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

Jackie went down to the TARDIS. The door opened when she tried the handle. She was surprised, but remembered something Rose had tried to explain. The machine was psychic. And it knew who belonged to it and who didn't. It would open for her. She belonged. For anyone else it would lock tight.

She BELONGED to the TARDIS. That was a startling idea, but not an unpleasant one. It felt as if she was under a special protection. The TARDIS and its owner, The Doctor, would always stick up for her, just like he had stuck up for her when they were in Rome that time. She remembered that so well. BOTH The Doctor as he is now and his younger version had run to help her w hen a mugger tried to grab her handbag.

Yes, she belonged to the TARDIS, to this strange world of his in a kind of way.

Where WAS Rose? Where WAS The Doctor? The console room was empty and quiet. The console itself was silent. As it should be when they are 'parked', she supposed. Were they up yet? It was only 9 o'clock. She glanced at the inner door that led to the kitchen and bathroom - and bedrooms. Her heart missed a beat. Rose had never properly answered the question of where she and The Doctor slept and she wasn't entirely convinced that they didn't sleep together. She had visions of the sort of bedroom he might have, very masculine, like him. She could almost see them together. She imagined Rose curled up small and girlish beside him, his arm around her possessively.

Rose insisted they didn't have that kind of relationship, and Jackie had to believe her, because her daughter didn't usually lie about that sort of thing. But if she went looking, opened a door and saw them…

She didn't want the lie proven. She didn't want that vision to be true. She accepted that they were in love, but she didn't want them to be lovers.

She turned away from the inner door. And as she did so she became aware that there WAS another door from the console room. Like the one for the main corridor it was a concealed door, fitting flush and identical with the wall. But it was partially open now.

And there was a noise coming from within - a sound of two people at some active exercise. For a moment her thoughts went back to that vision of bedroom activity. But the clashing sounds of metal on metal hardly went with THAT.

Curiously, she pushed open the door and stepped inside. Her mouth dropped open in surprise at what she saw.

It was a martial arts room. She had forgotten for a moment the technical word for it. The one they used in those movies like Karate Kid. But she knew what it was from the big, polished wood floor and the oriental wall hangings around the room. They were something to do with creating harmony or something like that.

And of course, from the way Rose and The Doctor were dressed, he in black and she in white loose fitting trousers and tops tied with belts - black belts both of them. Rose had a black belt? That was the highest, wasn't it? And at WHAT? That definitely wasn't karate they were practicing. She looked at the flashing swords, blades clashing noisily as they blocked each other. They looked real - razor sharp. They looked terrifying. They looked deadly. And she wasn't sure what frightened her most; the way Rose lunged at The Doctor as if intent on murdering him, or the way he came back at her with equally murderous intent. The thought of either one of them killing the other terrified her.

And how DID Rose get so good at it that she actually looked capable of killing The Doctor? Because even to Jackie's untrained eye she WAS good. She was quick and nimble on her feet and watching her made her eyes tired. She was SO fast. The Doctor was good, too. But he seemed more about power than speed. His raw masculinity seemed enhanced by his mastery of that deadly weapon. The sight of him made her shiver. He looked as if he could kill an enemy with a single blow of that sword without thinking twice about it.

And so did Rose. Jackie realised that with a shock. Her little girl was training to be able to kill.

Little girl? She looked again. Rose was a young woman. Twenty-three years old and so very capable and sure of herself.

Jackie was startled. The last time she had looked at her daughter properly she WAS a little girl - nineteen years old, going out with Mickey, working in the shop, but at heart, her little girl still. Now, four years later, she WAS a woman. And Jackie had missed the transition. Not that she hadn't been around often enough. She couldn't blame The Doctor for that. He'd brought her home to her regularly. But she just hadn't seen it until now.

She and The Doctor were equals. He was no longer her father figure or her too-old-for-her boyfriend, with an age gap preventing them from being completely right. He was no longer the Time Lord and she the London shop girl. They were equals in skill and experience. And as they fought each other hard and fast and seriously she couldn't tell which one was the better at it. Nor could she see how such a fight could end except in one of them killing the other. It just looked SO intense.

