The Second Doctor Who Christmas Story;Jo Grant;Katy Manning;Doctor Who;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jeri MassiThe Second Doctor Who Christmas Story Episode One
The Second Doctor Who Christmas Story
Written by Jeri Massi
Set After Curse of Peladon
The science lab at UNIT, most often called the Doctor's lab since the tall, commanding timelord had taken it over as scientific advisor to the Brigadier, was silent and cold. A fine but thick film of dust lay in a nearly perfect parallelogram on the wide, empty workbench bench, evidence of where the sunlight rested on it day after day.
The quiet of the wide, cluttered room was interrupted by a wheezing noise of ancient machinery. After a moment, the tall blue police box that had once sat nearly unused for several years in that same lab appeared and solidified. The door swung open and the Doctor himself peered out.
"Looks like we hit it right on the button this time!" he exclaimed. He stepped out of the TARDIS, looking around and sniffing as a man does when he enters a room that's been closed up for a long time. "Come on, Jo! It's home!"
He glanced back and from habit held out a huge hand to the small, fair-haired girl who more cautiously emerged behind him. His attitude with her was brisk and cheerful, but an onlooker might have noticed a hint of concern in his eyes. Indeed, as the young girl stepped after him, looking hesitantly around the lab, he put an arm across her shoulders and drew her closer with a certain protective gentleness, and she gladly came.
"Same old lab," he said gently. "Right as rain, just waiting for us."
She glanced around, taking in the dust and the unusual stillness. "It certainly looks like the lab, but where is everybody?"
He let her go and strode around the workbench, confidently casting his broad gaze around at everything. An element of order had intruded upon his domain: the larger equipment had been pushed back into the corners; the moderate sized generators and o-scopes had been stacked against one wall, and the smaller ammeters. voltmeters, and other items were shelved.
"Good grief! Somebody's gone and sorted the resistors!" he exclaimed as he caught sight of a neat fishing tackle type box that presented the small resistors in compartments ranging from milli-ohm to kilo-ohm values. "I say, we have been gone for a long time. Lethbridge Stewart's had a field day down here." He turned and grinned at her.
"But where are they?" she asked. "The whole place is so quiet. I don't even hear any footsteps from upstairs." She put a hand to her head in dismay. "Is this a dream or is this real? I'm sure I woke up this morning-"
His voice was quick. "It's real, Jo. We'll just check on things."
The telephone sat in its usual resting place, but it also had a thin film of dust over it. He scooped it up and tapped the main desk extension. "Hallo? Who's there?" He paused. "Look, why's the place so dead?" Another pause. "Yes of course it's the Doctor. What about--He's gone where? Whatever--oh! No I hadn't realized it! Well it makes perfect sense then. No, no need to get in touch with him. I'll do all right for a bit. As long as everything is under control, I think that Miss Grant and I will go on holiday as well. Goodbye." He set down the receiver and glanced at Jo, who was now feeling at home enough to go rummaging around for the electric tea pot.
"It's December 20, Jo," the Doctor told her. "We've come home in time for Christmas! How do you like that?"
"We've lost time, then," she said hesitantly. "It was early autumn at Sir Reginald Styles' house . . . "
He strode over to a wall calendar, which still read November 7, and calculated. He glanced back at her. "We left for Peladon on the 7th, and we have been several weeks in getting back." He shook his head. "No, I think that whatever the timelords did to the TARDIS to get us to Peladon, and whatever I managed to do to postpone returning, they must have forced some type of compensation lock onto its tracking system. We have been gone from earth exactly as many days as we have experienced in the TARDIS on our journeys since Peladon." He glanced at her, the concern in his eyes more evident. "It actually has been only six weeks since Peladon, Jo." He dropped his gaze. "It just seems longer, that's all."
