"Look," the Doctor said gently. "We're going to be stuck here for what amounts to a couple days."
"I think I'm a little afraid of being trapped in here with that thing," she said, her voice nervous. She couldn't quite look at him as she said it, embarrassed at admitting to fear. "It's going to tempt me, isn't it? Like you said."
"Sarah Jane, do you know what the best defense against a Jynx is?" he asked her, his voice sober but gentle.
She looked up at him. "What?"
"To be satisfied with what you have, and to be glad, and to resolve to be content and happy. It hates those things. Because it can't get a toe hold in your thoughts."
Her eyes flicked up to his. "My aunt invited me home for Christmas," she said suddenly. "And then she had to go to the continent. And I couldn't afford to go along. She said she couldn't wait. She had to go. All those rich and famous people she's always following about."
"So you're not very satisfied?" he asked.
"I suppose I'm a sitting duck for a Jynx."
He bent closer to her. "But do you know what, Sarah Jane?"
"I was hoping you'd come to see me. I'm sorry about your aunt, but I'm delighted that you've joined me. I think I can resist him for a while, so long as you're here." He stroked her cheek.
She brightened on this, genuinely pleased and grateful for his kind words. "Oh, you're going soft," she said, but she smiled. "What would you want with a person like me hanging about? I'm half your size and don't know anything about science."
"Oh, I've had lots of friends who didn't know much about science," he said breezily. He changed the subject. "I have an idea."
"There's all sorts of old holiday decorations stored away in the back rooms. Why don't you see what you can find and make a fair pass at decking out the halls? Well, a few of them at least. We can still keep Christmas. I'll start to replace those circuits. That way we'll both stay busy."
"Come on," he said. "I'll show you 'round."
* * * *
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day.
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay.
Actually, the Doctor thought, he was rather happier than he had thought he would be. He liked working on the TARDIS, and with Jo's long absence, he was very ready to have Sarah Jane accompany him in the TARDIS for as long as she liked.
"Can I come out now?" a nasal voice asked.
"It surely hasn't been three hours," the Doctor said.
"Yes it has. Exactly. Will you keep your promise?"
"All right. Out with you then. But if there's one spot of trouble, I'll pull that baggy skin off your bones and make a weather balloon out of you!"
He heard the top of the box pop off, and the Jynx, a much more diminutive Jynx than he had appeared when he had first left the box, climbed out cautiously.
"Oh for goodness sake!" the Doctor exclaimed as the wretched creature shuffled up to the opening in the stem of the console where he was working. He fished in his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief. "Wrap this 'round yourself and make yourself decent, will you?" He threw his balled up handkerchief at it.
"There is human blood on it," it whimpered.
"Yes, and whose fault is that, you wretched misfit? Do as I say."
Without further argument, the baggy creature folded the handkerchief into a triangle, stepped into it, and brought it up to cover itself. It tied the ends into a tight little knot.
The Doctor favored very large handkerchiefs, but even so, it was just barely enough to serve its purpose. And the creature, if anything, looked more hideous than ever, its sagging stomach hanging over the makeshift diaper in folds.
"You know what I'll do if any harm comes to my companion," he said to it.
"Your companion has left you, my master, and married herself to a man who is your inferior."
"I am talking about Sarah Jane, you nitwit! And by the way, you're not to leave this room!"
It flopped over onto its backside, its withered legs splayed out in front of it, its belly sagging down. "What can I do?"
"Get out of my TARDIS at the first opportunity!"
"Will you take me to my home when you have made your repairs?" it asked.
"No!" the Doctor exclaimed. "D'you think I don't know any better than to bargain with a Jynx? I'll drop you off where I see fit!"
"Where?" it whined.
"I don't know. There must be some people some place who couldn't give five beans about what you've got to say."
"I tell people the truth."
"Then there must be some place where the truth doesn't matter."
"The truth matters everywhere and in all places," it told him. "But not everybody is ready to hear it."
"Yes, and you go on bringing it whether they are ready or not. That must delight you, to say things that cannot be argued against but which are hurtful and cruel."