It ended, in fact, quite suddenly. The Doctor's sword came down high and fast and Jackie winced as she saw it slice a lock of Rose's blonde hair clean off. Rose glanced momentarily at that and then lunged back at The Doctor, in such a way that he actually lost his hold on his sword. As it skidded away across the floor Rose turned her blade and pointed it at his throat. He smiled enigmatically and dropped to his knees, head bowed as if in surrender. She smiled too and raised her sword and brought it down towards his neck. Jackie's heart seemed to stop as she saw that and she closed her eyes and screamed. In her mind's eye she had seen her daughter kill the man she loved in cold blood. When she opened her eyes, Rose was standing with the blade millimetres from The Doctor's neck, where she had, with precision, stopped the swing of the sword. Then she lifted it and held it at her side. The Doctor stood and faced her and they both bowed. Then they both turned towards her. Jackie could stand it no longer. She ran to them.

"What the hell was that?" She demanded. "You could have killed him."

"Exercise in trust, Jackie," The Doctor said as he put his hand on her shoulder and felt her trembling. "And in concentration," he added pointedly. "Your screaming just MIGHT have been the death of me if Rose hadn't blocked everything but the movement of her sword."

"Trust?" Jackie gasped.

"He trusted me to be able to bring the sword down on his neck without so much as breaking the skin."


"I trust Rose with my life," The Doctor said. "She trusts me with hers." Rose picked up both swords and returned them to the rack while The Doctor took Jackie out of the Dojo, away from that which disturbed her. He sat her on the White House sofa and held her trembling hand. He didn't say anything. He just held her hand until Rose, having showered and dressed, came through and pressed a hot cup of tea in her mum's hands. He stood up then and told Rose he was going to shower. She sat in his place and watched her mum drink tea and stop trembling.

"You screaming like that really did make it dangerous, you know," Rose said. "Good job I WASN'T distracted."

"I thought you were going to kill him. You stopped inches from…"

"Closer than that, even." Rose smiled. "It's part of the discipline. He has to trust me. I have to trust him. I have to trust myself. It's how we work. In there, and… and out there in the universe when things are tough."

"I hardly know you any more, Rose," Jackie said. "That's not how you used to talk. You used to talk about pop stars and clothes and TV. You…" She held her daughter's hands and looked at them. Her nails were neatly trimmed and unvarnished and she wore none of the fashion rings and bracelets she used to have. She looked at her ears. Her earrings were simple studs - Gallifreyan diamond studs, worth a fortune, of course - but even so, simple and unobtrusive. She used to wear big dangly fun earrings.

"Can't wear that sort of thing in the dojo," Rose said. "And I don't much want an Arachnoid or a Dalek yanking my ears off either. This is more practical."

Jackie looked unconvinced.

"I'm still me, mum. I just have a different lifestyle. Think of it as a job with a dress code. Besides, I still wear the dangly earrings to the opera and stuff."

"Opera!" Jackie giggled. "See… that's another thing. You go to the OPERA. You come from a council estate and you go to the OPERA."

"I may come from it, but do I have to belong to it? Is there a law against us doing those things?"

"Just so long as YOU know who you are," Jackie said. "That's all."

"You know who you are, don't you, Rose." The Doctor returned to the console room, dressed in his usual clothes but freshly showered and shaven and his close-cropped hair slightly damp still. He leaned against the door and looked at the two. He had overheard enough of the conversation to understand Jackie's confusion. But he had never seen Rose as just a council estate shop girl anyway. He had always seen the spirit beneath the conditioning of her environment. All he had done was given her the space to expand her horizons. ALL of space, ALL of time. The rest she had done for herself.

"Tell your mother who the people of SangC'lune think you are," The Doctor added with a twinkle in his eye. Rose smiled at him and took a deep breath and recited the title allotted to her there.