She suddenly hugged her elbows, as though caught up in some unpleasant memory. "But it's not a dream, then. Things like that never work out in dreams." He nearly spoke, clearly concerned, but after a moment she said, frowning in thought, "I think that my family are still abroad, then. There's no way to get in touch with them by Christmas; certainly not to join them." She suddenly brightened as a pleasant and happy realisation struck her.. "But there's Uncle Chubby. He'd be delighted. And you could meet him at last!"
The Doctor was taken back. "Uncle Chubby?" he echoed.
She nodded as she came around the work bench and reached for the telephone. "My uncle that helped me get my position here at UNIT. He's a grand old sort, Doctor. You'll love him. And he's got a fantastic old place in the north. Haunted lodges, ghost stories, and terrific sledding. Way north, where the cousins like to go and spend Christmas. I'll just ring him now!". She dialed and then hesitated. "You do want to come, don't you?" she asked, suddenly uncertain. "I don't think I could go without you."
"Of course I do," he said warmly. "I'm just not used to the idea of cabinet ministers named Chubby, that's all."
She suddenly giggled, and for a moment she was again the old Jo, laughing at him. "That's not what they call him in session, Doctor! He's Lord-" She cut herself off. "Aunt Marilla! It's your niece, Jo! Yes I'm fine, and I'm dreadfully pining to spend Christmas with you and Uncle Chubby! Is there room?" She was animated and suddenly much more her self. The Doctor beamed at her as she twined the long phone cord around one finger. "Yes, we've been out on an assignment, and we just now got back, and I expect it's perfectly useless to track down Mum and Dad and get over there now. But we could just drive up-Oh yes, he's ever so eager to come! You don't mind do you? They are? How marvelous! Julia wasn't even born last time I saw the boys. It's been much too long, hasn't it? We'll be on our way as soon as possible. Tomorrow night at the latest."
She cradled the receiver and looked up at him, now thoroughly happy and enthusiastic. "It's all settled! We're to set out right away! I've got four young cousins already staying over, and I think Philip is coming over from West Germany. He's my mother's brother's son, and he's been away ever so long. And the old man is there as well--"
"You mean your Uncle Chubby?" the Doctor asked.
She already had the rapt look of a person figuring out a Christmas list. "What? Oh no. The Dear Old Man. That's what we call him. D.O.M. for short. He's a friend of Uncle Chubby's. Been a friend of my father's family for ages." She took him by the hand, now confident and assertive, heedless of their last few harrowing weeks. "Come on, Doctor. We mustn't waste time. We've got lots of shopping to do. There's James and John, the twins. They're oldest: ten I think. And then Andrew; he's eight. My niece Julia is six years old now! I've never once seen her!"
He let her lead him out. "I suppose I'll have to let you outfit us both for this expedition," he said. "I'm not very good at Christmas. The customs keep changing!"
* * * *
It took the rest of the entire day and all the way into the evening until the stores closed for Jo to "outfit them properly" for the expedition to Uncle Chubby's. By the time all the parcels and suitcases and bundles and bags had been packed into Bessy as tightly as they could go, and the Doctor had gotten the top up and fastened reliably against the weather, it was after midnight.
They stood in the desolate and barren car park outside the main building at UNIT HQ and conferred.
"Why not just go now?" she asked, her teeth shivering slightly in the clear and dark cold.
He peered at her, astonished. "What?"
"Well you don't need sleep do you?" she asked.
"Not much as a general rule, but you certainly do!"
She shrugged and automatically glanced away. "I don't mind. I could sleep on the way."
"Jo." His voice became disapproving. "I told you already. If you're still afraid of sleeping now that we're back, you can sleep with me."
"Doctor you mustn't say that!" Embarrassed, she darted her eyes back and forth, but they were the only two people on the grounds. "We're on Earth, now!"
He was impatient. "You know what I mean. You can go to sleep in the room where I am," he told her, correcting himself. "I'll make you up a nice bed in the lab-or in the TARDIS itself-"
She became alarmed. "I don't want to go back into the TARDIS--"
"All right, you don't have to." He made his voice soothing. "You can have a cot or that old sofa in the lab while I putter around a bit. We'll leave when it's light. It will take us all day tomorrow to get up to your uncle's house."
