Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The TARDIS materialised in the carport at Susan's house. The boys emerged first and ran into the house. By the time Rose and The Doctor followed they were being hugged tightly by their mother.

"Susan, let them breathe," The Doctor said with a grin. "I've not taught them about voluntary bypassing of their respiratory systems yet."

Susan let the boys go and they raced upstairs to feed their guinea pigs and put away the souvenirs of their adventures they had collected. That these included the tooth of a Sand Dragon might have worried their mother if they planned on telling her.

"It's good to see you, grandfather." Susan turned her affections on him and hugged him tight.

"It's always good to see you, Susan, my child."

Rose smiled as she heard him call her that. In appearance they looked about the same age. Time Lord genetics made family relationships very complicated. She left them to it. She knew The Doctor wanted to talk to Susan. She went into the kitchen and made coffee. When she brought the tray through they were sitting close together on the sofa.

"I promised I would tell you about your mother."

Rose sat the other side of him as The Doctor pulled a big photograph album from the incongruous Sainsbury's carrier bag he had brought from the TARDIS. The Lœngbærrow family crest in silver adorned the front.

"You've never seen any of these pictures, Susan. There was no reason why not. I kept them out of the way because the memories they contain were sometimes too hard to bear. But I didn't deliberately keep them from you. If you'd ever asked when you were a child, I would have shown them to you. You never did. You accepted me as your only family and never let the loss of your parents grieve you. But I think you should know. The boys ought to know, too. These are the grandparents they never knew."

The boys were upstairs in their room still, but he was aware of them listening in telepathically. He knew they would share the experience.

He opened the album and showed Susan the pictures of her parents. They began when the two were 'courting', with pictures of Christopher and Ámándáliá enjoying each other's company in social settings - dinner parties, theatre, picnics. Then there were a great many pictures of their wedding. Susan's eyes shone as she looked at those. Even The Doctor smiled at the memory. His son's wedding.

"Alliance of Unity. That's what it's actually called where we come from," The Doctor said. "I remember it so well. Ámándáliá was beautiful."

"So I see," Susan said. Rose looked with her at the woman in the first of the 'Alliance of Unity' pictures. She was tall, slim, blonde haired with bright blue eyes. She looked at Susan; dark haired, with eyes so deeply brown they were almost black, and wondered about Gallifreyan genetics.

"You took after your grandmother," The Doctor said. "You have very little Mírraflaex DNA in you. You're a true Lœngbærrow."

"You sound too pleased about that." Susan looked at him. "Didn't you like her?"

"Ámándáliá was wonderful. I loved her. But the House of Mírraflaex were the biggest collection of snobs on our planet. Her parents did not like Christopher. They didn't like me. My father was in his third term as High President at the time, and I was candidate for the Chancellorship. But for that I think they'd have refused his suit. As it was, they saw political advantage in the union."

"But you said it was a love match."

"It was, but it would have been unrequited love if they hadn't seen the chance of advancement for their House in linking with ours. I was sure Christopher was going to get his hearts broken over her."

"Did you try to stop them?"

"No. I let him make his own decisions. I was there for him when he needed me, but I never tried to influence him. I had enough of my own father telling me what I ought to do."

Susan looked at him and thought of the life she remembered with him. He had always done the same for her, as far as it was possible. Sometimes he had laid down the law, and she'd thought he was being unfair at the time, and sulked like any teenager, but in retrospect she knew he had only done that for her own safety and wellbeing, and he had been the best parent he knew how to be for her.

She turned the pages and saw group photographs of people in elaborate Gallifreyan robes. Susan smiled to see them.

"I remember you in the official robes when I was little," she said. "You looked so grand and a bit frightening. Do you remember, I wouldn't kiss you goodnight once when you were going out to some function in the full regalia."

"I think that happened more than once," The Doctor said, hugging his granddaughter as he remembered times long past when he had still been an important man in Gallifreyan society, going out to official functions while she was being put into her nightdress and put to bed by her nursemaid. Those functions had irked him. He had much preferred to spend the evenings with Susan, reading to her and listening to her childish chatter and enjoying being a parent for a second time.

"Which one of those guys IS you?" Rose asked The Doctor as she studied the photographs.

"Having trouble working that out myself," he said. "One of the drawbacks of my life - forgetting my own face."