"The Blessed Lady Rose, Queen Consort of the Living God, Lord of Time and Prince of the Universe."

"What?" Jackie stared at her. She repeated it slowly. "Living God? Who….?"

"He is," Rose answered as The Doctor came and sat beside her, his arm around her shoulder. Possessively, Jackie thought. But lovingly, too. She was not just a 'conquest' to him. He genuinely cared for her.

"You… There is a planet out there… Where they think YOU are a GOD?" Jackie was astonished.

"I'm not happy about that," he said. "My people started the myth thousands of years ago and now I'm stuck with it. But… If I have to be a god, they're not a bad people to be the supreme being over. They are very gentle and loyal and honourable. And they always feed us well, don't they, my Lady Rose."

"Yes," she laughed.

"Lady Rose." Jackie smiled. How could she complain? She had wanted the best for her daughter. She had it. In a way she could never imagine in a million years, but she had always wanted Rose to rise above the life she was born into. How could she complain when she did?

"Be who you want to be," she told her. "What did you come down here for, by the way, Jackie?" The Doctor asked. "When you stumbled into our morning practice - was there a reason for it?"

"Visiting Rose's gran," Jackie said. "She's just moved into a new sheltered housing project and wants us to go round and look at it."

"Do we have time?" Rose asked The Doctor. "We ARE meant to be going out later. To the OPERA!" she added, smiling at her mum.

"I'm a Time Lord," he reminded her. "We ALWAYS have time. You go along and see your gran."

"Um… you could come too," Jackie added. "She HAS asked a couple of times about Rose's 'bloke'."

"Lord of Time, Prince of the Universe, Living God," The Doctor smiled. "And here I'm 'Rose's Bloke.' The phrase 'brought down to Earth' is VERY appropriate."

And maybe for that reason as much as any other he came with them on his least favourite mode of transport, a London bus, to see Rose's gran.


He had expected that they were going to see Jackie's mum. He expected a third, older generation of dyed blonde, razor sharp, cockney womanhood. But it only took a moment or two for him to realise that this was, in fact, Pete's mother.

There were photos of Pete all over the drawing room, especially of Pete and Jackie's wedding and of Rose's christening. Happy times.

The Doctor looked at the pictures and thought of the deep drawer in a closet in the TARDIS where he kept pictures like those. The ones he had shown Susan for the first time recently.

Twenty years or five hundred, the loss was no easier to bear.

"Christy, did you know my son?" He smiled as Mrs Tyler senior mispronounced the name Jackie had given for him. She had decided calling him 'Doctor' might disturb the old lady and introduced him as Chrístõ. He wondered how she would have handled the full and even more difficult to pronounce version of his name.

"Yes," he answered. "We were good mates. I used to play pool with him down the Lamb and Flag. He… He was a good bloke."

Mrs Tyler nodded and smiled at him as she poured the tea and passed him a cup. It wasn't a lie. He still had very vivid memories of living that alternate life where he and Rose were an 'ordinary' married couple and he did play pool down the Lamb and Flag. As false as the alternate memory was, it left him with a pleasant feeling that he and Pete had been good friends. He treasured the memory for that at least. And it was a source of deep regret that there was nothing he could do to take away the tragedy of Pete's death from the three women who sat a little awkwardly together in that room.

He realised he'd never seen a picture of Pete in Jackie's flat. Humans dealt with grief in different ways. Jackie, like himself, put the painful reminders in a safe place and tried to get on. Pete's mother kept the reminders around her. Which one of them was doing it right, he would not dare to try to determine.

"So, how do you like the flat?" Jackie asked her mother-in-law in the artificially bright voice of somebody trying to stay cheerful.

"It's fine - 'cept the intercoms don't work." She indicated the box on the wall that was supposed to connect the flat to a support worker in case of medical or other need. That was the purpose of a "sheltered" flat. And if it didn't work…

The Doctor put down his tea and went to the box. He looked at it and then reached for his sonic screwdriver. Mrs Tyler looked at him curiously. Jackie told her he was good with 'electrics'.

