'He's wrong, isn't he, Doctor?' Tori said. 'You can do something, can't you?'
'Of course I can,' the Doctor replied.
The boy laughed.
'You're very good,' he said. 'You've almost got me believing in you. But you and I know just how outmatched you are.'
'Really,' the Doctor responded. 'I think you've been paying far too much attention to your own publicity. Interesting choice of venue for a showdown.'
'Isn't it just. I thought it added a touch of poetry to the proceedings. Sing out ye fallen angels. The serpent has returned to the garden.'
'Is that really how you see yourself?'
'See for yourself.' The boy gestured to Janine and Mina. 'See how I've lifted the veil from their eyes to allow them to see the world as it truly is. And all I've asked for in return is their innocence. Surely my actions speak for me.'
The Doctor laughed.
'Let me see. You offered these people what they thought they wanted most and used that advantage to make them pay over the odds for it. Agent of Darkness? You've more in common with a door-to-door salesman.'
'You dare to mock me?' the boy snapped.
'Yes, actually,' the Doctor replied. 'And while we're on the subject, don't you think Prince of Darkness would have better dialogue? The devil getting all the best tunes and so forth.'
'Doctor,' Tori whispered, 'I don't think it's a good idea to make him mad.'
'Nonsense, Tori,' the Doctor said. 'If he was going to kill me he'd have done it already.'
'I wouldn't sully my hands with the likes of you,' the boy retorted, 'but that doesn't mean I can't get others to do it for me. Come on out Aaron.'
Aaron and Scott crept out from the shadows behind the organ. Aaron was holding his knife out in front of him. He waved it in the Doctor's direction.
'I owe you this,' he said.
'Doctor!' Tori screamed as Janine grabbed her, pinning her in place.
The Doctor glanced from Tori to Aaron.
'I'm going to enjoy gutting you,' Aaron said.
'I can't see why,' the Doctor replied. 'It's not as if you had much success the first time.'
'What are you on about?' Aaron demanded.
'You mean you haven't told him?' the Doctor asked the boy. 'How remiss of you. Or don't you think he could cope with "the truth" you've been so busy espousing?'
'I don't know what you mean,' Aaron said.
'Well in that case I'll be more than happy to explain,' the Doctor replied. 'Your boss over there is under the mistaken impression he's the original fallen angel risen again to bring the world to a better state of darkness and chaos. How's it feel to be an instrument of the not quite divine?'
'You don't know what you're talking about,' Aaron snapped. 'I'm nobody's instrument.'
'Is that so.' The Doctor met Aaron's eyes with his own. 'You don't have to do this. You can put the knife down. That's right, put the knife down.'
Aaron began to lower the blade.
Then he swung it at the Doctor in a wild arc.
'Get out of my head!' he screamed.
The Doctor raised his right arm to defend himself and the knife tore through the thick material of his duffel coat.
'Doctor!' Tori cried out.
'It's just a scratch,' the Doctor called back, not taking his eyes from his opponent.
'You're dead, man,' Aaron shouted. 'Dead!'
'Been there,' the Doctor riposted. 'Done that.'
'Scott,' Aaron ordered, 'hold him for me while I stick him.'
Scott took a step forwards.
'Scott!' Tori shouted to her brother. 'What do you think you're doing?'
'Tori' Scott began.
'You're trying to kill a man,' Tori shouted. 'This isn't you. You're better than this.'
'Tori, I've gotta,' Scott told her. 'Aaron says'
'This isn't about Aaron,' Topri interrupted. 'This is about you. What do you want to do?'
'Well, Scotty,' Aaron taunted, 'what are you waiting for?'
'Scott, please,' Tori said. 'Don't do this.'
'Aaron,' Scott began, 'I don't think I mean, should we really'
'I don't believe this.' Aaron turned back to his companion. 'What do you think'
Aaron cried out in pain as the Doctor grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. The knife clattered to the stone floor.
'Why, you' Aaron began.
The Doctor punched him in the face, sending him to the ground with blood pouring from his nose.
'Stay down,' the Doctor warned.
'You enjoyed that, didn't you,' the boy said. 'The violence. The darkness. It's seductive, isn't it.'
'What happened?' Aaron wailed to the boy in the pulpit. 'You said you were gonna help me.'
'Yes, I did, didn't I,' the boy agreed, 'but I was expecting something in return. You don't have anything I'm interested in.'
'What do you mean?' the Doctor asked quietly.
'Oh, please. Work it out for yourself,' the boy snapped.
'But you promised,' Aaron cried.
'You're boring me, Aaron,' the boy said. 'Be quiet.'
