. He was absent mindedly stroking his nose; never a good sign. Despite her own initial hopes, she’d known the Doctor long enough to understand that if he had doubts, he was usually right to have them.
But surely even he couldn’t be right all the time. Could he?
The audience had fallen silent.
McDougal leant forward, striking his signature “earnest” pose. “Let’s cut to the chase from the start, shall we? What would you say to those who claim that you’re a fraud, simply someone able to turn coincidence into evidence of miracle?”
Jo was impressed. McDougal was certainly not going around the houses.
“I was expecting that, question,” Simon said calmly, “But there is no answer to it. Why should I answer them? Those who refuse to believe in the possibility of what I do would never believe it, even if I cured someone close to them – or even themselves. They’d rationalize it, evaluate it, dissect it like a dried up, crusty scientist.”
Jo felt the up rush of air as the Doctor leapt to his feet. He looked furious. Pointing at Simon, his voice carried loud and clear.
“You, Sir, are a charlatan!”
A few rows in front, Ethel shot him a disgusted look.
She’d just dropped a stitch.
One leg immobile, she pulled herself along the ground. She had to get home. They would be worried, especially her brother. On top of that, she was starving.
“Well, aren’t you a beautiful little girl?”
A man! Startled, she cowered and stopped moving. She didn’t have the energy, or ability, to run.
A rough hand touched her head and she trembled. Whoever this was, he stank.
Burying her face in the ground, she felt the newcomer kneel beside her. She’d heard stories of what happened to girls outside when it was dark and they were lost. This was it! She was going to die. She’d never see her beautiful family again.
She closed her eyes and started to cry.
“Hey, stop that, girl. No need to cry. I’m lost, too. It’s just that I have something you don’t. Food.”
She wiped her nose on her arm. Turning, she looked up… and relaxed. He may have smelled but he looked kind, and she was a good judge of character.
He stroked her hair again and reached into a sack he carried over his shoulder.
“It’s not much,” he said, “But from the looks of you it’s better than you’ve had for awhile.”
She looked at the food offered. It was new to her.
“You’re pulling a face? Blimey? It’s food. Eat it.”
Giving in to her hunger, she did.
The studio had fallen silent. The audience, cameramen, technicians, runners and McDougal were all staring at the Doctor.
Gracefully, Simon stood, smiling benignly. “And you, Sir, must be such a crusty scientist.”
“Indeed I am,” the Doctor confirmed, proudly.
Simon stepped away from the stage set and toward the audience, keeping eye contact with the Doctor. “So, ‘scientist’, let me turn the tables on you …”
In the corner of her eye, Jo saw the cameramen adjust their cameras to follow and focus on this new turn of events. McDougal looked rather put out that the attention had shifted from him.
“Why do you disbelieve so, so, what’s the word, ah yes, so loudly?”
Calm again, the Doctor smiled, “Because I am loud, by nature, and also because that as a scientist, I need to see proof. I believe in you as a species, but you’re all too quick to accept things without question.”
“Species?” Simon asked, shaking his head. Jo interpreted his look as one she’d had seen many times before: he clearly though the Doctor was mad. Regaining his composure, Simon continued. “Proof?” he asked, raising his arms, “Where’s your faith?”
“I have faith, Mr. Hickman, but not in the latest bone shaker humanity has to offer.”
Simon took a further step forward. Jo sat back involuntarily.
“Bone shaker?” Simon asked, “Bone shaker? Oh, no, no, no. What about the dozens I have healed? What about the countless people who still live because I have put their ailments back years, if not decades?”
The Doctor brushed past Jo and started to walk down the stairs toward Simon. “My dear chap, Fleming did much the same thing, but he never claimed to be ‘a miracle worker’.”
Jo noticed Simon took a step back at the first sign of the Doctor’s coming to meet him, but he quickly regained his composure.
“I am not a medical man.”
“Nor am I a typical scientist.”
Simon raised an eyebrow, “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really. So, if you can cure, cure. Prove me wrong. Here. Right now.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“What do you mean?”
“You can never provide evidence upon request. It’s always after the fact.”
“After the fact?”
Simon fixed the Doctor’s gaze. “So, all I have to do to convince you is to cure someone.”
“Well, that would go someway toward it, I grant you.”