"How long have these things not worked?" The Doctor asked as he went to the one in the kitchen and the bathroom and checked them as well.

"Since I moved in," the old lady answered. "They keep saying every time they bring the meals on wheels round that they'll fix it. But…"

The Doctor sighed. A line from a song came to his mind. "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…" Well, it wasn't his way. He adjusted the setting on his sonic screwdriver and applied it to each of the intercom boxes. When he was done the indicator lights all glowed and when he jabbed the button to communicate with the support workers it buzzed satisfactorily.

Less than a minute later the supervisor was standing on the carpet in front of them all, apologising profusely to Mrs Tyler and trying to think up a good excuse why it was not his fault.

"The BATTERIES were flat in every one of the boxes," The Doctor said. And Rose recognised the glint in his eye as CONTROLLED anger. One more lame excuse and it would boil over into UNCONTROLLED anger. That was the one even Daleks were scared of. She and Jackie, and Mrs Tyler all watched in fascinated admiration as The Doctor said his piece.

"That lady's father won the VC in World War One. That's it on the sideboard there. Her husband won the DFC in the second war and then went on to be a good, honest beat Copper in the London Met for 35 years. Her son would be giving Richard Branson a run for his money by now if he hadn't died twenty-odd years ago. And you stand there making snivelling excuses for not giving her the best care possible."

"And you are…." The man managed to stammer.

"I'm the person who will be back to make sure she IS getting the best of care and will be dealing with you if she isn't," The Doctor said. And the look he gave would have MELTED a Dalek's battle-reinforced exterior. "Now get out of my sight." The supervisor beat a hasty retreat. "Don't think you'll have any more maintenance problems, Mrs Tyler," he said.

"No, indeed," she said with a smile. "That one needed a strip tearing off him. Right snotty he's been with me."

"Where I come from, caring for the elders of the community is an honour, not a burden," he said. "If we get anything else wrong, at least we get THAT right." And he sat down again and finished his tea.


"How did you know her husband was a policeman?" Jackie asked as they headed home later. "And the stuff about the VC and everything."

"Pictures on the sideboard," he said. "And I met her father once. He wasn't feeling so good at the time, mind you. He'd just survived the battle of the Somme. And, of course, I can read minds."

"Ah." Jackie looked at him and smiled. Then she looked serious. "Can you read my mind right now?" The Doctor looked at her and read the thought at the forefront of her mind.

"You love Betty Tyler like your own mum, but it hurts like hell seeing the way she still keeps so many pictures of Pete around. And you know even if you DID find a bloke who was a quarter of the man…." He halted as she failed to hide that part of her thought. He smiled grimly and patted her arm gently. "Jackie, don't hold me up as an example of the perfect man. I'm far from that." She blushed and amended the thought. "Even if you did find a bloke who measured up to Pete, Betty would think you were betraying him."

"Oh, mum," Rose said, catching her hand.

"You may be right, Jackie," The Doctor said. "But… All I can say is… when a parent outlives their child… It's a wretched thing. A part of you dies. It's even harder than losing a lover. And time doesn't make it any easier. People say it does. But they're wrong. So try to understand Betty's point of view. And when the right man comes along, maybe she'll better understand yours."

Rose and Jackie both realised at the same time that he was speaking from bitter personal experience about outliving his own child. They both looked at him uncertainly. Then he smiled as his mood brightened, and it was as if the sun came out in their lives.

"Jackie," he said. "Come along with us to the opera. You look like you could do with a night out to cheer you up."

"Opera? Cheer me up?" She seemed startled by the concept "Aren't they usually about death? That one Rose is always humming… Mimi's death song or whatever it is…"

"Yeah, death comes into it," he admitted. "As none of us need telling, death is a part of life and art reflects life. But honestly, you WOULD enjoy it."

"Come on, mum," Rose said, and Jackie let herself be persuaded. The alternative was sitting alone on the sofa with a bag of Doritos and dips and Eastenders followed by an old Harrison Ford movie.