He waved a hand and Aaron's body turned inside out.
Scott collapsed against a pew making gagging noises and the Doctor turned away. Held in place by her mother, Tori could not help, but look at the thing on the floor. She could taste bile in her mouth.
'That was unnecessary,' the Doctor said.
'Yes,' the boy agreed, 'but it was fun, wasn't it?'
'Fun?' the Doctor repeated. 'You think all this is fun?'
The boy began to descend the steps from the pulpit.
'Be honest with me, Doctor. Be honest with yourself. There's some part of you, however small, that's glad he's dead. Worse, there's some part of you that's glad he suffered.'
'That's not true,' the Doctor insisted.
'Isn't it?' the boy asked. 'You don't sound so sure.'
'Leave him alone,' Tori shouted. 'He's worth ten of you.'
'Ah, little Miss Gallagher.'
The boy crossed the church to stand in front of her. He stretched out a hand and Tori tried to pull herself away. Her mother held her in place, however, while the child reached up and caressed her cheek.
'Poor, fragile little Tori,' he said. 'So vulnerable, so precious. No stronger than a weed that snaps easily beneath the cares of the world. Yesterday you ran terrified into the security of a bottle of pills, but today you think you can defy me? Quite a sudden change, wouldn't you say? I wonder what could have caused it.'
'I don't know what you're talking about,' Tori protested.
The boy laughed. 'No, you never were very bright were you.'
Tori spat in his face.
The boy slowly wiped off the saliva.
'My, my, you are a little tigress, aren't you.'
'Get away from her,' the Doctor warned.
'Or what?' the boy taunted. 'Do you really think you're relevant here?' He pointed at the tiled floor beneath the Doctor's feet. 'Stay!'
The floor softened and the Doctor sank up to his knees in grey slime.
'Now, where were we?' the boy asked, turning back to Tori. 'Oh yes, I'd just figured out what's changed you. You died, didn't you, and part of you still thinks you're dead. You don't feel anything anymore, no guilt, no pain. No fear. You're not afraid of anyone now, are you?'
'I'm not afraid of you,' Tori agreed.
'You can be so hurtful,' the boy replied. 'No matter. I think I can still scare you, if I really want to. Say hello to an old friend.'
The West Door opened again and a man stepped into the church.
Tori choked and the boy cackled.
'What's the matter, Tori?' the boy asked. 'Don't you want to say hello to your father?'
Dave Gallagher stepped into the light. He slapped a coiled leather belt against the palm of his large hand and the noise echoed through the church.
Tori instinctively closed her eyes at the sound. She felt dizzy and light headed. Her mother was no longer holding her in place, she was holding her up.
The sharp crack of the belt echoed again. And, even though Dave was still halfway across the church, Tori could feel the pain across her back, feel hot tears stinging behind her eyes.
Then there were another set of arms around her, protective and enfolding.
'Don't be scared, sis,' Scott said. 'I'll protect you.'
'Like you protected her in the alley?' the little boy mocked.
'That was different,' Scott snapped. 'Listen, Tori, it doesn't matter whether you believe I'll protect you or not. He can't hurt you. He isn't real. He's just something this kid's made up to scare you. It isn't real.'
Tori opened her eyes. Dave was still standing at the far end of the church, wielding the belt.
'And how do you know he isn't real, Scott?' the boy asked quietly. 'What's you're big secret?'
'He's dead, okay!' Scott shouted. 'Dad's dead!'
'Yes,' the boy agreed as Dave's image blew away like smoke, 'he's dead.'
'Howhow did you know?' Tori asked.
'Yes, tell us Scott,' the boy agreed. 'How did you know?'
Scott sat down in one of the pews, his head in his hands.
'I'm sorry, sis,' he said. 'I'm so very sorry.'
'For what?' Tori asked. 'Scott, what's going on. I thought Dad walked out on us.'
Scott laughed. 'Dad didn't walked out. He was never going to walk out. Why would he? He had it made. A pretty daughter to victimise and a loving wife only too willing to turn a blind eye.'
'I couldn't let it go on,' Scott continued. 'I thought I could ignore what he was doing, but I couldn't, you know. Andand I had to do something to make him stop.'
'He was on the couch,' Scott said. The TV was on, loud as ever. He probably wanted to drown out the sound of you crying, if he even cared. And he was lying there, so contented, so superior and I justMum had been doing the ironing and the board was still set up in the corner. And I picked up the iron and I
'Aaron helped me dispose of the body afterHis dad's a builder so it was easy enough. He's under that new estate now.'
Scott looked pleadingly at his sister.