“Very well,” he said dramatically, “I shall!” Winking at the Doctor, he added, quietly, “And thank you. You’ve given this so much more impact.”
Simon ran back to the studio seating area. Jo, and the audience, gasped as he grabbed McDougal around the throat. After feeling McDougal’s larynx, Simon pressed his fingers against the presenter’s temples. A strange, yellow light pulsed around Simon’s fingers. McDougal slumped and Simon shuddered, breaking his hold. He stepped back, breathing deeply. “It wasn’t common knowledge, was it?”
Jo watched as McDougal came round and regained his composure. “What wasn’t?”
Simon paced the stage, almost serene. “Your throat cancer.”
Horrified, McDougal leap to his feet, pulling his hand across this throat to the cameramen.
Simon pushed McDougal’s arm down, dismissing the cameramen. “No, no, no. Too late for that.” He paced again. “Well, it’s gone now. I guess, ‘scientist’ that we have to wait for lab results before you’ll be satisfied.
Jo sprinted down the stairs to join the Doctor. “No,” he was saying, calmly, “We don’t.” He produced the Sonic Screwdriver from his pocket and pointed it at McDougal. The usual sound and light ensued.
A woman screamed.
Typical, Jo thought, a miracle has just happened and someone screams at this.
Reading the results, the Doctor showed them to a nonplussed Jo and ran a hand through his hair. “McDougal, you had throat cancer.”
“It wasn’t a question. You literally, ‘had’ the disease. You don’t anymore. And … I don’t know how.”
This was too much for the television host. He buried his face in his hands, sobbing. Simon rested a hand on his shoulder, addressing the Doctor. “Oh, I think you do.”
Before the Doctor could reply, a slow movement at the rear at the set caught Jo’s attention. Initially started, she looked closer. She sighed. It was only a cat.
She looked more closely.
It was staring directly at her.
They’d been asked to leave the studio shortly afterwards. Filing through the exit, Jo saw Ethel pass a security guard. He saluted her. “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Briggs.”
She stopped walking and reached into her handbag. “Here you go, Michael. You’ll be needing one of these soon. There’s been a chill these past few nights.”
She handed him a home knitted balaclava. Smiling indulgently, the guard accepted his gift.
Jo chuckled. This place really was like home for her.
She felt the Doctor’s presence beside her. He hadn’t spoken a word since his exchange with Simon.
“Are you okay, Doctor?”
“What? Oh no, not really. Far from it. I’ve just seen a miracle performed right in front of my eyes, Jo, and, well, I don’t believe in miracles.”
“So what are you going to tell the Brigadier?”
“Nothing. At least not yet.”
Jo faced him. “You’ve got a plan. Haven’t you? Something up those ruffled sleeves?”
He grinned. “You know me too well, Jo.”
“You’re going to go back and see that Simon character, aren’t you?”
The Doctor nodded, stroking his chin. “Got me again.”
“Yes, but how are you going to get back in?”
“Oh,” he said, his eyes shining, “‘Aiy’ have my ways.”
Outside, Jo crouched beside a stationary black cab. The Doctor was talking to a man at reception. From what she could make out, he must have been speaking deliberately softly as the man leant forward as though trying to hear more clearly. With a swift motion, the Doctor brought his fingers to bear on the man’s neck and he slumped forward, unconscious.
Casting a series of furtive looks all around him, the Doctor sprinted out of sight heading in the direction of the lifts.
Jo shivered, regretting her rather flimsy outfit. Glancing at her watch, she smiled. Back at UNIT HQ Benton and Yates would probably be having their “medicinal coco” about now. A sudden draft of wind made her wish she was there with them.
Thinking back to that night’s recent events, she wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it all. She’d had her belief confirmed, but seeing the Doctor’s faith questioned, if not in fact refuted, made her question if it was worth it. On top of that, what if the Doctor ultimately proved Simon to be a fraud? She’d be back to square one with a crash and no mat.
Something light brushed and then settled against her leg. Thinking it was a leaf, she flicked her hand down to dislodge it from her tights. When her fingers connected with warm fur and the owner of that fur then hissed its displeasure, Jo screamed in alarm. Jumping to her feet, she looked down at the ground.
