Mike was used to a lot of strange things happening in his life, especially the Doctor waiting for him on the back step of the stairs to the rectory, but what he wasn't prepared for, while lugging his groceries, was to hear the Doctor say, “I need an exorcism.”
He listened to the Doctor's story of the Torajii system, of living suns and vengeance while he put away his groceries. After knowing the Doctor for years and having traveled with him, Mike knew that there were far stranger things in the universe than what a human could possibly comprehend, and that he was willing to entertain the notion that there were living stars that had the ability to possess people.
“When did this happen?” Mike asked, finally sitting down.
“Hm...a year ago? A couple years? Hard to keep track with time travel, you know.”
“Okay, so it wasn't last week or yesterday? You've mentioned alien beings–alien to yourself, rather–taking you over mentally before. Are you sure this isn't it?”
“Nope. It was devouring my soul.”
Mike felt cold. That wasn't a word the Doctor used. “So why now? What's going on now to make you think it's still around?”
The Doctor leaned back in the chair, and folded his arms across his chest. “I started having nightmares a few days ago...the star was back inside me, I'd wake up, and it would be gone. In the dreams it makes me do unspeakably horrible things. It's happened every night, without fail.”
Mike finished with his chore, and sat down at the kitchen table. The Doctor was weary, and suddenly far older than he looked. “Even if I were convinced this were a matter for an exorcism, there's no way on God's green Earth that my bishop would okay it. So, different tactic,” Mike continued, “and it's the first thing I tell people who think they're being haunted, harassed, or otherwise bothered by demonic crap: plug the vulnerability. They only get in where we let them. Granted, I'm a bit of a skeptic about ascribing blame to demons, where humans are all too willing to be horrible to each other. It sounds to me like classic survivor's guilt, not royally pissed-off stars. Quit throwing yourself on the Time Lords' pyre.”
The Doctor closed his eyes, and leaned his head on the back of the chair. “Knowing you destroyed your own planet, your own people, your friends, and your family doesn't exactly just disappear overnight. It doesn't make me feel any better about it, when you try to rationalize it away with double-effect. I didn't intend to wipe them out, yet I did.”
Mike leaned forward, his head resting on his hands on the table. “Do you want to heal? I mean, are you willing to finally work to put that hurt behind you, once and for all? I can't guarantee it'll change things overnight.”
“You know I do,” the Doctor responded.
“Do you have any olive oil? Or any vegetable-based oil?”
The Doctor was as broadsided by Mike's question, as Mike was broadsided by the Doctor's request. “Um, I think so. In the kitchen, third cupboard on the left.”
“Good!” Mike said. “Let me grab a few things, and I'll meet you in the TARDIS Cloisters.”
The Doctor waited for Mike on a bench in the Cloisters, slightly frustrated and wondering if he were lost, when Mike let himself in, balancing a small custard cup with a some oil in the bottom, another cup with a few slices of lemon, a gold stole, and a white cloth.
“Lemon, olive oil...add some capers, and you've got the start of a nice sauce,” the Doctor said, while watching Mike get organized.
“Naw, anointing of the sick,” Mike said, while putting on the stole.
“Whoa, hang on. Don't think I'm dying quite yet...”
“'Course not, last rites are something different. More importantly, you've got some sort of illness–albeit spiritual or emotional–that's seriously hindering your quality of life. Jesus, just think of the year that wasn't with Saxon...All this does is impart the grace to cope. How you deal with it is up to you.”
Mike let the space of a breath elapse before standing and gently laying his hands on the Doctor's head. It only lasted for a moment, but the silence in the Cloisters seemed to deepen.
He sat back down on the bench, and handed the Doctor the cup of oil. Cupping his hands around the Doctor's, Mike let the last action fade into silence then said, “May your blessing come upon he who is anointed with this oil, that he may be freed from pain and illness, and made well again in body, mind, and soul.”
Taking the cup from the Doctor, he dipped his thumb in, and while being careful not to drip, Mike placed the oil on the Doctor's forehead and said, “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.” During it, the Doctor closed his eyes, savoring the gesture's warmth.
Mike indicated that he needed the Doctor's hands, which were folded in his lap. He unfurled them, and held them out in front, palms up. Again, Mike placed oil on the Doctor's palms while saying, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” He laughed with the Doctor, when he realized he was tickling the Doctor's palms. Mike concluded with a simple blessing.
They sat in silence for a bit, and the Doctor sat hugging his knees on the bench, with his hands cupped so as to protect the trace of oil still left, as he intently watched Mike clean his fingers with the lemon and the white linen cloth. “Was wondering what the lemon was for...didn't think you were serving a fish course...”
“Fresh lemon works the best. Accept no substitutes. I'm supposed to end with communion, but didn't think you'd be comfortable with that. How're you doing?”
The Doctor withdrew to consider the question. The old worries and hurts were still there, but something felt as if it fell away. More focused? Calm? Adjectives seemed to be too weak to describe the subtle change he was feeling, not the least of which slightly humbled that something so human-centered could transcend biology or ideology. Mike smiled knowingly, and gathered his things, intending to give the Doctor some time alone, when the Doctor briefly broke his contemplation and said, “Mike...thank you...”
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