"I'm never going to be well again," she said, suddenly lost from him. Her eyes became distant as though she were seeing something else. "It's still there, hiding in my mind, waiting to get me."
"Nonsense, of course you're getting well!" he drew her in. She had her coat on and was still shivering. He had only his cape and yet was warm enough. "You will, Jo. It will take some time. But things will get back to normal, and seeing your family at Christmas will speed things along." He looked down at her. "Come on to the lab."
He led her back inside. While she made up things for instant cocoa with the electric tea kettle and some powdered milk, he made up a bed for her by piling blankets from the TARDIS cupboards onto the ruined sofa in the lab that was sometimes his place for catnaps. He deliberately chose the old blankets that Susan had once found so comforting as a child: soft flannels and block-sewn quilts, very homey patterns. And he brought Jo the gown and robe that she had been given by Peladon's handmaids.
While she prepared for bed back in the store room, he returned to the TARDIS and came out with a book. She at last settled down on the sofa and pulled the covers up. "Are you going to read to me?" she asked. He sloshed a generous amount of brandy into her mug and brought it to her.
"Yes, I thought this fitting." While she sat up with the blankets nearly up to her chin, he pulled up a lab stool and read from his book:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
Jo set aside her empty mug and slid down under the covers, already drowsy from the warmth of the brandy and the milk. "But you don't believe any of this, do you?" she asked.
"What's that?" He glanced at her.
"God," she told him sleepily. "You don't believe in God."
"Oh, I believe in many gods, Jo. I just don't believe in all their claims. But it makes good reading, and it is important to your culture." He took up the book and continued to read:
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
He glanced over at her. She was asleep. He had told her that he meant to putter about the lab while she slept, but instead he simply closed the book and looked at her thoughtfully, his face set in lines of grim and worried concern.
* * * *
"Are you all right now?"
"I think it's behind the door again," she exclaimed."Or at the window!"
"No, Jo, there's nothing there."
"But did you check?"
"I checked. I promise you."
"I'm trapped in these ropes-or is it a net?"
"It's just the blankets. You've got them all twined round yourself. There you are."
He loosened the blankets that had gotten wrapped around her. She peered around the lab, trembling but anxious to get away and get to the refuge of home and Christmas. "Is it morning yet? Can we go now?"
"Yes, yes, it's morning. Just calm down a bit first." The Doctor caught her wrist and took her pulse. It was racing, but starting to slow down as she recognized her surroundings. He thought to speak and then said nothing as she quietened and began to relax.
"Did I scream?" she asked at last.
"Yes, and a good thing, too. You woke yourself up nearly right off." He waited, but as she said nothing he added, "Do you want to get breakfast on the road, or take it with us?"
"I want to go--right away," she said.
"All right. Get ready for the day and then we'll be out of this."
Jo's spirits began to improve as soon as they were on the road. She loved to drive places with him, and her enthusiasm for reaching their destination was always bright; this morning it was bright enough to ward off the after effects of her nightmares. But now in the context of earth and being among humans, the Doctor could see that her eyes were hollow, her face thin. Even her current happiness at going home could not erase the signs of stress and fear from her.
As the roads became less and less traveled, she became more animated and lively and pointed out landmarks that she remembered. They stopped for a late morning meal at a roadside café of the sort frequented by drivers. The Doctor settled for the plain fare of a beef sandwich and a wedge of pie, while Jo got two plates of gingerbread cookies and a glass of milk. He brought the items on a tray to their tiny booth and set them down.
"You know, even though it's the holidays, you could make some pretense of eating sensibly," he told her as she happily munched a cookie. He took the tray back to the counter. His experience of roadside dining was that it was meagre, badly prepared, and expensive, yet the gingerbread cookies were enormous and appeared to be still warm.
"You should have one," she said, mouth full, as he returned. She took a swig of the milk.
He sat down, took a cookie, and said, "Did you hear me?"