"Wow." The Doctor looked at the two women in unconcealed admiration when they emerged from the wardrobe in two dresses that he vaguely recalled seeing before. They were Cheongsam dresses. Literally, long dresses in Chinese. High collared, short sleeves, long straight skirts slit to the thigh to allow movement - a modern innovation - in the past in China women simply took very small steps. Rose was in scarlet with a gold dragon motif and Jackie in a plain mint green. Jackie had done their hair and Rose had done her own and her mother's make up. She had made her look an attractive woman of her age. Usually she looked over-made-up in an attempt to be younger. Ironically, the less heavily applied look actually did make her seem younger and more attractive, while Rose looked a little older than her twenty-three years with make up and "dangly" earrings for the night. They seemed to catch each other up and look more like older and younger sisters than mother and daughter.

They in turn smiled at The Doctor. He was in the usual leather jacket and black denim trousers, but he had changed his woolly jumper for a satin mandarin shirt in scarlet, with a high collar and gold dragons facing each other over his two hearts.

"You know what Giacomo would say," Rose said as he took them both arm in arm and headed for the door.

"Il Dottore, the old rogue," The Doctor said in perfect imitation of the Italian Maestro and ladies man, Giacomo Puccini. "Here he is with two bellisimo Signorinas on his arm."

"Giacomo would think that," Rose laughed. "He's an old perv." But she said that in a way that indicated that she was fond of the "old perv".

"Why the Chinese look," Jackie began to say before they emerged from the TARDIS. "Oh my," she breathed when she looked around her. "We ARE in China."

"Bejing, the Forbidden city, on the evening of September 3rd, 1998." The Doctor talked smugly as he always did when he got his dates spot on. "The first of eight performances of our old mate Puccini's last opera, Turandot, in the place where it was set. It took the best part of a century to achieve his wish to have it performed here. This is an historical night." The Doctor produced tickets from his pocket, and Rose wondered how he actually managed to have three of them seeing as Jackie came at the last minute. But she had long ago given up wondering about these things. She simply followed him to their seats at the open air performance on a balmy evening in front of the People's Palace.

"Do you remember the premier," Rose said to The Doctor as they looked through the programme of the night. "La Scala, April 25th, 1926. Toscanini conducted the orchestra. And in the middle of the third act, after the servant Liú dies, he put down his baton and turned to the audience and said "Qui il Maestro finí" - "Here the Maestro finished." Because that's as far as Giacomo got before he died. And they brought down the curtain and never finished it that night. Nobody saw the ending that had been written until the next night. But we didn't feel cheated or ripped off. We all just went mad cheering."

And crying, The Doctor remembered. Rose had been in floods of tears, remembering the 'old perv' who had been a good friend to them both.

Jackie had just been reading about that first night in the programme of tonight's performance. But hearing it in first person from Rose was startling. "We all just went mad cheering…" The fact that this was 1998 was not as hard to come to terms with as 1926, though she realised even ten minutes of time travel was miracle enough. She realised, too, the privilege she had, being there, through The Doctor, on what WAS an historic occasion. And she envied Rose the freedom she had to do this every day of her life, fighting the evil of the universe alongside The Doctor notwithstanding.

She'd never been to an opera in her life. She vaguely knew this was the one that the Italia 1990 world cup theme came from. And that was it. She didn't know what to expect.

What she certainly didn't expect was to be entranced from start to finish. Rose leaned on The Doctor's shoulder and he put her arm about her as they both revelled in the spectacle of sound and colour and occasionally glancing at Jackie as she sat straight up, hypnotised by it. When it was over, they had to practically lift her from her seat as the audience gave a standing ovation.

Afterwards, there was a gala dinner inside the People's Palace itself. As they ate, Jackie reflected on the experience of the past few hours.

"Why was it in English?" she asked. "I thought opera was always foreign."

Rose laughed. "It was. It was in Italian to everyone but us. We get everything we hear translated automatically because we're TARDIS travellers."