"Sarah Jane will die," it said.
The Doctor had his head under the console, but he instantly sent his foot into the Jynx with great force. The kick sent it sliding across the highly polished floor. He slid out from under the console and dived after it.
It screamed and would have fled, but he snatched it up. "I'll dash your brains out!" he exclaimed. "If any harm comes to her! Even if you make her bring it upon herself! Do you hear me?" And he gave it a tremendous shaking. When he finished, the Jynx hung limply from his hand, panting and gasping. It seemed truly terrified of him. "I want to go back into my box," it whimpered.
He threw it to the floor. "In with you, then!" he shouted. "And stay in until you've learned to control your tongue!"
It shakily crawled to the box, and with trembling arms, it pulled the lid over itself.
"Doctor?" Sarah stood in the doorway to the control room. "Is everything all right?"
"Yes my dear. Come here. I was just putting this thing back to bed."
She came to him, and he surprised her by instantly drawing her to himself. He was frightened.
"Whatever is wrong?" she asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"Just that miserable creature." He looked down at her and calmed himself. "You all right?"
"Right enough. Just got lonely. How are the repairs going?"
He nodded. "Very well. Nothing unusual." But he put his big hand around her head and held her to himself for just an instant.
"That thing is too much for you!" she exclaimed. "It's a mistake to leave it alone with you!"
"Nonsense!" His voice was annoyed. He caught himself. "Sarah Jane, you must have more confidence in me. No Jynx is going to overpower me!"
She was staring at him, much more judiciously now, clearly concerned, her own front of scolding him forgotten.
He gentles his voice. "All the same, I think I need a break. I'll just go along with you and see how things are coming on your end."
She suddenly smiled up at him, saucy and ready to tease him. "I've rumbled your game! You're just wondering if I've found the wassail!"
"Well if you haven't, I'd better come along and show you where it's kept!" He tweaked her nose and then with a sigh of regret, stooped and picked up the box and tucked it under his other arm. "Can't leave this mischief lying about!"
* * * *
Hours later, after he had admired the small room that Sarah Jane had hung with spangled ornaments and tinsel, enjoyed a bite to eat with her, and had a glass of wine, the Doctor was in full voice, deeply content, except for that faint niggling worry at the back of his mind that the Jynx had caused. He'd worked faster than he had ever worked before, replacing boards and circuits. The job was almost half done. But he didn't stop again to rest. He doggedly went on replacing the circuits and sang to drive out his worries:
The night before that happy tide,
The noble Vrigin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass:
From ev'ry door repell'd, alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox's stall.
The box rattled cautiously, and he sensed, rather than heard, the Jynx come out and cautiously approach him.
It bent at the knees and crouched near the the console where he worked.
"I promise that I will not speak to Sarah Jane Smith," it said.
"All the better for you," the Doctor replied.
"I only meant to point out that your friendship with her is merely temporary. You castigate me for bringing sorrow onto people, Time Lord, but you bring sorrow to yourself. Why should a Jynx work its will on you? The will that you work upon yourself, again and again, is far more hurtful than what I could contrive."
The Doctor stopped his work in the circuitry overhead and looked down at the miserable creature.
"What are you babbling about?" he asked.
"That you have just had your hearts broken by one of these short-lived little sprites, and now you are preparing to have it broken all over again."
"Oh stuff and nonsense! Jo made me very happy, and she was certainly entitled to go off and find some happiness for herself." He returned to work.
"Now she will bear children, learn sorrow and pain, see death. And what if the human man betrays her love? You and I both know that humans cannot be trusted. They are flighty."
"Listen you oaf!" the Doctor stopped and glared down at it. "It's how they learn. They have to go through that cycle of life. It's how they find meaning and purpose."
"Unless you teach them," it added.
He went back to work. The Jynx plumped down onto its backside again, its legs out. "It is not painful when you teach them. The sprite said so herself. You awakened her."
"Look, how long have you been hanging about?" the Doctor asked. "Were you in hiding even when Jo was here?"
"I don't count days, but I saw that one, that Jo. She was right. You awakened her mind. You gave her more than mating could give her, or even children."