"That's you," Susan said, pointing to a dark haired, dark eyed man in late middle age who stood next to the happy couple in one photo. All were in the most elaborate robes imaginable. The bride's robe was pure white and sparkled with diamonds sewn into the fabric.

"Will I have to wear all of that when we get married?" Rose asked The Doctor. =

"Yes," he said. "Except a simpler headdress. You are not of one of the noble houses."

"Lucky me! And what would my mum wear?"

"The same, but without the headdress and no diamonds."

"Wow. She'll love that."

Susan looked at them both warily. She liked Rose. She liked her mother even more. They had a lot in common, as parents. But she still couldn't quite get around Rose's relationship with her grandfather, and when they talked about being married it disturbed her.

"You don't look so very old there," Rose said, looking at The Doctor as he was then. It was before he was KNOWN as The Doctor, of course, when he had a normal life within Gallifreyan society. He looked no more than about fifty years by Earth standards. She looked at the pictures on Susan's living room wall; pictures of her with her grandfather when she was a teenager. He looked more like 70 or 80 there, frail, white haired, leaning on a stick. But she knew that Time Lords didn't age the same way as Humans. How long had passed between their Alliance and the birth of their daughter?

"Susan was born when they were eight years married," The Doctor said, turning the pages through more pictures of a happy couple in more social scenes. Then one of what looked like a christening, except that, again, all the adults were in that elaborate regalia, and the baby was swathed in the most fantastic gown of white and silver lace. "Susan's naming ceremony." Again, The Doctor still looked a healthy 50+, with just a streak of grey in the dark hair and a few more lines around the eyes.

"I don't get it," Rose said.

"We age strangely. It seems to have a lot to do with our mental state. Even there, holding my grandchild at her naming, I didn't FEEL old. I still felt there was plenty of life in me. But then my son was taken from me, and I felt the world I believed in was crumbling. Then the universe proved more complex and a more vile place than I ever thought it was. In the fifteen years it took for Susan to grow into a young woman, my body just turned in on itself. I DID feel old, and I DID feel there were limitations to my strength and my ability. And my appearance reflected that."

"I remember you with dark hair, like mine," Susan said. "When I was very little. Yes, you got so very old as I grew up. I thought that was normal. I never questioned it."

"You looked after me so well," The Doctor told her. "It was hard on you. A young, free spirit, tied down to a frail old man who sometimes seemed to be losing even his mental faculties."

"What else could I have done. I loved you. My grandfather. I never would have left you if you hadn't made the decision for me. I thought… I was sure you were dead, because I could not imagine you had much longer in you. I felt guilty about that sometimes. When I thought about you. And wished it could have been different."

"I told you not to do that," he said to her. "Did you forget my last words to you?"

"I've never forgotten them. I've never forgotten any of it. You said… 'There must be no regrets, no fears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."

"And I wasn't. You have done just fine."

"You also said you would come back."

"I did come back."

"Not for nearly five hundred years by your watch. You couldn't have missed me that much? You couldn't have found a single day in all that time to come to see me?"

Rose looked at the two of them, grandfather and granddaughter and realised this WAS, for Susan, an unresolved issue. The Doctor looked suitably chastised.

"You're right," he said. "I could have. I have no excuse. I could say I was making it easier on you - a clean cut. I could say I was afraid you wouldn't care for me the same - especially when I had regenerated into somebody you don't know. I could make any number of excuses. But they would all be lies. There is no excuse. I'm a selfish git."

"Yes, you are." Susan told him. "Is it any wonder. You're a Time Lord after all. Selfish kind of runs in our genes."

Rose looked at the two of them, aware more than she ever was before that they WERE of the same species as well as the same family. She felt almost an intruder on them. But there was something in what he had just said that had puzzled her. And she had to ask.

"Do you mean if you'd been happier you might have stayed younger looking for longer? You wouldn't have become as old looking as you do in those pictures Susan has."

"Yes," he said. "I was only 500. Just about old enough to regenerate for the first time. I really shouldn't have been so frail as that. It just all took it out of me."

"So if you are happy, you could look like you do now for a hundred years?"

"I don't think I've ever been completely happy since Christopher was born, when I had Julia and my son, and I could want for nothing else. Now, there are too many nightmares, too much darkness for me ever to be THAT happy."

Rose looked at him with what seemed to him a hurt look. He saw it and knew what she was thinking.