"What, eating sensibly? I feel as though I haven't tasted anything in weeks, and these are so good!"
He instantly relented. It was true that her appetite had been very bad, and if she was going to break her fast with gingerbread cookies, that was good enough for him.
"I suppose Yule has always been a time of excess," he admitted. "Long before Jesus was born the Romans were swigging away on wines to toast Saturnalia. And before that, the Etruscans were pulling out the best of the pork from the sacrifices. Generally a time to bulk up before winter, and usually a good time for people, except for a few occasional virgins here and there when things got extreme."
"Sounds awful." By now she was on her fourth cookie.
"Don't make yourself sick, Jo." He changed the topic to keep it pleasant. "Still, pagan or Christian, this is the time of year when this hemisphere of the Earth finds something to celebrate, and something to feast on." He suddenly smiled at her and started on his sandwich.
"It's funny how the pagan celebration and Christian celebration happen at the same time of year." She moved the empty plate aside, took another drink of milk, and pulled the second plate in front of her.
"Why should that be funny?" he asked. "The Church has historically Christianized many pagan celebrations."
"Yes, but like that?" she asked. "I mean, the big one. Were you ever there?"
"You know, Bethlehem, the stable, all that."
"No, not yet. Aside from one remarkable birth, that's actually a fairly dead era."
"No monsters, you mean." She smiled.
"No non-human monsters," he corrected. "The caesers were not all as bad as Nero, but some of them came pretty close. I hope never to run afoul of them. I did get to Rome once, long ago, but I missed much of the empire. Never saw Bethlehem."
Once they were back on the road again, Jo seemed sleepy from her meal and was not inclined to fight off a doze. He was relieved when in spite of the air rushing through every seam between the top and Bessy's frame she nodded off and remained peaceful for a couple hours, snuggled into her wool coat.
"Maybe there's something curative in gingerbread," he muttered.
In the afternoon she woke up, pleased at the progress they had made since their meal. The terrain was now very uneven, and there were mountains plainly visible. She directed him to a little pub that she remembered. They were given ham, cheese, and beer, and they left again in the twilight.
The rest of the drive was uphill, sometimes steep ascents, and Jo had to help navigate with a map and a flashlight. But at last they were pulling in to a fine, huge house whose wings were impossible to distinguish in the darkness. With the trees growing all around, it looked as though the walls and the forest were one, blended by the night.
The house sat on a wide level place on a great hillside, and with the dark night sky lowering, Jo said hopefully, "Oh, we may get some sledding in!" But before the Doctor could reply, the two enormous front doors were flung open, spilling white and gold light from numerous lamps and chandeliers onto them. And amid cries of "Jo! Cousin Jo! Jo dear!" a herd of what looked like cocker spaniel people descended on them.
It was hard to be sure in the dimness that even the bright lights from the house could not vanquish, but Jo's relatives all seemed to be possessed of the same dark eyed, silken haired, unconscious elegance that was hers. They certainly had the same enthusiasm and capacity for affection.
At first the Doctor had felt that a dozen or so relatives had swarmed around them, shaking hands, kissing, exclaiming in happiness, but he gradually realized that they had been engulfed only by two adults and four children. The children had no idea who he was, but they were hugging him just the same. He obliged by scooping up the youngest, Julia he judged, and carrying her up to the house while one of the boys took him by his free hand and the other two boys took Jo and led them to the entryway.
Up on the grand, broad steps of the house, an older, bearded man who did not bear the same dark eyes and honey colored hair beamed at Jo.
"Do you have a kiss for your D.O.M.?" he asked her.
"Oh, Uncle. I'm so glad to see you!" She reached up with her face and kissed his cheek. He was not nearly as tall as the Doctor and was of a slightly stockier build, though stll taller than Jo. He clasped Jo lightly, looked at her, and for a moment seemed quite taken back as though there was something in her face and eyes that startled him. But all he said was, "Have you been a good girl, my dear?"