The Doctor sighed and set down his tools. "Listen, you spider brained imbecile: To me, what I gave Jo was priceless. To you, the knowledge of time travel is also priceless. But she's a human being. She valued what I gave her, but she valued the other more. That was normal and natural for her." He took up his tools again and busily started to loosen one of the boards above him. "And furthermore, Jo was uncommonly silly when I first met her. She needed some awakening. But there's not a speck of silliness in Sarah Jane. She's a jolly companion, but it won't be the same. I don't need to awaken her mind."
It laid its withered hand on his leg. "You know that you could awaken her mind. More than the other."
"Don't touch me!" he roared at it.
It whisked its hand back. For a moment he glared at it, and it shrank down, not running, not moving, but it pulled its head low as though it feared he would grab it by the neck again and shake it. After a moment he went back to work, loudly singing:
O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
He found himself sweating. "Get back in your box," he said at last.
"Oh Master, let me stay just to the end of the hour," it pleaded. "I promise not to speak unless you speak to me." It clapped both hands over its wide, loose, lipless mouth.
He grimaced and sighed and then went back to work. "To the end of the hour, then." And then he loudly sang again. It sat silently, its hands over its mouth, starign at him, until at last the Doctor said, "Stop that. You can be quiet without keeping your hands over your mouth."
It dropped its hands.
"Doctor? Why are you roaring away in here?" Sarah Jane asked, coming in with the wine bottle. "Did you want the last of this?"
He slid out from under the console.
"Sarah Jane, did you drink that entire bottle?"
"I left you a glass." She put the bottle to her eye, closed the eye that peered into it, and opened the other one. "Well, maybe half a glass."
He instantly stood up. "But that's a very powerful wine. Why did you drink that much?"
"It kept me company while I was working on the decorations. Did you know that your eyes move all over your face when you stand up?" she asked.
"Wicked! Wicked!" the Jynx hissed.
He glared at it. "Be quiet, you!"
It scurried to its box as though expecting he would order it back inside.
"Sarah," he said kindly. "I think you've had too much to drink."
She looked down at her legs. "Are my knees all right?"
"I think so."
She peered up at him, suddenly concerned. Her face, though flushed, went grey around the eyes. "Doctor." Her voice trembled. "I don't feel well."
"No, I expect not." He stooped down and lifted her, unprotesting, in his arms.
"I think I'll just find you a cot where you can lie down," he said.
"Oh, look, the TARDIS is moving again!" she exclaimed.
He glared at the Jynx. "Pick up the box and lid and come with me. And don't get out of my sight!"
"I told you they are flighty! They do things clean contrary to good sense!" it exclaimed. It picked up the box and lid and dragged them along behind it. The Doctor made it walk in front of him up the long corridor. He had no other room ready, and so he brought Sarah Jane into the compartment that Jo had used when they had traveled together. The faint scent of powder and perfume still hung on the blankets and on the sweaters and jeans strewn here and there. For a moment he was transported back.
"It stinks in here!" the Jynx exclaimed. "Human reek of false smells!"
"Oh shut up! You wouldn't know sweet if it came up and bit you on your backside. Sit against that far wall and don't move!" The Doctor glared at it as it scurried to the far wall and sat hunched into a ball. Then he gently set Sarah Jane onto the bed.
"It's worse," she said faintly.
"Here." He pressed his thumbs to the inside of each of her knees, on a nerve close to the termination of the quadricep muscles.
"What's that?" she asked.
"A pressure point to calm your liver down a bit," he said gently. "Sarah, why ever did you drink that much?"
She turned grieved and somewhat distressed eyes to him. "I wish I hadn't!"
"Regret is almost purely a human emotion," the Jynx said. :"They're always doing things they wish they hadn't done. I told you---they're flighty."
The Doctor ignored it. He pushed in hard on the pressure points. "This should relieve the nausea.." And then he pushed in on points on the outsides of her shins. "Because your aunt went off without you?"
But her regret was only momentary. Overcome by having drunk too much, and relieved of her nausea by his care, her head turned to the side, and she was asleep.
