Marion looked at Kristoph in horror. Her face was pale and she trembled as she tried to find words to say.

“But…. What…”

“I don’t know,” he answered, as calmly as he could. “We’ll find out. Come on. Medical room.”

He locked off the TARDIS in orbit around Earth before taking her by the hand and leading her to the medical room. She had been in there only rarely, mostly for headache tablets or an ointment for a rash caused by some nettles she had a reaction to on one planet they visited. Now, Kristoph made her lie down on the examination table and he began to operate a sinister looking piece of equipment.

“It’s just a body scanner,” he assured her. “Perfectly safe. It’s a lot like an ultrasound in Earth hospitals except it can diagnose illnesses almost instantly.”

Marion lay still as the machine bathed her in a warm white light for a few seconds. Then Kristoph told her she could get up. He laid down on the table himself and instructed her in how to set the machine on.

“All right,” he said at last. “Let’s see what the computer says.” He turned and went to the VDU monitor on the desk and read the data on the screen quickly. Amazingly quickly, Marion noted.

“How bad is it?” She asked. “Kristoph…”

“We’re both infected with Kiendore Virus,” he said. “Our lungs are full of it.” He showed her a schematic of both their lungs with the infection clearly indicated by glowing blue patches.

“What is...”

“It’s a disease which attacks the lungs, a little like tuberculosis,” Kristoph told her, remarkably calmly. He stood up and walked to a cupboard which contained drugs of various kinds. A travelling pharmacy. He selected a bottle of dark liquid and a packet of syringes. He prepared a dose and injected it into Marion’s arm before preparing a second one for himself. He dropped the used syringes into the small disposal machine that made a lot of noise as it destroyed them.

“We’ll need another dose every two hours for two or three days,” he said. “And we should be free and clear of it. Sorry, but we won’t get home today, after all.”

“We have to stay on board the TARDIS?” she asked. “I suppose… it could be worse. The TARDIS is quite homely. But what would have happened if it hadn’t been detected?”

Kristoph didn’t answer straight away. Marion looked at him. His face was grim.

“It would have been bad?”

“Bad doesn’t begin to describe it,” he answered. “We would have become visibly ill in a few hours. And before then we would have been breathing the infection. Mrs Flannery would have caught it from us. Her family, her children would have taken it to school. You would have infected the college. The same with me. And any shop or café we might have gone into. Before it killed the two of us it would have infected Liverpool. And anyone who took a bus or train or aeroplane or ferry boat from there….”

He didn’t have to go on. She understood.

“It would have been our fault.”

“Yes,” Kristoph admitted tersely. “Earth is vulnerable in that way. It isn’t ready yet for people like us. That’s why we HAVE the quarantine alarm.”

When they returned to the console room, Marion sat down on the sofa. She noticed after a few minutes that they had re-entered the vortex.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“Back to Kier-Rou,” Kristoph answered. “That was the source of the infection. If the authorities don’t know, then they have to be informed. They have to stop all offworld travel, prevent any new arrivals. Otherwise the Liverpool scenario… imagine that on a galaxy wide scale.”

Marion imagined it all too well. Once it would have been difficult. But she had seen enough of the universe to understand. There weren’t many people with the freedom of space and time they had, but there WERE space stations on many planets that made John Lennon airport look tiny and ships with hyperspace capability kept whole solar systems connected just like the airports and ferryports and motorways linked most of planet Earth.

“You should lie down for a while,” Kristoph told her. “You might start to feel some of the symptoms before the serum begins to takes effect.”

“But we’re going to be all right?” she asked. “We won’t… Kristoph, I’m scared.”

Kristoph went to her side. He put his arms around her shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he told her. “I should have known you would be. But I promise you, it will be all right. Lie down now and keep calm. Try to sleep.”

She stretched out on the sofa. He put his coat over her to keep her warm and sat with her until she began to fall asleep. He was worried, too. He was more than a little scared. And he was blaming himself. He, after all, was responsible for taking Marion to a place where she could be exposed to diseases that were unheard of on Earth, that she could never have been affected by if she had never left that planet. He was responsible for changing her life so very much and now she had been hurt by it.

If he had never met her, never let himself fall in love with her…

No, he chided himself. If he had never met her, he would still be an assassin. More than likely he would have caught up with Lee by now and killed him without even listening to his side of the story. Listening to the pleas of the condemned was never a part of the assassin’s job. He would have killed his dearest friend and mourned him bitterly and his soul would have been that much darker for having his innocent blood on it.