"I've done my best." At his momentary concern, she lost some of her merriment, but he suddenly smiled at her with so much warmth and reassurance that the Doctor actually felt a moment's longing, though he didn't know what it was for.
"You have been a very good girl, Jo," the Old Man told her. He kissed her cheek. "And everything is all right now. I'll get your things. Come on James and John!"
He stumped down the steps, leading the two of the oldest boys.
"I can help too, Uncle!" Andrew shouted, running after them towards Bessy. "I say! Look at that fancy car!" Andrew turned back to the Doctor. "Sir, may we go for a ride in it some time?"
"First thing tomorrow if you like!" the Doctor promised. But he wondered why the Old Man had not even greeted him at all. Julia, excited at sight of the old car, scrambled down from him and ran after her brothers and the Dear Old Man.
Jo took him by the hand and led him through the great doors. He was duly introduced to Uncle Chubby's male secretary, a thirtyish man called Brewster, and a man named Willis who was referred to as the gardener but who actually seemed to be a sort of all purpose servant. They went out to help bring things in. Not unused to being waited on by hired help, Jo brought the Doctor through a magnificent entrance hall and into a large sitting room where a fire roared in a fireplace that could have housed Bessy. A Christmas tree filled up one corner of the vast room. It was laden with ornaments and trinkets so numerous that it twinkled and sparkled in the light thrown off from the fire. Jo clasped his hand in both of hers. "Isn't it beautiful?" She suddenly pushed against him, and to his surprise-and hers-tears suddenly ran down her face. "Oh, I'm so glad to be home. Thank you for bringing me home. I'll get well now."
"Why Jo, of course, of course," and without thinking he engulfed her in his arms. "You're home now, my dear. Safe at home."
It was just at that moment that Uncle Chubby walked in; not the best moment perhaps, to see his niece in the arms of an older man, her superior in government service. And just then another figure that none of them had yet noticed stood up from one of the wingback chairs near the fire and sauntered forward.
The Doctor instantly released Jo, and she instantly got hold of herself. "Why Philip, how you've changed," she said hesitantly, trying to smile and quickly brushing away her remaining tears. "We were only children when we last saw each other."
Philip was of longer, lankier build than any of his relatives, and though he possessed the dark, soulful eyes of the others, his hair was of a coarse texture and appeared to have been dyed jet black. He wore tight black jeans, a black turtleneck, and a black leather vest.
"So you're the Doctor fellow." He cast a disdainful glance at the Doctor. "Odd clothes for Christmas, mate," he said.
"I very nearly made the same observation," the Doctor told him. He offered his hand just the same, but Philip ignored it, gave Jo no more than a nod, and sauntered out. Uncle Chubby meanwhile, had been stalking around the Doctor and Jo with a very displeased look on his round face.
"You are the Doctor then?" he demanded. "You are very close with my niece, I take it sir?"
"Yes, Uncle, this is the Doctor," Jo said,and she would have interceded, but the Doctor spoke for himself.
"Your niece and I have just returned from some rather harrowing experiences sir," he said. "You must pardon what seems like my over familiarity with her. I assure you, I have always behaved as a gentleman towards her. She is a bit overcome at being home again."
"I am, uncle," Jo said, and she was now very pale.
Her uncle instantly relented, took her by the arm, and settled her in a chair by the fire. "Of course, of course. I should never have secured that berth for you at UNIT if it was going to ruin your health and happiness, my dear."
The Doctor went to a sideboard to pour a brandy for her. "Your niece has conducted herself with uncommon valor against some uncommon foes, sir," he said. He brought the glass to her uncle and allowed the man to give the glass to Jo. "And I owe her my own life several times over, as do others."
All this time, the other nephews, Brewster, Willis, and the Dear Old Man has been lugging all the parcels and suitcases inside the entry hall. The Doctor would have gone to assist, but just then Aunt Marilla hurried in. The cocker spaniel resemblence was strongest in her, though even Uncle Chubby also had big dark eyes, and his remaining fringe of hair around his bald pate was honey colored and not gray. The Doctor could not discern which of them was related to Jo by blood and which was not.