"Oh. That's handy."

The Doctor smiled and recalled that Rose had got seriously mad at him for letting his machine mess up her head. Jackie seemed to accept it much more philosophically. But she had other things on her mind anyway.

"The thing with having to name the prince - I didn't really get it."

The Doctor opened his mouth to explain the plot but Rose got there before him.

"The prince wanted Turandot to realise that she loved him. And so he challenges her to find his name before sunrise and if she does his life is forfeit and he will die. So she spends all night torturing people to find out his name. And at dawn when she hasn't found it he reveals it to her. And they live happily ever after."

"And the poor servant girl gets beaten to death just so they can play this game all night." Jackie looked appalled. "Am I missing the point?"

"No, you're not," The Doctor told her. "I think you have that right. It's rather a strange, callous idea. For Turandot to realise she loves the prince she has to see the sacrifice of Liú, who won't give up the secret of his name because she herself loves him."

"And he KNOWS that and lets it happen."

"Opera isn't real life. Thank goodness."

"His name is love," Rose said. "That's what the girl says, but nobody takes notice of it until Turandot finally realises she really does love him."

"Bloody stupid if you ask me. And don't tell me it makes me some kind of simpleton from the council estate just because I don't get the romance of it."

"Wouldn't dare," The Doctor said. "I happen to think you're right. It is horrible. Always makes me think about what I'd do if somebody tortured those I love to find out my secret name."

"Your name isn't a secret," Jackie said. "We all know it."

He shook his head and smiled.

"Maybe a dozen people in the entire universe know my name, you two included. The rest know me as The Doctor or Theta Sigma or in rare places Ka Faraq Gatri. Knowing a Time Lord's name gives power over him. Power to destroy him - as Turandot had over Prince Calif."

"Are you telling me this opera only makes sense if you happen to be friends with a Time Lord?" Jackie asked.

"Pretty much," he said with a smile. "I often wondered if I said something to Giacomo that put the idea in his head. Sure came out strange though. If I knew somebody was being tortured to find MY secret I wouldn't stand around like a lemon hoping they would kill themselves first and save my skin. I'd move heaven and earth to rescue them. And if I couldn't… if the only thing that would save somebody else from torture and death is my surrender… then I'd give myself up first."

He looked at Rose and knew she was remembering their recent experience where both of them had been tested on that very point. SHE had been prepared to die for him just like the servant Liú in the opera. He had been powerless to do anything about it that time. But certainly she understood what it was to be prepared to make that sacrifice.

"Maybe you should have explained that to Puccini when you saw him last," Jackie said, before realising what an odd statement that was. She certainly had some odd conversations when she was with The Doctor, she reflected.

"Yeah," Rose agreed. "You should. The Prince should have stepped in before Liú was killed and surrendered himself, saved her, thrown himself at the mercy of Turandot"

And THEN," Jackie added. "She could have decided she loved him and didn't want him killed and EVERYONE could have been happy at sunrise, including the poor little servant that everyone forgot about because they were cheering the prince and princess."

"THAT'S a way better ending," Rose said.

"Definitely." Jackie looked at The Doctor. "Any chance you could go back and explain it to him?"

"'Fraid not," The Doctor told her with a smile. "But don't let me hear either of you two ever again saying you're just ordinary people from a council estate. You've just sat here and worked through the central issue of this opera that the "intellectuals" have argued for 80 years. And come up with the first sensible solution I've ever heard. And for your first opera, Jackie, that's good going."

"Yes, it was, wasn't it." Jackie laughed a little hysterically. "I'm sitting here in CHINA, in 1998 - the year Rose was TWELVE YEARS OLD, and I am talking about OPERA as if it was normal."

"Comes with the territory," The Doctor told her with a smile.

"O seu nome ... é Amor!," Rose said reaching across the table and touching The Doctor's hand. "THAT bit I DO understand."

"I know you do," he replied, closing his hand over hers. Jackie looked at them both and knew neither of them was talking about the opera any more.