"You DO make me happy," he assured her. "You keep the darkness away. And I bless you for that. But I know its there still. I could never be as carefree as I was then. I was sad when Julia died, but she died of natural causes. I had nothing to be bitter about, and I had my son, who I loved, and in due course, Susan. I had every reason to be happy then. But it's harder now. Loving you, Rose - makes me a different person. Makes me a happier person. But I'll never be the person I was when I married Julia. "

"I'll take you as you are," Rose told him. "I always have."

Susan had risen from the seat as they talked and brought a smaller album from the dresser. "Thank goodness we saved these from the fire at our other house," she said. And, indeed, some of the pictures were damaged. Rose remembered the terrible bombardment of London that had destroyed their house in Southwark. That anything could have been recovered was a marvel. She and The Doctor looked at pictures of Susan and David at a much simpler wedding ceremony. Susan was in a white skirt and blouse and David in a suit, surrounded by friends.

"I thought of you a lot that day, Granddad," Susan said, a little tearfully. "I wish you'd been there. It was such a small wedding. We had to rebuild Human society after the Daleks had almost destroyed it. So there was no time or opportunity for grand ceremonies. But we wanted to be properly married. That meant a lot to us both. We found a priest who had been looking after his community in south London and he was glad to marry us. He saw it as a sign of hope for the future."

"I wish I had been there," The Doctor said, hugging his granddaughter. "I should have been. I was wrong about that. There WERE regrets. Not seeing you married. Not being around when your children were born. Yes, we do have much to regret. But we're alive, Susan. You and David are happy. You have three beautiful children. And I have you all, and I have Rose, too. My own future. We have so much to be glad of."

"I regret this," Susan sighed as she turned the pages of the album back again and looked at a close up picture of her parents at the Alliance of Unity ceremony. "I can't remember either of my parents. I don't have even the tiniest memory of them. I was just too young."

"Same with me," Rose said. "I was about the same age as you when my dad died." She looked at The Doctor. "Why can't you take Susan to see her parent's wedding the way we went to see mine? I didn't know my dad until you did that for me."

"Gallifrey can't be revisited," Susan told her. "You can't travel to its past."

"There were always fields and dampeners and time envelopes preventing that even before it was destroyed," The Doctor explained. "Travelling back to interfere with Time Lord history was VERY illegal. Anyone who even tried could forfeit a life in the atomising chamber."

"And even now… it's still impossible?"

"More so. The time envelope still remains around the black hole that was formed when the sun exploded. If you tried to take a TARDIS through it you'd either blow it to pieces or get it sucked into the black hole."


The Doctor smiled as he caught the reaction of the two boys. "Yes, that is what would happen. So don't even think about asking me to take you there."

"That's a pity," Rose said. "I know you can't stop the Time War, and you can't stop the murder of your son, or any of the other bad things. But it's a pity you can't just visit, the way we visit different parts of Earth history."

"I can go there in my head." He, too, flipped the pages of the wedding photos. "Haven't done it for a long time. It's all too painful. But that's one of the safer memories. Mostly, anyway."

"You mean Memory Visiting?" Susan asked him.

"What's that?" The boys piped up again, their interest piqued.

"Its something we can do, if we're feeling really nostalgic," The Doctor explained. "Sort of like DEEP daydreaming. We can really feel as if we're back in our memories, walking around, talking to people. Susan can do it too, can't you?"

"Haven't done it for years," she said. "I used to when I was young, remembering Gallifrey. Or sometimes, after you were gone, I used to remember being with you in the TARDIS - the quiet times when it was just the two of us. Or the fun we had when Ian and Barbara were with us. Being able to remember like that meant that David never knew how homesick I was sometimes. Or how much I missed you."

"I missed you, too, Susan," he told her. "Even if you don't believe me." He looked at the album and thought about it. "Come here, let's try and see if we can still do it." He took her hand, and Rose's. The boys were already mentally connected with him. He found Susan's telepathic signal easily even though her powers had never been fully developed. He reached into Rose's head and brought her into his mind, too. Then he let himself remember back nearly five hundred years.

Rose was astonished. By now she thought she knew everything he could do telepathically, all of his special powers. But this was amazing. She was aware of the others around her, Susan and the boys and The Doctor. But she couldn't see them. She wasn't even looking through her own eyes. She was looking through HIS - The Doctor's eyes - when he was at his son's wedding. She saw all he did as he walked around the room talking to the wedding guests, talking to his son and his new wife, who both smiled happily at him.