"Oh, our Jo has always been one to undertake grand expeditions," Marilla said. "Do sit down, Doctor. The boys will see to your things. They are on their very best behaviour with the D.O.M. here. He has such a way with them. They are like little elves."
The Doctor obediently took a high backed, softly cushioned chair far enough from Jo to suit Uncle Chubby but close enough that she could see him easily. Julia skipped in, excited by the new arrivals. She scrambled onto her uncle's knee while Aunt Marilla said, "Let me bring you something to eat, the both of you. Would you like tea things or something more substantial?"
"Is there gingerbread?" Jo asked.
While Aunt Marilla was gone and Julia settled down to play with her uncle's watch while seated in his roomy lap, Uncle Chubby shot a glance at the Doctor. "So what are these uncommon acts of valor? Can you speak of them?"
"Well, there was Axos," the Doctor told him. "You surely heard the report on that."
"Heard you blew apart the entire Nuton Power Complex to roust them out," he grumbled.
"They were on the verge of destroying the entire world, Uncle," Jo said gently, her composure now recovered. "The Doctor fooled them and-" She barely hesitated. It was simply no good to say everything that had happened because he would think them mad or lying. "And he convinced them to shoot themselves back into space."
"And what was your role in all this, Josephine?" her uncle asked, not demanding, but suddenly very concerned.
"Well I-" She stopped herself as she remembered that she had disobeyed orders at first, and the Doctor said smoothly, "Well in the very worst of it, when it was nip and tuck, she was in the front line, trying to hold them off with gunfire and any other handy weapon."
"And where were you?" His voice was now demanding again.
"Aboard their ship," the Doctor said. "Carrying out my part of the operation.
"Hmmm." Uncle Chubby looked thoughtful as he stroked Julia's silken hair. Unconcerned, she played with his pocket watch, her huge dark eyes fixed on it as she got it open and twirled the setting button to see the hands move. "Care for a brandy?" he asked gruffly.
"Love one. I'll get them." The Doctor jumped up and went to the sideboard. Out of sight from Uncle Chubby, he shot a glance at Jo, and she smiled at him, cheering him on.
"How is Lethbridge-Stewart?" Uncle Chubby asked him as the Doctor poured.
The Doctor brought their drinks, handed one to Jo's uncle, and said, "Well, we haven't seen him since we got back, but last we were with him, he was quite well. Very pleased to have averted near disaster at the peace conference with Sir Reginald Styles."
"That's right. I recall the incident. So you had something to do with clearing that house, eh?"
"As did Jo, sir."
"Would have been a dirty business if they'd been inside when that bomb went off. Did they ever catch the blighter who set it?"
"I believe he was inside the house when it went off." The Doctor sank into his chair and took a long drink. He wanted something to brace him up.
"Must have mis-timed the fuse."
The nephews finally came back in, finished with their tasks, and Aunt Marilla brought in trays of food. They were a close and affectionate family, and after helping to pass things around, the boys found laps of their own to sit on, even James and John, and nobody thought anything of it. James took Jo; John took Aunt Marilla, and with no self cosnciousness at all, Andrew took the Doctor. Assisted by several brandies and a helping or two of marzipan, Uncle Chubby became much more tolerant. He and thr Doctor talked at some length while the chldren and even the two women dozed. Neither Cousin Philip nor the Dear Old Man put in an appearance for the rest of the evening. Brewster and Willis, apparently obligated only to be polite, were also gone.
As conversation wound down and the children fell asleep, Uncle Chubby even went so far as to say, "Well, everything you've told me is full of wonders, Doctor. And there must be much more that you haven't told me. You have been at the very heart of great things."
"I suppose," the Doctor agreed.
"A man of many secrets."
The Doctor glanced at him.
"Ever heard of the Evergreen project?" Uncle Chubby asked.
"Isn't that the security database project?"
