Kate Lethbridge-Stewart decided she didn't like emergencies. At four years old, she wasn't exactly sure what they were, except that Daddy seemed to have to deal with a lot of them, and he hadn't been at her birthday party this afternoon because of one. Mummy had been very cross with him on the phone – Kate had listened from the top of the stairs, and had learned several new words that she'd later got a smack for repeating.
It was still light outside, but Mummy had insisted it was bedtime, and that Kate had had far too much excitement for one day anyway. She was about to climb into bed when she heard a key in the front door, and a moment later a voice calling, "Fiona? Kate?"
Kate hurtled to the top of the stairs and, seeing that her father was already half-way up them, took a flying leap, knowing that he'd catch her safely.
"Ouch! Careful, darling, I… you're getting heavy."
"You missed my party," she said, reproachfully, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"I know, Kate, I'm sorry." They'd reached her bedroom and he put her down on the bed and sat on the edge, "Did you have a lovely time?"
"Ooh, yes. All my friends came, and we had jelly and ice-cream and chocolate cake, and then we played games," she said, as he pulled the bedcovers back for her, then tucked them round her legs. "Amy was sick," she added, nodding firmly to emphasise the drama.
"In the bathroom?"
"In the wastepaper bin."
"Oh, Lord." He'd unbuttoned his uniform jacket, which looked much dirtier than it usually did, and was rubbing his side, but he stopped when he noticed her noticing, "Poor Amy. We'll have to get a new bin then, won't we?"
"Thank you for my presents," she said, remembering Mummy's instructions to thank him when she saw him, "I'm calling my new doll Lulu. She sings."
"The doll? I hadn't realised…"
"No, silly! Lulu."
Mummy appeared in the doorway, looking cross. Kate hoped she and Daddy weren't going to argue again. She didn't like it when that happened, and it seemed to be happening a lot lately. But her mother merely said, "For heaven's sake, Alistair! I thought I'd got her settled for the night."
"Well I'm glad she isn't," he retorted, "I know I missed the party but I can still wish her happy birthday." He gave Kate a kiss, "Can't I, darling?"
She nodded, happily, barely noticing her mother turn and go.
"Can you keep a secret, Kate?"
Daddy was whispering, and Kate did likewise as she replied, "Ooh yes, daddy!"
"Good. In that case…" Like a conjurer with a magic trick, he produced from his pocket a little wooden animal on a stick, "I have another present for you."
Delighted, Kate took the carving from him and peered at the creature's face. It looked like a teddy bear, sort of, but it didn't have ears. "What is it?"
"It's called a yeti," he said, "They live in… I mean, stories say that they live in a place called Tibet, high in the mountains where it's very cold and there's snow all the time."
He looked at his watch, and Kate knew what he was going to say next even before he spoke. But she tried not to mind - after all, he'd given her a birthday kiss and a secret present. "I have to go, Kate, I'm sorry."
"Unfinished business?" she said. Daddy looked really surprised, and she knew she'd said it right, even it she didn't know what it meant, other than he said it a lot when he came and went.
"Yes, darling. Unfinished business." He stood up and fastened his jacket, then sat on the bed again and pulled her into a hug. She felt his moustache brush her cheek as he kissed her, and his voice sounded strange as he spoke, like he had a sore throat. "I love you, Kate," he said, "Promise me, whatever happens, you'll always remember that."
"I will, daddy," she said, kissing him back. "I love you too."
Hoping that her father was coping alright while Doris was getting her hip replaced, Kate rang their doorbell before letting herself in with her latch-key. "Dad, it's me!"
"I'm in the kitchen!"
Hurrying through the hallway, she found him standing by an open cupboard, writing his shopping list. As he turned toward her, she launched herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tight. "Thank you," she said, planting a kiss on his cheek.
"What on earth for?" he said, returning the hug, then letting her step back a pace.
"For everything on earth, dad," she said, and smiled. "I finally got a high enough security clearance to read your file." She hugged him again, wrapping her arms around his waist this time. "No wonder you couldn't explain! Honestly – Daleks? Cybermen?"
"Silurians," he supplied, "Yetis."
"That reminds me," she said, pulling away a little but resting her hands on his shoulders, "That day you gave me the icon – on my fourth birthday? – I'm so sorry I jumped down the stairs the way I did. I had no idea your ribs were cracked! I can't believe you didn't yell, or drop me."
"It did hurt a bit," he admitted, "But you know I would never have dropped you."
She did know, but it choked her up anyway to hear him say it, and she dropped her head so he couldn't see her biting her lip. "You thought you were going to die, didn't you? When you left that evening?"
He looked thoughtful, put his arm across her shoulders and guided her toward the front room. "I probably would have done," he said, "If it hadn't been for the Doctor."
"Ah yes, the Doctor! I want to hear all about him, and your adventures!"
"It's all in the files…"
"Yeti-poop! Anyway, I don't want to read about what you did from some dusty folder – I want to hear it from you!" Her mobile rang and she dug it out of her coat pocket and put it to her ear, "Kate Stewart."
Her father stood patiently, arms folded, while he listened to her side of the conversation. When she hung up, he said, "Unfinished business?"
She nodded. "Sorry."
"Kate, you don't have to apologise to me – I understand." He gave her another hug. "Just make sure you come back safely, alright?"
"I won't be the one leading the charge," she said, poking a finger at his chest, "Unlike some!"
As she got to the front door, she paused for moment and looked back. "I'll be back for those stories," she said, "You and the Doctor. Promise?"
He sighed. "I can remember when you preferred 'Rapunzel'."
Kate grinned. "I'll see you later, dad. And thanks again - for everything."