She could hear what people were saying, too. Most of them were friends who said good things about what a lovely couple Christopher and Ámándáliá were, and there were good wishes for their health and future and all the usual things. It was a very high class occasion, with all the most important members of Gallifreyan society in attendance. His father, currently Lord High President was THE most important, of course. He moved through the press of people to speak to him. His own rank in government was only a few steps below the Presidency. The Lœngbærrow House was the most politically powerful in Gallifrey. And it was expected that he would take the Presidency after his father's tenure was over. Almost certainly, Christopher would follow in both their footsteps within a very short time. No wonder this was considered such an important Alliance. No wonder there were few who had any ambition at all who did not attend.

Wow, Rose thought as she heard those thoughts as if they were in her own head. She had always known he came from an important family, but she never realised before how important.

Most of the people around the hall seemed pleased by the Alliance, seeing it as a strengthening of ties between two Oldblood Houses and a politically sound move. But here and there she heard - through his ears - pockets of discontent.

"Can't believe a House like Mírraflaex has allowed an Alliance to be made to a half-blood," somebody was saying. She felt The Doctor's head turn towards the voice and she was sure his eyes had narrowed as he recognised the speaker.

"The Lœngbærrow name counts for a lot," another speaker said. "I suppose they thought it worth overlooking the flaw in the line for that." Again she felt his disappointment and annoyance at hearing such comments from somebody he had considered a friend.

"Flaw? It's more than that. The whole blood is soiled. One aberrant generation might be bred out. But Chrístõ Miraglo is worse than a half-blood. He's the son of a half-blood and a human. He's a walking abomination. It shouldn't even be allowed. And the idea of him marrying into a House like Mírraflaex is disgusting."

"And he's expected to be Lord High President one day. The abomination ruling over us all."

Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow turned away. Rose could feel his anger, sadness and sense of betrayal at that conversation. One aberrant generation! Walking abomination! How cruel.

"He isn't marrying into the House of Mírraflaex, SHE is marrying into the House of Lœngbærrow." He heard a third voice reply. "She's the one going up in society."

He half smiled at that, but even that comment missed the mark completely. All of those speakers had failed to realise that Christopher and Ámándáliá loved each other, as he had loved his Julia, as his father had loved his mother. They were unusual in Gallifreyan society in that respect. Three generations of them had now made an Alliance of Unity based on love, not political expediency or commercial profit. He had no doubt that his son and daughter-in-law were going to be happy. And because they WERE both Gallifreyan, they would remain happy for a long time. His only regret was these lonely years since his Human wife died. Their life together was too short. Christopher and Ámándáliá had the full life of their Time Lord race to be together. Thirteen lives to live together, in pure love. He was happy for them. He was happy for himself. He had thirteen lives to live, too, along with them. He could look forward to sharing their happiness. Grandchildren - he smiled at the thought. The continuation of his family line. What more could any man ask for.

"Chrístõ?" A female voice disturbed his thoughts. He turned and saw an attractive red-haired woman just a little younger looking in appearance who smiled warmly at him. "How are you? It has been a while."

"Bellmórá Stillhaeven," he said with a note of pleasure in his voice. "It's been a LONG while. The last time I saw you was…."

"At YOUR Alliance of Unity," she replied. "To that beautiful Human woman you fell in love with."

"Yes." His voice was controlled as he spoke but his thoughts were far from that.

"I know that she died," Bellmórá continued. "I am sorry for that. But you had a son with her. Chrístõ Miraglo is a fine young man. I am sure she would have been proud of him."

"I have no doubt about that," Chrístõ answered.

"You don't have to mourn her forever, you know," Bellmórá said then.

"I'm not."

"It looks as if you are," she insisted. "I'm sorry if I am pushing this. Forgive me. But it's been nearly two hundred years. You ought to have made a new Alliance of Unity by now. Your father did."

"My father made a good Alliance," he said. "Politically astute, financially advantageous. But I still believe in love."

"Who said you had to stop believing?" Bellmórá touched his cheek gently. "Let yourself love again."