It was a cat. Not just any cat, but the same one from the studio.
It titled its head to one side and meowed, running off with its tail riding high.
With nothing else to do but freeze and wait, curiosity got the better of her and Jo decided to follow it.
At first, it simply padded around the street outside television centre, occasionally stopping to sniff various items of litter. Jo soon started to question why she doing what she was doing. She sighed, and decided to go back and wait it out. Just as she was about to retrace her steps, the cat paused and turned around. Staring her in the eye, it meowed again and scampered off.
“Oh, so you want to play, do you?”
As if it had heard her, the cat stopped, once again turning around to meow at her. They stood immobile, sizing each other up. As soon as Jo took a step forward, the cat meowed yet again and carried on its way.
Wherever that was.
Jo smiled. Ok, Mr. Cat, wherever it is, I’ll follow you there.
The stranger’s food warm in her belly, she carried on her way. She never even questioned why he had been laughing as she left him behind.
After another full day of traveling later, she finally saw the familiar front door of home.
Energy swelling from somewhere deep within, she limped forward with renewed vigor.
She just wished that the pain in her head would go away.
Not for the first time since she had met the Doctor, Jo was seriously questioning her sanity. She had just witnessed a man cured of cancer and yet here she was climbing a rusted fire escape on the side of a run down terrace house in pursuit of a cat.
She had, though, been in stranger situations.
The cat had stopped again, this time to wash itself.
Ok, Jo, it’s still. What now? No, you hadn’t thought of that, had you? You hadn’t actually thought what you’d do when you were able to catch it.
Before she could think any further, the cat hissed again. Alarmed, Jo took a step back, forgetting where she was. Her shoe slipping over the metal step, she started to fall.
Her reflexes kicking in, she lunged for the handrail, catching it. Relieved, she steadied herself and stared at the cat.
“Bad cat!” she scolded, waving a finger at it.
The cat cocked its head and blinked, slowly.
“Yes, you!” Jo admonished.
At hearing this confirmation, the cat hissed again and hurled itself at Jo. The shock of impact and the sheer weight of the animal were too much for Jo’s equilibrium. She heard herself screaming as she fell down the stairwell, her head connecting with a particular section and she …
… heard her mother crying.
Concerned, she ran over to her, hugging her waist. Her mother put the phone down and knelt to hold her back. The embrace felt good. Even so, she could feel her mother’s body heave as she cried. After awhile, her mother pulled away slightly and held her face. Attempting to smile, she said, “Jo, you know that my sister was going to have a baby? Well, she has, but…”
Jo looked up and saw …
… nothing. Her eyes were closed. She opened them, slowly. Thankfully, it was night time, so the light wasn’t too bright. As her vision started to adjust, she blinked rapidly. Two men stood over her, and there was a weight on her chest. Her head throbbed and her left leg felt unnatural beneath her. Was it broken?
One of the men was talking. The voice was muffled, but she could hear it. Despite her pain, she concentrated on what was being said. It could be useful.
“I didn’t know you’d come back, did I? I needed to get you back to me. Hurting her seemed the only way!”
“There’s always another way, Mr. Hickman.”
“Doctor!” Jo gasped, trying to sit up. The shift in her position caused her leg to move. The weight on her chest shifted and her movement caused her leg to move. Howling in pain, she crashed back to the ground. Her vision, briefly restored, was assaulted by brilliant white lights.
A rough tongue licked her nose and the cat leaped off her.
The Doctor knelt beside her. “It’s alright, Jo. You’ve had a nasty fall, but you’ll survive.”
Jo bit down on her lower lip. “My leg. Is it …?”
“It’s broken, Jo. But you’ll heal. You’re young. Scabs and conkers.”
Jo felt her eyes well up with tears. Weeks on crutches, at best. Recalling a conversation with her mother years ago, she scolded herself. At least she would get better. Putting on a brave face, she smiled at the Doctor. “Do you think the Brigadier will sign my cast?”
“Oh, the full moniker, I’m sure.”
Simon’s voice interrupted them. “When are you going to ask me to help?”
The Doctor straightened up, his cape flapping behind him. “Haven’t you done enough for one night, Mr. Hickman?”
Simon ignored the Doctor’s tone. “Would you like me to help her, or not? Or do you still doubt what you have witnessed?”