"Whole new concept in secure computer hardware, man," Uncle Chubby told him, somewhat smugly. "Uses microchips with incredible logic programmed into them. Signals processed through ceramics materials rather than by three-pronged transistor."
"Fascinating, sir." The Doctor resisted the temptation to tell him that within five years the US would be on the verge of mass producing this same technology for retail customers.
Jo's uncle lowered his voice and his eyes and said with a tone of great confidentiality. "Got a bit of it right here at the house."
"Oh? Yes?" the Doctor mentally scrambled for the appropriate exclamation of surprise and/or horror, even though he didn't care at all. "Say, isn't that risky?" There. That sounded all right. Andrew, who had fallen asleep, shifted, and the Doctor settled the boy more comfortably in the crook of his arm.
"Bit of microfilm with the design etched into it. We had to keep it somewhere over the hols, and I knew it would be safe here at the house. Got it all hidden away." He drained the last of his brandy. "Nice and safe in the remote north. Who would ever think to look here?"
Nobody but anybody who was interested and who knew the British horror of having to make soldiers stand guard duty over Christmas, the Doctor thought. Or perhaps any foreign country with the brains to implant spies among the clerk staff in Uncle Chubby's offices. Well, that ruled out most countries except America, the USSR, Red China, and the wealthy Arab states. Oh yes, and Israel. But as Uncle Chubby's question had been purely rhetorical, the Doctor did not voice the answers out loud.
Uncle Chubby abruptly changed the subject as Aunt Marilla, who had fallen into a doze, stirred and woke up to her duties as a hostess.
"Marilla, why not see the children to bed?" her husband suggested. "We'll get them tucked in and say good night."
The Doctor oblingingly picked up his charge and followed the sleepy entourage out. Jo carried Julia, and Uncle Chubby took John, while James was left to be picked up on the second round. But as they all passed through the entry way and down one hall, the Doctor noticed an elegantly lettered depiction of a twining sort of tree, and next to it, another, similar piece of art work.
"Family trees," Uncle Chubby told him as the Doctor hesitated. "Mine and Marilla's. The near one's mine and that's hers. Of course, only the most notable names are written up." He chuckled. "We've excised the pig thiefs and assassins, of course."
"Good grief! You're descended from the Tudor line!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"Distantly, sir. Distantly." But Uncle Chubby flushed slightly with pride. "And you'll see on my paternal side that I have Norman blood in me from a bygone era. I have many high born predecessors, as does my wife. You'll see that she is a distant niece of Hugh Latimer, the famous Reformer."
"He died before the doors at Oxford," the Doctor murmured. "He and Nicolas Ridley were bound to the same stake. The fire that burned them was so hot that the nearest door was charred from it."
Uncle Chubby looked at him with new respect. "You are an historian?"
"I was there," the Doctor said briefly. "But nothing could save them from the Queen's indignation."
"Doctor, I think you've had too much to drink!" And Uncle Chubby led the way upstairs to the bedrooms for the children.
Uncle Chubby and Aunt Marilla had a master suite another landing up from the smaller rooms. The Doctor and Jo had been given rooms near each other, each with its own small bath. They settled the children down. Cousin Philip had already retreated to his room, the door closed and the light off. Nobody mentioned the Dear Old Man, and the Doctor got the idea that he came and went as he pleased, such an established fixture in the family that nobody questioned him at all.
At last he and Jo were left alone in the hallway outside their rooms.
"Will you be all right?" he asked her.
"I think so. I feel so much better now," she told him. "Will you leave your door open?"
"Certainly. You only need to call for me." He bid her good night, and they retired.
The Doctor could resist sleep very well, but he had been doing so for very long stints lately, and with Jo in such better spirits, and with several glasses of brandy inside him, he set aside his thoughts and concerns, his regrets for his decision to navigate the TARDIS from Peladon in opposition to the High Council's controls on it, and slept. The room that had been given to him was in a convection route from the great fireplace downstairs. It was very warm, and so he slept in only his underwear, bare chested, though Jo had gotten him a long flannel nightshirt for their trip.