He smiled at her as she kept her hand upon his cheek a little longer than necessary. And when they were called to the formal dinner he gave her his arm and they walked with the bride and groom and with his father and his second wife, and he felt content and full of hope for the future. When it fell to him to make a speech about his son's choice of bride he spoke about love, about marrying for love, and recommending it as the preferred choice. And after making a toast to the bride and groom he made a second one - to love. It caused a few of the political guests a little embarrassment, but many more found it a comforting proposition. He smiled around the room, fixing finally upon his son and his pretty new wife. Love, yes. Love was what mattered the most. Never mind all those critics and their hurtful words. Love was the only thing that mattered.

Later they danced. Christopher and Ámándáliá took the spotlight of course as they danced slowly to an old Gallifreyan love song. After watching them joyfully for a while Chrístõ had led Bellmórá onto the floor and danced with her. That raised a great many eyebrows, he knew. But he cared not. Let them talk. He was not merely a half-blood insolently courting a daughter of an Oldblood House. He was the son of one of the oldest Oldblood Houses, and the next Chancellor of the High Council into the bargain. And he was considering whether the daughter of another Oldblood House of nearly equal status might be worth giving his hearts up to. Anyone who thought differently would be on dangerous ground. You didn't become Chancellor of the High Council without some influence and without friends with influence.

They all opened their eyes together. As he withdrew from the memory they felt themselves looking through their own eyes again and thinking their own thoughts.

"Thank you for sharing that with me," Susan said. "But…"

"Whatever happened to Bellmórá Stillhaeven?" Rose asked.

"Yes, just what I was thinking," Susan added. "I don't remember her."

"She made a politically advantageous Alliance with a man with an unquestioned pedigree - my cousin Aalmuund - of another strand of the Lœngbærrow line."

"Did you…" Rose blushed as she tried to find words to express her thought.

"Fancy her?" He smiled wickedly.

"Grandfather!" Susan was shocked. "What a thing to say to Rose."

"Yes," Rose answered. "That is what I'm asking. I know how much you loved Julia. And I know you love me, and I'm not worried. But I am kind of curious about old girlfriends you haven't talked about."

"Never came close to being that," he assured her. "I thought for a while she might. But we're a funny lot, us Gallifreyans. We're so tied up with Family Honour and Political Advantage we actually DO confuse it with things like Love. She really did want an Alliance with a high ranking member of the High Council. That was all. And Aalmuund gave her that."

"My parents REALLY did love each other though?" Susan asked. "I mean… it WAS politically advantageous and all that. Are you sure…."

"Oh yes," he said. "They loved each other. No two people could love each other more - except perhaps for Julia and me. And of course…" He glanced at Rose. "Yes, I love you as much as I loved Julia. Don't ever doubt that."

="Well you can't really blame her for doubting you when you show her a memory like that." Susan told him.

"I don't doubt it," Rose said. "But I am kind of relieved you didn't hit it off with her."

"I never realised HOW nasty some people were about us being half-bloods," Susan reflected, remembering the less pleasant parts of that memory. "Flaws in the line, aberrations."

"That's one reason why I wouldn't leave you there when I left. I knew I would be disinherited. That would leave you in the care of the Mírraflaex House. They would have taught you to hate what we are. But you lost out on the chance to be a Time Lord yourself. You lost out on being a part of our society as you should have been. Susan de Lœngbærrow de Mírraflaex, you could have been so much."

"I'm happy with what I am. I like being a wife and mother. I have never wanted anything else. Anyway, you HATE all of that."

"I hate that my son was killed because of it," he said quietly.

= Susan looked at him. His eyes were sad. "We should have let it be," she said. "Bringing back these memories only hurts you. And it's not as if it changed anything for me. I am glad to have seen them. My parents. It's nice to know what they looked like, to have heard their voices. To know they loved each other. But I don't love them. They are still strangers to me."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I did hope… I thought it would…"

"It doesn't matter," Susan told him. "I had you. As long as I can remember you loved me, you cared for me. I don't need anyone else. I have you." She reached out and hugged him.

"Oh, Susan. You were always my child," he said. "You always will be. But now you know who your parents are. And you know they loved each other. That's what I wanted you to know."

"Yes," she said. "And I'm glad you did."

Rose looked at them and remembered something Jack once said in a casual, joking way - that he thought Time Lords were cloned, not born. How wrong he was. Family was, clearly, a vitally important thing for Time Lords, whether it was a matter of political expedience like in the Mírraflaex House or of deep emotional ties like the House of Lœngbærrow - or the remnant of that family that remained here on earth, anyway.