'You killed him,' she whispered.
'I' Scott looked away. 'Yes, I killed him.'
'You see, Doctor?' the child crowed. 'You see the people you're trying to save? They've already fallen. Everyone has that little bit of darkness in them, I merely bring it to the fore. Compassion, love, what is the point of such emotions? Idiots like the vicar other there preach about selflessness and humility, but such thoughts go against mankind's very nature. They are animals, Doctor, and the law of the jungle is survival of the fittest, not survival of the nicest. Their own science shows this to be true. Their own science denies the existence of God.'
'And of the Devil?' the Doctor asked. He was carrying all his weight on his arms now and had almost managed to work his left leg free of the slime.
'Look inside yourself, Doctor, and tell me I don't have a home there.'
'I deny you,' the Doctor shouted.
'You deny yourself,' the boy snapped back. 'Feel that anger building, feel the burning rage. We all have a place of darkness, Doctor, and yours is a little closer to the surface in this incarnation.'
'You're doing this to me,' the Doctor insisted. 'You changed em when you brought me back.'
'I've done nothing,' the boy replied, spreading his arms wide. 'You are your own man, however painful that may be to believe. But don't worry, as my disciple you'll be free of that annoying conscience that tells you that my way is wrong.'
'Your disciple?' The Doctor roared with outrage. 'Your disciple? You expect me to abase myself in front of you, is that it? To acknowledge you as somehow divine?'
'People abase themselves before less,' the boy remarked, gesturing to the altar and the golden cross on top of it.
'And sometimes that can have infinitely more value,' the Doctor replied. 'Ask Reverend Keating here, that is if you have the capacity to understand a concept like faith.'
'The vicar?' The boy laughed. 'You mean to hold him up as a shining example for me? He is as dark and twisted as the rest of you. isn't that right, holy man?'
Keating looked up, but he did not look at the boy. Instead his gaze settled on Tori.
'I'm sorry,' he said. His voice shook and carried hardly any weight, but Tori could make out the words all to clearly.
'I don't understand,' she said, but she did and she knew that the vicar's broken state had little to do with the pain of his twisted leg.
'It's my fault,' he continued. 'You'd still be alive if it wasn't for me. If I hadn't told you'
'If you hadn't told her how your wife died,' the boy finished for him. 'How she locked herself in the bedroom. How she lay down on the bed. How she slowly swallowed a bottle of pills and then drifted off into one last lingering slumber. Do you think it's coincidence that that is exactly how Tori chose to die? Do you? Tori would still be alive if it wasn't for you, vicar. You killed her with your poisoned tongue more surely than I ever could.'
'No, it's not true,' Tori insisted, but part of her knew that was not the case. She had been enchanted by the story of Maureen Keating, both tragic and romantic at the same time. The kind of ending she had hoped for herself. She struggled with her mother, wanting to go to the vicar and comfort him, to prove that she was flesh and blood and not the ghost he so obviously thought she was, but Janine's grip was too strong. Tori could only watch his suffering and blame herself for it.
'I still refuse to accept you as divine,' the Doctor was saying. 'You're just an alien with a few cheap conjuring tricks.'
'Cheap tricks,' the boy retorted. 'I can fold back time. I can steal souls. I can pierce the veil between life and death.'
'All of which are patently impossible,' the Doctor said. 'Therefore it must be a trick.'
'Who says that it's impossible?' the boy asked. 'The Time Lords? I would have thought that your travels might have broadened your mind, Doctor, but you are still as stunted as ever. All things are possible, Time Lord. Nothing is beyond the enquiring mind, if you are prepared to pay the price. Your people know of this, they know of us, but they keep the information secret because they know that if this were to become common knowledge my armies would swell with willing converts like a black stain blotting out the light of the universe.'
'Very poetic, I'm sure,' the Doctor said.
'Your mockery is wasted, Doctor,' the boy said. 'You know that I'm speaking the truth. You've encountered us before.'
'In Whitby,' the Doctor suddenly deduced. 'That was one of your people?'
'Very astute, Doctor,' the boy said. 'He had died long before you arrived, but his energies had permeated his surroundings, warping your meagre physical laws.'
'You say he died?' The Doctor was almost free of the slime. 'That means you can be killed. Would killing you reverse what you've done?'
'And if it did?' the boy asked. 'Look around you. Are these people really worth saving? Scott Gallagher, a boy who struck down his own father. John Keating, a man who drove a teenage girl to suicide. Is your brave new world to be populated by murderers?'