"Well, I suppose we'll just try to prevent too sharp of a hangover," the Doctor said. He removed her shoes and pressed his thumbs in on the liver meridian where it crossed her instep.
"You should let her get sick. It will teach her a lesson. Part of that cycle of life and pain you think they need," the Jynx said.
"I would spare her from pain if I could," the Doctor told it. "She might learn just as well without it. If I help her a bit."
"So now you agree with me that they learn better with you than when they choose their own course."
"No I do not agree with you!" he snapped. "A human being knows what is best for a human being. And drinking too much because she's lonely at Christmas doesn't contradict that. She's entitled to a slip up here and there."
"She'll be grateful to you when she wakes up, and then she'll hide it by pretending to be cross with you."
"I like that about Sarah Jane. She's a no-nonsense person. Not a bit sentimental."
"What did you say to me?"
It lifted its withered head and looked him in the eye. "I said pish, Time lord. The human does not know what she wants, and when she does know, she denies it to herself. She's cast herself to be a character in a play, hasn't she?"
"Whatever are you talking about?"
"The strong female. The one who is always right. The one who fights for right all on her own. What sort of end do you foresee for her? She's young enough to think that life is like some play. But she's old enough to do harm to herself by believing it. Look at her, drunk because of hurt feelings. She needs you."
"She has me!" he exclaimed. "We are friends, and we were doing very well until you came along."
"I'm only telling you the truth."
"You're telling me a great lot of nonsense. You're the one writing a play. Sarah Jane Smith is a very sensible young woman with a very bright career ahead of her. She's practical, sensible, and loyal. Now be quiet, like you promised!"
The Jynx unhappily turned away from him and climbed into its box of its own volition. It pulled the lid over itself. The Doctor looked down at Sarah Jane and gently stroked her hair back from her forehead.
* * * *
Several hours later, Sarah Jane opened her eyes. She smelled something fragrant and hearty. Something that she wanted.
"Could I have coffee?" she asked the Doctor.
"Brought it just for you!" he exclaimed gently. "Merry Christmas. Christmas Eve anyway." he had brought in a tray of coffee, and he poured her a cup and held it. Not quite coordinated yet, she sat up and pushed up the pillows so that she could sit against them.
"I've gone and made a perfect idiot out of myself," she said.
"Nonsense. How do you feel?" He rested his hand on her forehead and handed her the cup. She took a long drink.
The Doctor had kept the box with him, and on re-entering the room he had slid it across to the far wall. But now at the sound of Sarah awaking, the lid on the box popped off, and the Jynx lifted its head from the interior.
"Did I say you could come out?" the Doctor asked.
But Sarah spoke. "It's all right if you're here, Doctor," she said.
She became indignant. "You don't have to baby me, Doctor!"
He grimaced. "Oh all right! Come out then. But behave yourself or I'll stretch you out and make a trampoline out of you!"
"Christmas is a time for presents," it said as it emerged.
"Well you aren't getting any!" the Doctor snapped.
"What will you give each other?" it asked.
"None of your business!"
Sarah looked at the Doctor. "I don't have a present for you," she said.
"It doesn't matter."
The Jynx sidled up closer to the bed, but it was careful to stay out of the Doctor's reach. "She's pretty," it said.
Sarah turned and looked down at it. Down on the floor, all shrunk down, it did not seem very threatening. "Thank you," she said doubtfully.
"But when she's old, then she's dead and wrinkled."
"I suppose I'll look like you, then!" she said with a light laugh. Displeased, it scuttled back into its box. The Doctor beamed at her. "Well answered!" He spoke more cautiously. "You all right?"
She sighed. For once, she let regret show on her face. "I was being foolish. I knew I was drinking too much, but I was sulking. Would have served me right to get good and sick."
He reached out and took her chin. "Your feelings were very hurt."
"Thank you," she said. "You know," and she looked up into his grey eyes. "Doctor, sometimes I think you're the best friend I've ever had. Isn't that funny? We only had that one adventure. Irongron. Not like you and your friend Jo. What's wrong? Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes," he said. "Yes, fine." He hesitated, and then he said, "Perhaps you'd like to travel around with me a bit."