That much he owed to her. It was her gentle soul that had come between them and made them both see that there was an alternative. And she had given HIM an alternative, too. She had reminded him that as well as being The Executioner, as well as being The Ambassador, as well as being The Professor, he could still be a MAN. He could have the desires and needs of a man and they could be fulfilled in her.

“Marion,” he whispered. “Yes, it WILL be all right. I promise you.”

Yet it seemed for a while as if he would not be able to keep that promise. He gave her a second dose of the medicine after two hours. He dosed himself and he knew that it was working for him. HIS body was fighting the virus. He was going to be fine by the time they reached Kier-Rou.

But Marion was not. The medicine was slowing the onset of the symptoms. It wasn’t fighting them. Her Human body didn’t know HOW to fight an alien infection.

She woke once and asked him for a drink. He brought her a cool glass of fruit juice and she drank it slowly. She was starting to look sick, though. Her face was pale and drawn and her voice was hoarse. Her soft grey eyes were weary. He looked around at where her books and laptop were and remembered that only a few hours ago she had been enthusiastically studying and planning for the future. And now that future was in jeopardy.

He lulled her to sleep again. It was easier for her if she slept, giving the strength she had to the fight going on inside her. She would feel less pain that way, too.

Because she WAS hurting. As he sat by her side he heard her cough in her sleep. It was a dry, feverish cough and when he felt her forehead she was very hot. He put both hands on her brow and drew out the fever from her. He shivered as he expelled the heat from his own body. He couldn’t do anything about the cough, though, and when he saw blood on her lips he knew she was already badly affected. Far more than he was. His own body had already started to fight the infection before he discovered it was there, but hers was helpless against the spreading virus that clung to the inside of her lungs like mould and prevented her from breathing properly.

“I’m sorry, Marion,” he whispered as he held her tightly. “I am sorry, my love. I would take the hurt myself if it would spare you. But I can’t.”

The TARDIS came out of the vortex automatically and the console beeped to signal proximity to another ship. He left her side, reluctantly and went to the communications panel. He listened for a while to the ongoing communications between Kier-Rou and the ships in orbit.

He was relieved to discover that they knew about the outbreak. The emergency shut down of the space port must have occurred minutes after they had left. All ships had been quarantined. A veritable traffic jam of passenger ships, freight and personal craft was in synchronous orbit around the planet.

The two biggest of them bore reassuring identification symbols. He recognised the red triangle of a research ship from Klatos, the planet that was one of the most respected brand names in the universe. On three huge space stations around Klatos their scientists researched every known disease and found the cures. Their mobile research ship was here already to provide assistance to another ship that dwarfed it by a factor of ten. The green crescent and the cream livery identified it as a hospital ship. The name, SS Marie Curie, told him it was one of the fleet of such ships run by Human endeavour.

He sent a message to the Marie Curie to inform them he was arriving, that there were two of them, both infected.

“Planet of origin and species,” asked the efficient triage nurse who responded.

“My wife is from Earth and is Human,” he answered. “I am from Gallifrey and am Gallifreyan.” The nurse looked surprised at that, but gave him a boarding pass for the hangar bay and he materialised in the allocated section. The TARDIS allowed him to override the quarantine now that they were in the medical facility and he carried Marion out to where porters in hazmat suits waited with a trolley to take her for emergency treatment.

The hospital ship was in full emergency mode, Kristoph noted as he himself was brought to a treatment cubicle. All the staff were in hazmat suits and they were working flat out to treat everyone who was brought in.

“How bad is it?” he asked the nurse who took a blood sample from him. “Not me, I mean. The planet. Is the situation contained?”

“It is now,” she answered. “Yours was the last ship to answer the recall. The quarantine is complete. But…”

The doctor stopped in mid-sentence. Kristoph knew he was hiding something.

“Tell me,” he demanded. The nurse shook her head.

“I can’t,” she said. “We were told not to…”

“My wife could be dying of this disease. The medicine I gave her isn’t curing her like it should. And… And I SAW the sign back there. Emergency Mortuary.”

“The sign was written in….”

“In Acletic Code,” Kristoph said. “Yes, I know. But I read it. Patients are not responding to treatment. That’s the truth, isn’t it? This quarantine will continue until everyone is dead. Because all you can do is contain it.”

“That is correct,” said a strong female voice as a figure in the white hazmat suit which differentiated the doctors from the nurses and ancillary staff in their orange and green suits came into the cubicle. “I am Doctor Noreeta Cain. You are…” She picked up the chart by the bed allocated to him that he was not using, preferring to sit on the chair beside it. “You are a non-Human species?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Gallifreyan.”

“That is your good fortune,” she said. “You are the only patient on this entire ship still able to sit up and argue. Everyone else…”

“My wife…” Kristoph said. “She is among those you are prepared to let die.”