'I don't see murderers when I look at them,' the Doctor replied. 'I see a boy who loved his sister so much he did the only thing he believed would spare his sister more pain. And if what he did was wrong he did it for the best of reasons. And I see a man who took pity on an isolated, lonely little girl. Who gave up his time to help her emotionally and who was honest and giving in the hope of seeing her develop into a glorious young woman. And maybe it came to a tragic end, but it was motivated solely by pure emotions. When I look at these two, I see two people motivated by love and I find that very hard to condemn.'
'And what of the women?' the boy asked. 'Are they so easy to defend? Janine Gallagher has her own child's blood on her hands.'
Finally, Tori found the strength to struggle free of her mother's embrace. She turned, tears in her eyes.
'Timmy?' she asked.
'It was for the best,' Janine replied simply.
'She wasn't herself,' the Doctor insisted. 'Tori, listen to me. She was not herself. This thing has changed her, stripped her of all the pure emotions that make her human.'
'Janine still lifted the knife,' the boy pointed out.
'That thing isn't Janine,' the Doctor retorted. 'A human being is more than just animal instincts. A human being has a soul. Janine Gallagher - the real Janine Gallagher - would not, could not have killed her child.'
'I know,' Tori sobbed, stumbling blindly backwards. 'I know.'
The Doctor caught her in his arms and held her close while she cried.
'This will all be over soon,' he promised her. 'We're going to make everything right again.
He looked up and met the boy's gaze with a defiant stare of his own.
'Give it up,' he suggested. 'You cannot convince me that these people are not worth saying. If there is darkness in everyone then there must also be light and that light will always be worth preserving, no matter what the cost.'
'Brave words, Doctor,' the boy said, 'but what of your companion?'
'Mina?' the Doctor scoffed. 'Now I know you're getting desperate. You can't seriously expect me to believe that Mina is a child of darkness?'
'Watch,' the boy suggested. 'Mina, please remove your scarf.'
Gently, Mina removed the scarf from her neck. The flimsy material fell unnoticed to the ground. All eyes were on Mina's throat, and on the twin wounds that distorted the pale flesh of her neck.
'You know what they mean, don't you, Doctor?' the boy said. 'You know what she is?'
'I deny it,' the Doctor protested. 'It's a trick.'
'No trick,' the boy promised. 'Your own companion represents all that you despise.'
'Look at her, Doctor! Look at those bite marks. You know where they came from. You know what she is.'
'Yes,' the Doctor replied, 'I do. She is and will remain my friend, no more nor less than that.'
'You are a fool,' the boy sneered.
'Perhaps,' the Doctor said. 'But I'm willing to take that risk. Now, you've played your hand and you've lost, so I'll give you one last chance. Release these people and leave. I won't follow you.'
'That's very magnanimous of you, Doctor,' the boy remarked, 'but what if I don't want to go?'
'I will free these women,' the Doctor said, 'by whatever means necessary.'
'By whatever means necessary?' the boy repeated. 'Are you sure you want to go down that route?'
The Doctor glowered.
'What I want doesn't come into it. I'll do what I must.'
'How noble, but are you really prepared to pay the price?' the boy asked. 'If you undo what I've done you undo everything. And that includes the two of you. Are you ready to die, Doctor?'
'I've died before,' the Doctor responded.
'Never like this,' the boy corrected. 'Your other selves, all your previous lives, they live on in your memory, have some continued existence in your mind. You on the other hand are an accident, a grand cosmic joke. When you die you will be undone completely. There will be no memories, no ghostly afterlife. You will be wiped clean away, the most complete of deaths. Are you ready for that?'
'Honestly,' the Doctor said, 'I don't know. But if it saves lives then I'm prepared to find out.'
'And what of the girl?' the boy persisted. 'What of Tori? Are you prepared to condemn her to death a second time? Can you kill her?'
The Doctor looked down at the girl in his arms.
'Tori?' he said. 'We don't have to do this. We'll find another way.'
'Is there another way?' Tori asked.
'There has to be,' the Doctor said. 'I don't want you to die.'
'It's not your decision, Doctor,' Tori said. 'Just answer one question: if I die, will my mum be okay again.'
'Yes,' the Doctor replied. 'Yes, she will.'
'Then that settles it,' Tori responded. '"Dying is an art, like everything else." It's about time I got it right.'
'You are a truly remarkable young woman,' the Doctor told her. He turned to the boy. 'You've got your answer. Now, are you going to release them willingly or must we use force.'
Mina lifted the cross from the altar and, holding it in two hands, struck the Doctor across the face with it.