"Oh no," she said quickly. "No. I couldn't do that."
His voice was gentle and disappointed. "But Sarah Jane, why not?"
"My journalism," she said. "Doctor, I'm the first woman on the staff. No, I can't give that up."
"But Sarah, all the best journalists have always been adventurers and explorers in their own right."
She didn't even answer him. Instead she said, "Could I have more coffee, please? How are the repairs?"
From its box, the Jynx let out a hiss.
"You could travel with me for ages, and then I could get you back to earth a minute after you left it," he told her. "No harm to your career."
"What, two or three or ten years older? And completely out of touch with my old stories and my old leads? No thank you."
"Stupid, stupid," the Jynx hissed.
"Shut up over there!" the Doctor shouted, and spilled the coffee.
"Oh!" Sarah Jane exclaimed.
"I'm sorry! How clumsy of me! Are you burned?"
"No, just got a stain."
"I'd better get that thing out of here!" And he stood up. "There are plenty of clothes in the wardrobe, there. I'm sure you'll find something."
He strode over to the box and scooped it up. "Are you angry with me?" Sarah Jane asked.
"What? No, of course not. But I'd better get back to the console. Or we'll be stuck here forever. And we can't have that." And he walked out.
* * * *
"You are angry with her," the Jynx said as the Doctor re-fitted the panel over the console on one side.
"I'm sure that delights you."
"Time lord, I tell the truth. You do not need to be angry with her. It's her own misery she brings on herself. She would be happier with you. She would be safer with you. She would be spared all the bitter disappointments of human life if she were with you. Let her go. She'll learn soon enough that she would have been better off with you, here."
"You know, you're just miserable enough to wish that on her," the Doctor said as he moved around the console and removed another panel.
"Why not?" You wish it on her."
"You know, I'm getting tired of arguing with you." And the Doctor broke into song.
Pray ye dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers
May ye beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis
The Jynx covered its rimless ears until the song was finished. He glared up at the Doctor.
"Had enough?" the Doctor asked.
"You can take away her ignorance, and give her happiness," it said. "No wonder you have no present for Sarah Jane this Christmas. You are a rich noble, a lord of time, with wisdom at your beck and call, but you will let the sprite dance with destitution, the diseases of humans, the catastrophes they bring on themselves."
"I'm not going to make her a prisoner, y'stupid Jynx!" he exclaimed.
He got down on the floor and put his head through the gaping hole in the console's base. The Jynx came up to the opening.
"Explain to me how a rich man makes a poor peasant a prisoner by bringing him into a palace?" The Jynx asked. "Or how a man with food is cruel when he forces a starving little child to eat?"
"Your evetime song, ye singers
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis," The Doctor sang softly.
"Overcoming her ignorance of all that you can give her is not imprisoning her, Time lord. It is freeing her from her own ignorance."
"It would hurt her."
"You know it would not hurt her. You can make her long to stay with you forever. Give her a longing to stay with you, and then fulfill her longing. It will be the richest present of all."
"Not against her will."
"Change her will. Softly. You know how."
And it scuttled away. Without being ordered to, it went to its box.
"I haven't dismissed you yet," the Doctor said. He was sweating again.
"I tell the truth, as you noted," the Jynx told him, climbing into its box. "I have no more to say." It reached out and pulled the lid over itself.
The Doctor looked at the box for a long time and then doggedly went back to work on the engagement circuits. After some time had passed, he heard a footstep out in the control room. He slid out and saw Sarah Jane.
"Sarah," he said, and he made his voice pleasant. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she said. "Sober, anyway."
"Well, good!" He nodded and slid back under the console. She came and sat down by him. Her attitude was gentle and conciliatory. He realized that, as much as Sarah might scold him at times, she never wanted to hurt his feelings.
"How's the repair work?" she asked.
"More than half finished." He kept his head under the console.
"You'll be finished by tomorrow?"
"Yes, almost certainly. And then we're back on track with our Pickwickian Christmas. Once I get rid of the Jynx."