The Doctor was about to say something, but she stopped himself. Stepping to one side, he allowed Simon to crouch down beside Jo.
“It’s Jo, isn’t it?”
“Now, now, don’t move. Let me see…” Simon laid his hands on her forehead. They felt warm. Warmer than a normal touch. “Slight concussion, bruising, left leg broken.” The Doctor snorted, but Simon seemed not to notice. “This shouldn’t take long…especially with two.”
“Two?” asked the Doctor.
Simon smiled, “Oh yes, two. I don’t do this all by myself you know.”
So saying, he called the cat over to him. The cat meowed and nuzzled her head against Jo’s. At the same time, Simon positioned himself over Jo’s leg, resting those warm palms against her skin.
Jo’s vision was assailed by flashing dots again. Through them, she saw the Doctor’s concerned expression. As the dots faded, his expression was calmer, his eyes smiling.
Simon stood up, holding his hand out. Uncertain, Jo inched her arm forward, expecting the motion to cause her leg to shriek in pain again. It didn’t. Encouraged, she tentatively held Simon’s fingers. As he tightened his grip, so did she. She rose, no pain at all in her body. Simon let go of her hand and Jo dashed to the Doctor’s side.
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, taking in both Simon and the cat. “It seems that even I have much to learn.”
The Doctor drove them back to UNIT HQ. Once there, Jo found a tin of tuna and opened it for the cat. Leaving the plate on the floor next to the TARDIS, she joined the Doctor at his bench. Simon was there, perched on a lab stool. He and the Doctor were already deep in conversation.
“That’s why I went public. I needed to get the attention of UNIT. More specifically, you.”
“How did you know about me?” the Doctor asked.
Simon smiled, good humouredly. “For a top secret organization, UNIT has many cracks. It’s just a case of finding them.”
Having joined in mid-conversation, Jo wanted to ensure she was up to speed with what was going on. “So, the whole McDougal show was a set up? A trap?”
Simon winced, “Nothing so melodramatic, Jo. More of an introduction.”
“You could have just knocked on the door.”
“What, of a top secret organization like UNIT? Really, Doctor. Anyway, this way was guaranteed to get your curiosity aroused.”
Jo found herself smiling. “You looked through the right cracks.”
The Doctor harrumphed. “Yes, well. That doesn’t explain why you wanted to see me.”
Simon looked amused. “As a doctor I would have thought the answer was clear to you. You’ve seen what I can do, but a physician can not heal themselves.”
Jo gasped. “You’re ill?”
Simon nodded. “Terminally. I’ve contracted immortality and, to be quite honest, I’m sick of it.”
Jo didn’t understand. “Immortality? You mean you can’t die?”
“Top of the class, Jo. So, Mr. Hickman, you can’t die and you live your life curing others. Some would say that’s interfering with the natural order of things.”
“That’s about the size of it, Doctor. And don’t you think I haven’t considered that? I’ve had centuries to analyze what I am, what I do and whether it’s right.”
Jo was confused. “How can it be anything other than good?”
The Doctor’s tone was low and comforting, “Because everything has it’s time, Jo. People live, then they die. The human race thrives on that cycle. It’s how it evolves and survives.”
“But people are being cured. They are living longer, better lives. Sometimes, Doctor you don’t seem..”
Jo flushed, falling silent.
The Doctor ruffled her hair. “Thank you, Jo. So, Mr. Hickman, just how did you ‘contract immortality’?”
Simon didn’t reply immediately. Instead, he swung his legs to the floor and walked over to his cat. Picking her up, he returned to the stool. The cat meowed and leaped onto the lab bench, exploring it.
“Behold the cause of my illness, Doctor.”
Jo was stunned, “The cat?”
“I prefer to call her Tibby.”
Tibby sauntered over to the Doctor. As the Doctor tickled her behind her ears, Jo saw that he was staring intently into her eyes. Raising an eyebrow, he said, “You’ve known each other a long time. She’s old. In stasis, but old.”
“How?” Jo asked.
Simon told his story. Jo listened intently, occasionally looking at the Doctor to check how he was taking it in. His expression remained impassive.