“We’re not prepared for that at all,” Doctor Cain answered him. “We are doing all we can to fight a mutated strain of this virus.”

“Klatos…” he began.

“Klatos have not seen this strain before. They brought their standard treatment which holds off the symptoms for a little while. But it delays death by a matter of hours, that is all.”

“Marion…” Kristoph whispered. “No. It can’t be so.”

“We are doing all we can. Don’t give up hope. But… but don’t expect miracles from us, either.”

“Can I at least be with her?” he asked. “Please…”

“You are a patient here, not a visitor. Your symptoms may be taking longer to manifest themselves, but you ARE infected and you have to rest. You should be in bed.”

“I don’t have any symptoms,” Kristoph answered. “My body is fighting it.”

Doctor Cain looked at him, then to the phial of curiously light-coloured blood the nurse had taken from him. She opened her mouth to speak then changed her mind.

“I will take the sample,” she said. “Nurse… find out where this man’s wife is and let him see her.”

The nurse asked him for Marion’s full name. He gave it as Marion De Leon, the name he had registered her as when they came aboard. He had given his own name as Kristoph de Leon. He was too weary and worried to go over the full spelling of his true Gallifreyan name with a triage nurse who had better things to do than worry about whether she had accents and ligatures in the right place.

If they WERE going to die, then they would do so as man and wife. He took no comfort from that, though. He raged against the injustice of it. That he, who had fought a bitter war, survived the cruellest tortures sentient beings could devise, who had cheated death while dealing it to others, should be brought down by a microscopic virus, was a definition of hubris he didn’t think he deserved.

And Marion didn’t deserve it. He was dismayed when he saw her. She was already on life support, with a tube in her throat to help her breathe and monitors measuring all of her vital signs. She looked pale and sick and when he touched her she was feverish again.

He drew off the fever into himself once more. He saw her temperature on the monitor drop to nearly normal and her heart rate steady. All he was doing was buying her a fraction more time, and perhaps at the expense of his own life. He wasn’t sure if he could regenerate if a death like this came upon him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. What use was a thousand years of life without her?

Of course he knew he would lose her one day. Her Human lifespan was so much shorter than his. He had known it from the moment he knew he loved her and that she loved him. But he knew he could cope with the grief of losing her after they had lived a full life together, when he would have the comfort and compensation of their children living on after her. But not now. Not like this.

Time Lords don’t cry. They have no tear ducts. But they do feel. They DO grieve. That much anyone who saw him could confirm as he sat by her side and watched the monitors bleeping away to tell him that she was still alive and there was still hope. He drew off the fever every time it rose. He bought her time. He eased the pressure on her heart and liver and kidneys, on her infected lungs. He felt the pain of it all in his own body as he took it on himself and he wondered how much longer he could hold out before he succumbed. The news that this was a new strain that did not respond to the treatment he had begun on board the TARDIS had dismayed him. He knew then that his body was going to lose the fight eventually. By doing this to relieve her pain he might even be bringing it on to himself much sooner.

If it eased her suffering, then so be it.

“Mr De Leon.” He almost didn’t react when his name was called. He was too intent on caring for Marion. He looked up the second time to see Doctor Cain accompanied by a man wearing a dark blue hazmat suit with the Klatos logo on his breast.

“This is the one?” the man asked.

“One what?” Kristoph demanded suspiciously.

“The one victim of this tragedy who is not dying. Your body is fighting back. Your blood contains antibodies to the mutated strain.”

Kristoph looked at the Klatos research scientist. His two hearts thudded as he realised what it meant.

“She can be saved. The antibodies could be injected into her.”

“Not just her,” Doctor Cain said. “If you would allow us to take a larger blood sample, we can synthesise the antibodies. We can save them all.”

“Yes,” Kristoph answered. “But her first. Please. I feel for the others. I don’t want anyone else to die. But you have to treat her first.”

“I can’t promise that,” the research scientist said. “It could take several hours yet to complete the synthesis. And we must run tests before a Human subjct is used…”

Kristoph sighed. He knew he could not impose conditions. If he DID hold the key to the recovery of thousands of people, including Marion, then he could not refuse. He allowed them to take a pint of blood from him. Doctor Cain said that the nurse would bring him a protein drink to help him replace the lost blood.

“A cup of tea with two sugars will do,” he answered as they left. He turned back to look at Marion. Her temperature was rising again and she was coughing up blood once more. He did what he could to ease her suffering and let her sleep on more calmly.