"I--I think that I would rather just go home," she said.
He pushed himself out of the console's base and looked at her. "What? But I thought we were all set for Victorian England."
"I really do want to go home."
He quickly fixed his gaze up on the circuits above. "Well, then I'll just have to take you home."
She sat by him without saying anything else, until he said, "I don't know why you let that Jynx bother you so much. There's nothing for you to be afraid of. It won't come anywhere near you. I've warned it off from you."
"I'm not afraid of the Jynx tempting me," she said, and some of her sharpness came back.
"Well it's not tempting me!" he exclaimed. "I told you I can resist it. I argued it to a standstill, and now it's gone back into its box! I defeated it!" And he went back to work.
She looked down at him, but he kept his eyes fixed on the circuits above. After a moment, he pushed his head back through the hole in the base of the console.
At his silence, she at last got up and would have walked out, but he slid out again. "Sarah," he said, his voice contrite.
She turned and looked down at him.
"I'll be finished this section in a few hours. Perhaps we could have tea."
She glanced at her watch. "In a few hours, it will be midnight on Christmas Eve; I mean, if we were on earth."
"Then we should celebrate," he said. "I think there are confections and things in the stores."
"I'll check," she said briskly. Then she halted. "But I don't have a present for you."
"Oh that's all right. Your being here is enough. I'll see you in a few hours." He smiled.
She smiled back, uncertainly, and went out to check the stores.
The lid of the box popped off, and the Jynx emerged. "What business has she got, being frightened of you?" it asked, indignant. "Didn't I tell you they are stupid?"
"I'm a different being from Sarah's race," he said. "It takes some getting used to. That's all."
"And after all you've done for her, and her people. Suffering, having your mind torn open, stripes on your back. Ordered around, paid nothing, kicked out of important meetings. And never a present for you. Not from any of them."
"They don't have anything to give me," he said shortly. "They're only humans, after all." One of the burned out boards would not come free, and he gave an unecessarily violent tug on it to pull it out of its socket. Instead of coming free, the fragile board cracked. He let out a sigh of exasperation. "These things aren't even made right."
"You ought to get something. Something nobody would miss. Something that would be happier by belonging to you than going on its own witless way, getting sick, getting old, getting drunk, weeping whenever it feels abandoned."
"I've got work to do," the Doctor said.
"She already is hosting these viruses," it said. "Shigella sonnei/flexneri, Yersinia enterocolitica, Campylobacter jejuni."
"None of them are acute. Like most humans, she hosts thousands of viruses, but her immune system suppresses them."
"Until one of them kills her. Most humans who live to old age die of pnuemonia. The reward for dying in bed." It made a curious gasping noise and then said. "And of course, in the interest of being kind to Sarah Jane, you will let her choose her course."
"Sarah Jane Smith would not thank me for choosing her course for her."
"Yes she would. You know she would."
The Doctor stopped and looked at it.
The Jynx had its eyes fixed on his. "Just take away the thoughts that confuse her. I'll help you. You can give her long life and companionship. And she will want them."
* * * *
Sarah Jane had set out wine glasses and plates for their Christmas Eve celebration. There had been tins of just about everything in the stores: caviar,and confections, and cheeses, and crackers, and capers, and smoked salmon.
She didn't exactly like kitchen work, but she felt better staying busy than hanging around in the same room with that dreadful creature. And she wasn't sure that the Doctor was entirely happy with her. She wished that she were home. She missed the familiarity of London, even London alone on Christmas.
"Why, Sarah Jane, you've transformed the place!"
The Doctor's voice arrested her. He stood in the doorway, dressed in his green smoking jacket, with a red tie around his collar.
"Are you hungry?" she asked. "Say, where's that Jynx got to?"
The Doctor frowned. "You know, I'm not sure." A blank look went across his face. "I can't remember." He turned to look out into the corridor. "Perhaps I left him." He suddenly became breezy and causal. "Oh well! As long as we're in here together, he can't do either of us any harm."
The room and table were decked out with green cloths and gold garland, and Sarah had found a small clock, beautifully paneled in wood with brass trim, that she had set up. It chimed softly.