'Oh, I think force, don't you?' the boy said. 'Mina, Janine, my children, look at them. Aren't these the people clouding your minds? Aren't they the ones begging you o go contrary to the natural order? If they will not embrace the truth, would it not be better for everyone if they were not to share in our new world?'
Janine advanced on her daughter.
'Mum, you don't have to do this,' Tori pleaded.
'I'm sick of listening to you whine,' Janine said. 'I'm sick of you playing the victim. If the world is so terrible for you then it would be a mercy to help you out of it.'
Janine clamped her hands around Tori's throat and began to squeeze.
'Tori!' The Doctor scrambled back to his feet and started to Tori's aid. Mina slammed the cross down on to his back, forcing him to the floor once again.
Tori managed a strangled cry as she clawed at her mother's fingers.
Scott was at her side, hammering on Janine's arms with a hymn book. Janine's grip relaxed only slightly, but it was enough for Tori to pry her away from her throat. Tori fell on to her backside, gasping for air.
The Doctor raised his arm to fend off another blow from his companion.
'Mina,' he said, 'stop this. Please!'
'Mina looked pleadingly at him. 'DoctorI just want the noise to stop.'
Then she struck him again. The sharp edge of the cross tore open the flesh of his cheek.
'She's still in there, isn't she?' the Doctor demanded of the boy. 'Mina, the real Mina, is still there.'
'Yes,' the boy said, 'they are still tainted. 'But once they've killed you then their last ties to the old order will be severed. You're doing them a favour.'
Janine's right arm shot out and her finger's clamped around Scott's throat. His face coloured beetroot as his mother lifted him off of the ground so that his feet were dangling in empty space. Janine hurled him across the church and his head struck the edge of a pew as he fell. He did not get back up.
Her eyes fixed on her mother, Tori reached out blindly. They encountered something wet and sticky. She risked a look and then scuttled away in horror from Aaron's remains. Her left hip stuck something cold and sharp.
Tori's fingers closed around Aaron's knife.
'Mum,' she began, 'I know you don't understand me, but I want to say it anyway. I love you, Mum, and I'm sorry for some of the stupid things I've done and for a lot of the stuff I said and I hope that when you come back from wherever it is you're trapped that you'll be able to find a way to forgive me. And perhaps you'll even be able to understand what I'm about to do and maybe, just maybe, it'll make you proud.'
Tori leaped to her feet and lunged at the boy, Aaron's knife leading the way.
The blade embedded in the boy's side.
The boy withdrew the blade and held it up to the light, studying the blood. Then he dropped the weapon to the ground.
'That hurt,' he complained. 'But not as much as this will.'
The boy shoved his hand into Tori's skull and she screamed.
The Doctor looked deep into Mina's eyes.
'Mina,' he begged, 'I know you're still in there. Please, help me!'
Mina swung the cross underarm with all the force she could muster. It struck the Doctor beneath his chin, lifting him up and throwing him backwards. He collapsed in a crumpled heap at the boy's feet.
'Well, that was successful, wasn't it?' the boy mocked.
'Yes,' the Doctor replied, 'it was.'
He snatched up the knife and rammed it through the boy's heart.
'How violent,' the boy commented. 'I didn't think you had it in you. I'm impressed.'
His eyes rolled back in their sockets and he collapsed.
The Doctor stared at the corpse and at the blood filling the cracks between the tiles. The change wracked his body. His skin paled and his bone structure became finer as his hair grew longer. Pain erupted in his chest as his hearts opened up again, but he could already feel his body knitting the wound closed.
Mina put her hand on his arm, but he flinched away. He could not look at her.
'Doctor,' Mina repeated softly. 'She's asking for you.'
Tori was lying on her back on the cold floor. Her condition was deteriorating before their eyes.
Keating, having dragged himself to her side, was holding her hand while he administered the last rites.
Janine had collapsed into a pew, sobbing into her blood-stained dress. Scott had his arm around her.
The Doctor crouched down besides Tori, taking her free hand in both of his.
'Doctor,' she asked, 'is that you? I can't see too good anymore.'
'It's me,' the Doctor told her.
'You sound different.'
'I am,' the Doctor explained. 'Everything's going back to what it was before.'
'Including me.' Tori tried to laugh, but it turned into a coughing fit.
The Doctor patiently waited for her to recover her breath.
'Guess I won't get to see the stars with you after all,' Tori rasped.
'I wish' the Doctor began.
Tori shook her head.
'Don't,' she said. 'It was my choice. My chance to do something right for a change. Just tell me one thing.'
Tori's voice was barely a whisper now and the Doctor had to almost press his ear against her lips to here her.
Tori asked her question with her final breath.
'Did we win?'
To be continued