The nurse brought him the cup of tea. This being a Human ship at least they understood the concept. He drank it slowly. He didn’t REALLY need it. His body replaced lost blood far more quickly and easily than Humans. It was part of the same function that allowed him to repair his body if it was wounded. He could have spared much more than the pint they had taken.

He looked at Marion again and then looked outside the cubicle. The nurses were all busy. So was Doctor Cain. Their office at the end of the ward was empty. He ran with the soundless footsteps of one who could run soundlessly if he had to. It took him only a few moments to find what he needed and return to the curtained off cubicle. He sat down and rolled up his sleeve. He opened the sealed, sterilised syringe packet and extracted his own blood. He took Marion’s arm and injected the blood containing the antibodies into her arm.

“You’re the test patient,” he whispered to her. “We’ll know soon enough.”

He kissed her cheek and then sat back and watched. He saw those cheeks flush as his blood energised her. He had reason to be hopeful. Everyone had reason to be hopeful. If it worked on her, then the synthesised antibodies would work on everyone else.

He waited. He kept a quiet vigil by her side. From time to time he heard activity outside the cubicle. Sometimes it was the unmistakable sound of a crash team trying to revive a patient who was in extremis. He heard them call the time of death and looked out and saw a body being brought past, covered up, to go to the emergency mortuary.

He looked at Marion. She WAS definitely looking better and her vital signs were steadying. There was a long way to go yet. Her lungs had been badly affected by the virus. But he was sure she was on the mend.

And if it worked for her, it could work for others. Again he went to the nurses station and found what he needed. Then he slipped into the cubicle next to Marion’s. A young man lay in the bed, too far gone to be aware of how much pain his body was suffering. Kristoph quickly extracted blood from himself and injected it into the patient. He dropped the used syringe into the waste bin and looked to see that energised look on the pale, waxen face before he went to the next unattended patient and opened a new syringe packet.

He had done a dozen of them, slipping into the cubicles while the nurses were too busy elsewhere. As he left the cubicle where a girl of fourteen was looking flushed by the Time Lord blood mixing in her veins somebody called out to him. Doctor Cain bore down on him demanding to know what he was doing.

“Saving as many as I can,” he answered.

“How?” she demanded before she saw the packets of syringes in his hand. “No! You can’t. It’s unethical. It’s ILLEGAL. You can’t….”

“If they live, if they have a chance, while Klatos are running their ethical tests….” Kristoph was a man who believed in ethics. But despite his former profession he was a man who believed in life, too. He valued it. And he believed this was no time for legal technicalities.

“You just CAN’T,” Doctor Cain repeated. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call security. You can’t….”

Kristoph turned away from her. He had heard a voice that was more important to him. He ran to Marion’s cubicle. His hearts leapt as he saw her. She had pulled the breathing tube out of her mouth and she was calling for him hoarsely.

“I’m here,” he said. “Marion…”

“My throat hurts,” she told him. “Can I have a drink of water?”

“Of course you can,” he told her and he reached for the carafe placed by her bedside. He helped her sit up and drink the glass of water. He looked at her vital signs on the monitors. They were almost normal.

“Your other patients that I was able to get to will be the same in about an hour,” he said. “If you want to save others…. Get me another cup of tea and grab some more syringes.”

Doctor Cain wouldn’t believe it until she had examined Marion herself. But when she was satisfied she turned and looked at Kristoph. Her face inside the hazmat visor betrayed the conflict going on in her mind. Then she came to a decision. She nodded to the nurse and told her to fetch some syringes.

“And the cup of tea,” Kristoph added.

“Could you make that two?” Marion asked. She wasn’t sure what was happening exactly. She knew she had been quite ill for a while and she was now in some sort of hospital. But tea she understood. Kristoph explained the rest while she drank the tea.

“I’m all right now, then?” she asked.

“You’re getting better,” he assured her. “I think the doctor will insist on you staying in bed a few more hours. And the TARDIS will insist on you being completely clear of the virus before we go home. But it’s going to be fine. You might miss a day in college. But you had your essay finished already, so it should be all right.”

They heard the sound of the Klatos researcher and his team returning to the ward. There was a brief discussion between them and Doctor Cain in which the words ‘unethical’ and ‘illegal’ as well as ‘dangerous’ and ‘foolhardy’ were again used. He also heard Doctor Cain defending his effort by pointing out that they had saved everyone on this ward and reminding them that there were a hundred other wards where people needed help still. And that seemed to be the end of the matter.

Yes, Kristoph thought with a sigh of relief as he watched his wife’s eyes, still a little tired, but free of the pain and stress now. Yes, it was over. But the thought of how close he had come to losing her troubled him.