"Midnight!" he exclaimed. "It's just now Christmas! Merry Christmas, Sarah!"
And he extended his hand to her.
Sarah stayed where she was.
He simply looked at her, his eyes large and quiet. After a moment, her hands, which had been lifted at her sides, relaxed and dropped.
"Won't you come here, my dear?" he asked. "And we'll welcome in Christmas together."
"I don't have a present for you," she said faintly.
"I think, Sarah, that I would settle for a kiss," he told her. "Isn't that the tradition? Come here."
She obediently crossed the room to him. From his jacket pocket, the Jynx lifted its face and peered out.
The Doctor lifted her chin with his hand and looked down at her. It was the work of a moment, to gently impress upon her mind the vastness of his personality. His eyes looked into hers, and she understood his age and his intelllect and his powers. He leaned closer, and she trembled.
"I would never hurt you," he said. "I want you to stay, to let me take care of you. Do you want that?"
"Yes," she whispered. She was near tears.
"Just let go the rest," he whispered. "Will you do that? I'll help you."
"I'll kiss you, and it will be gone."
She lifted her face to his, but as she did, he heard two things at once: a whimper from her like a little sob, even though she obeyed him, and a soft intake of breath from the Jynx.
He darted up, away from her. Sarah Jane, overwhelmed, suddenly let out a louder cry at the sudden breaking of the spell.
It was emotionally painful for her as he suddenly stripped away the power of his eyes. She hid her face in her hands. "Sarah! What have I done!" And he caught hold of her. "Sarah, Sarah, I'm sorry! Sarah, forgive me!"
With an angry squeal, the Jynx leaped from his jacket pocket and scampered up his jacket to his shoulder. Neither of them knew if it meant to bite Sarah or him, for the Doctor lifted his hand over both of them to protect them. The Jynx sank its teeth into the side of his hand until the teeth met in his flesh.
With a quick twist of his other arm, the Doctor pulled Sarah Jane away from it, under the shelter of his shoulder. He snapped his captured hand like the cracking of a whip, just as the Jynx was letting go to attack again.
The Jynx was flung off and hit the wall. The Doctor glanced down at her to make sure she was all right, and then he plunged after it. He grabbed it by the neck, but it was hideously angry.
"Fool! Fool! Selfish fool!" it snarled. "It was a Christmas present!"
The Doctor closed his wounded hand over its head, stifling it, and looked at her.
"Sarah?" he asked. "We've got to get rid of this thing!"
She was getting hold of herself. "The doors and hatches are sealed," she gasped. "Please, get rid of it!"
"I have an idea! Come this way!"
He strode off with it. The Jynx tried to speak, but the Doctor clasped it in both hands around its head.
He led Sarah Jane into one of the TARDIS waste disposal stations.
"You're not going to flush it down the loo?" she asked.
Without an answer, he opened a cupboard and pulled out a very conventional plunger, of the type that are used for unclogging drains. Deftly, he clapped the open end over the head of the Jynx.
"No! No! No!" the Jynx cried. "I'll stay in my box! I'll stay in my box!" It writhed in his big hand, but he did not release it.
"Sarah Jane, when I say flush, you flush!" he ordered.
"Right, Doctor!" This particular waste disposal station was of an ornate design, with a long chain that hung from a water cabinet high up. The Doctor jammed the loaded plunger into the circular disposal unit on the floor. Struggling with a plunger over its head, the Jynx's withered legs kicked up water from the bowl, but the Doctor pushed it down as far as it would go. "Right! Pull the chain!" She pulled the chain.
"I'll stay in my box!" It shouted as it came up from the charge of water, its head still stuck in the plunger. He pushed it in again, and yelled, "Pull the chain! Now! Now!"
She pulled it again, and there was one last sight of another great charge of water, a single withered foot that broke the surface, and then the Jynx was gone.
"Go on, pull it again to make sure!" the Doctor said. He straightened up. She pulled the chain again. There was a final great rush of water in the circular, bowl-shaped unit.
Gasping, he dropped the plunger and leaned back against the wall.