He heard her crying in the early morning, about a half hour before dawn. Time was short, and he knew it. If he didn't catch her in time, she would scream and frighten everybody. He rolled out of bed and raced from the room, pulling on his robe as he went.
"Jo, Jo, it's all right now. It's all right!"
He burst into her room, saw her struggling with the heavy covers. With a quick jerk of his wrist he stripped them away. He took her up in his arms and sat her upright, then sat alongside of her. "Come on. Come on, then, Jo! Wake up!"
Just as she opened her mouth to scream in fear, she woke up.
"There, there. It's all right," he whispered. "It's all right. We're home."
"It's still with me." She broke down and cried. She slumped down in his arms and sobbed, all despair and horror. "It's still in my mind. It's here in my mind. It won't leave me. I'll never get better. It's going to keep at me until it kills me!"
"No, I promise you'll recover," he whispered, rocking her in his arms. "Jo, it just takes time. I won't let it kill you. I promise."
"It's had time. It's been weeks."
"And it's receded," he said quietly. "It was all night long at first, then through out the night. Now it comes full strength only in the very early morning. You're winning."
"But it's not getting any better than this!" His robe was half open, and she wept into his bare chest, her sobs hard and uncontrolled. "Oh, I just want to sleep! That's all I want!"
"I know. I know," he whispered. "Look," he said suddenly bold and resolved. "I don't care what your blasted uncle says! I'll do anything for you! I'll hold you in my arms all night! I'm sharing your room and that's an end to the matter! Let him think what he likes!"
"What sort of thing is that to say in a man's house!" And Uncle Chubby, round and red faced and angry, strode into the room. "You'll do no such thing with my niece, sir!" He was also in his robe, but he was already shaved, had an undershirt on, and smelt faintly of coffee.
Jo leaped upright, stunned into self control at his voice. "Oh Uncle!" she exclaimed. "He didn't mean it that way!"
"Your niece needs me to be near her right now sir," the Doctor said, not rising.
"That's all very comfortable for you, I gather!" Uncle Chubby exclaimed. It was just then that the secretary, Brewster came in.
"Sir!" he exclaimed. "Could I have a word?"
"Not now, man! I'm busy!"
"It's urgent, your lordship! Extremely urgent!"
Uncle Chubby shot a look of anger and impatience at the Doctor and then strode out. The Doctor stood up, concerned and somewhat impatient himself. He had been very patient in helping Jo for the last several weeks, and being patient always made him impatient. Jo stood up. "Just tell him," she said. "As much as he can bear."
"The old fool," the Doctor whispered, not hearing her and already realizing what had happened to so alarm Brewster. "He's gone and lost that thing, hasn't he?"
His prediction was correct. Uncle Chubby strode back in. "Don't leave this house!" he exclaimed to the Doctor. "Brewster's calling for the police."
Jo interceded. "But the Doctor was only waking me up from a bad dream!" she exclaimed.
"Hush, Jo," the Doctor said gently.
"He's stolen the microfilm!" Uncle Chubby exclaimed. "Admit it! Tell me where it is!"
The Doctor's voice was quiet. "I haven't stolen anything."
"Uncle, he wouldn't steal from you! He's a good man!"
"He's the only one who knows about it!" her uncle exclaimed. "I told him about it last night in a moment of confidence."
"I doubt that, sir," the Doctor said, now angry at being accused. "I find it very hard to believe that a man garrulous enough to confide so quickly in me would have told nobody else."
"Doctor!" Jo exclaimed, horrified at his rudeness. Uncle Chubby flushed more. But just then Willis, alerted by the shouting and the noise, came to the door.
"Josephine, come away from him!" her uncle exclaimed. He pointed at the Doctor. "Willis, you're to keep him right here until the police arrive." He glared at the Doctor. "You'll not be sharing my niece's room or her bed or anything else. You're going to jail!"