“I was young, so very young. She went missing. She’d been missing for six weeks before she finally came home. As a family, we’d resigned ourselves to never seeing her again. However, one night, I heard her. I’d leaped to my feet, running toward the sound. The tears came unbidden as I saw the state she was in. Thin, her legs were shaky and dried blood showed where a number of cuts had healed. Her eyes were unfocussed and she looked weak, too weak, to live for long. I’d knelt down and picked her up. Despite mother’s protests, I’d refused to let her go. I held on tight. I know now that she’d had a stroke. Locked away in a shed. The thought still chills me. Anyway, that night, I slept with her in my arms. The next morning, she was fully recovered. I’ve had Tibby for 345 years, Doctor.
“She ate something. A stranger, one we’ve never found, gave her something when she was starving. Don’t ask because I don’t know what. Whatever it was, though, it made her immortal. As she slept that night in my bed, one of her wounds must have reopened. The blood from it seeped through a scab of mine. We became one. Well, to some extent. I know, and see, everything she has experienced. The only difference is she doesn’t age. I do, slowly. Second hand messiah, I guess. She healed my scab; I’ve healed many others of things far worse. Too many others. I’m tired, Doctor. We’re both so very, very tired.”
As if to confirm this, Tibby rubbed her head on Simon’s arm.
The Doctor looked thoughtful. “So, what you’re asking me to do is…”
“Let us die. Yes.”
Jo felt her blood run cold. “Doctor, no! We can’t!”
The Doctor put his arm around Jo’s shoulders. “I’m afraid we can, Jo. It’s time.”
Jo heard Simon breath a sigh of relief. Looking at him, she saw a tear trickle slowly down his cheek. He was smiling.
Through UNIT intelligence they’d manage to locate Simon’s childhood house. Simon claimed that over the years he’d forgotten where it was - but he wanted it to end there; where it had all started. As they pulled up in Bessie, Jo saw that the findings had been right. It was a museum. One of the oldest surviving houses in that area – preserved by legislation and good will.
They’d followed Simon as he instinctively led the way to his old bedroom, Tibby padding along at his heels. The room was basic but, Jo realised, at the time Simon and his family lived here, they wouldn’t have even considered that.
Simon sat on the bed.
The Doctor broke the tense silence. “Are you sure about this? It is rather final, you know.”
Simon nodded. “I’m sure. I think I’ve helped enough, don’t you? She certainly has.”
The Doctor smiled. “I know exactly what you mean, old chap.”
“I guess you do. Three of a kind, eh? Who would’ve thought it? Anyway, as you said, it’s time…”
So saying, Simon lifted Tibby from the floor, kissing her forehead. Settling her on his bed, he lay down with her.
The Doctor coughed. “Perhaps we should go?”
“No, Doctor, Jo. Stay with us…Please. It's why we needed you. I could have found this place eventually, Tibby certainly could. It’s just we wanted to go with people who understand watching over us.”
Jo clutched the Doctor’s hand as Simon curled up with Tibby.
“Doctor, isn’t there another way?”
“No, not this time.”
“Surely we could go back in time, find that stranger and prevent them from doing whatever they did…”
Tibby lifted her head. Looking right at Jo, she meowed, softly, and started purring – the first time Jo had heard her make that sound. The cat was happy. She was happy to die.
Still purring, Tibby lowered her head, nestling it next to Simon’s chin.
A soft, yellow glow, the same Jo had seen at Television Centre, engulfed the pair.
The sound of purring softened, and then stopped.
The glow faded and they were still.
Jo tightened her grip on the Doctor’s hand, hoping the effort would stop her from crying. It didn’t.
Gently, he held her as she wept.
A few weeks later, the Doctor and the Brigadier were engaged in another bout of one-up-man-ship. Jo really couldn’t be bothered. Her mind was elsewhere. Excusing herself, Jo left the lab and made her way to her spot in the grounds. Once there, she knelt down starring first at, and then through, the shrub she’d recently planted.
“I saw proof of miracles thanks to you. I even benefited from them. My cousin could do with one right now. I wish, I wish …”
Jo broke off, the tears rolling down her face. After awhile she wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. As her vision cleared, she read the plaque attached to the wooden cross beside the shrub:
Tibby, you may not have lived forever, but I’ll remember you for as long as I do.