"I've got to get you home," he said. "Right away."
"You're bleeding," she said in a small voice.
He looked down at his hand. "I deserve it. It's nothing." He looked at her and then looked down. "I'm sorry for what I almost did. I apologize. I need to get you out of here."
He would have walked out, but then he looked at her with a mixture of shame, pity, and pain. "Are you all right?"
She straighted up. "I said you're bleeding," she told him. "We've got to do something about that."
* * * *
Sitting in an easy chair, with his feet up, the Doctor surveyed the mountain of white bandages that swathed his right hand.
"That's a very neat job, Sarah Jane," he said.
"I still don't know why you wouldn't let me use that thingummy that you used on my cut hand," Sarah Jane said.
"Because time lords don't respond to antibiotics and aspirins and things of that nature as humans do," he told her. "We just wrap up our injuries and wait a bit. Maybe go into a deep sleep if things are serious."
She set their glasses down on the small table next to him, dropped a large box of chocolates on his knee, and sat on a cushioned ottoman that was next to his chair. Her head was just higher than the arm rest.
"Are you sure you're comfortable?" he asked.
"Right as rain, as long as I get my chocolates!" She eyes the box with happy and cheerful anticipation.
"You know, I really did wrong you," he began.
She looked at him with a very pert expression. "Able to resist the Jynx indeed! I told you that you're a humbug! A great big humbug! And then it went and bit you!"
His eyes became meek. "Will you forgive me? Do you understand what I almost did?"
"No I don't understand what you almost did, and I don't want to know about it. Don't you know anything about forgiveness? I'm just glad you got rid of that thing." She folded her arms and let out her breath in a superior way. "Flushing it down the loo was obvious. We should have done it right off!"
"Oh," and in spite of being chastened, he made his voice sardonic. "I could just see your reaction if I'd gone to flush it down the loo right away. You'd have thought I was a monster. No." And he shook his head ruefully. "You have to be bitten by a Jynx to really understand that you must get rid of it."
"But where did it go?" she asked. "Is it dead?"
"What? Oh, no, it's not dead. It's down in the waste tanks. They're triple sealed and vacuum-maintained to keep them safe. So it can't get out."
"Hard luck, all the same!" she exclaimed with a look of repugnance.
He glanced at her. "Jynx's don't mind that sort of thing as much as you or I would. I imagine that right now its biggest misery is realizing that it failed."
"Will it stay in the waste tanks forever?" she asked.
He shook his head. "They discharge periodically. Out in space, where most of the debris is vaporized. All I've really done is thrown him back."
"He won't die in space?"
Again, he shook his head. "Afraid not. I've never heard of a Jynx that died entirely."
She nodded and then looked at the open box of chocolates that she had set on his knee. "Do you want one?" she asked.
"Oh, you first, Sarah Jane."
She wrinkled her nose. "I don't like the ones filled with orange or raspberry cream."
"Well break one in half. If it's a fruit cream, I'll eat it."
She eyed him hopefully. "You get the fruit creams and jelly filled, and I get the rest?"
He nodded. "Agreed!"
"Right-o!" She took one and broke it open. "Aha! Chocolate truffle!" She put one half in her mouth and then relented and handed him the other half. With a nod of thanks, he popped it into his mouth. "What time is it?" he asked her.
"It would be two a.m. on earth. Christmas morning," she told him.
"I've got to get you home." His voice was guilty. "There are still boards to replace."
"Oh, there's no rush. You can tell me a story or two. Like you used to do with your friend Jo."
He looked down at her. She had her eyes fixed on the chocolates on his knee, deciding which should be next. He rested his good hand on her head. "You know Sarah, I think I would like to hear a story from you," he said. "Will you tell me about your Christmases?"
She selected one, broke it open, and handed him both halves. It was a fruit cream. "All right," she said as he obligingly ate the pieces. "I'll tell you a story, Doctor. If it makes you happy."
He nodded and stroked her hair. "It would make me very happy."
Merry Christmas to you! My sincere hope is that in this Christmas season, you will rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, the Son of God.--Jeri Massi