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

"Doctor?" Jackie's voice cut into his daydream as he made a pretence of working at the console and let his mind drift idly. He realised she had said something to him and he hadn't heard. He jerked awake and asked her to repeat the question.

"I just asked if you're familiar with Kipling."

"The poet or the cake maker?" The Doctor answered with a grin. Rose and Jackie both groaned at such an obvious joke.

“The poet or the cake maker?” The Doctor answered with a grin. Rose and Jackie both groaned at such an obvious joke.

“Time to update your repertoire,” Rose teased him. “Or don’t give up your day job.”

"Seriously," Jackie went on. "Was thinking of that line in the poem - if you can walk with kings and commoners or whatever it is…"

"If you can walk with kings, nor lose the common touch…"

"Yes, that bit." Jackie said. "Kind of reminds me of you. Like the way you were on SangC'lune, being WORSHIPPED by those people and yet I've seen you playing footie with the kids down in the yard and helping Mickey clean his spark plugs like a regular bloke."

"Well, maybe," The Doctor said with a smile. "But never really liked Kipling. He's an imperialist snob. Too much like some of the worst sorts of my own people. And his cakes are lousy too."

"Don't make fun," Jackie said. "I was being serious."

"Ok, but if we're talking poetry, the one that I always thought fitted me was Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken."

"Never heard of that."

"Oh… I think I have," Rose said. "I think it was in the coursebook for English at school. Something about two roads in woods." The Doctor smiled at her and took a breath and began to recite the poem.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference,"

"Wow." Rose and Jackie both looked at him. His voice had softened as he recited the poem and both of them had felt hypnotised by it.

"I've always taken the less travelled road." He smiled again and then sighed. "Sometimes wonder if the road has an end though. This old box has been my only home for half my life."

"But you love the TARDIS," Rose told him. "You without it, wouldn't seem whole."

"Life without you wouldn't seem whole."

"Well, that's ok. I'm not going anywhere."

"Not yet," he said and looked away from her. "But one day…. Like Julia… then I'll be alone again."

"Oh, you soppy article," Rose said, coming to his side. She put her arms around him and kissed him. "Enough of that. We have a good life together. I've no complaints."

"I just wish…"

"Doctor," Jackie took his hand in hers. He was surprised. Even though they seemed to have become better friends lately it was still rather intimate for her. "I thought Pete and I had forever. We barely had two years. He only knew Rose for a bare six months of her life. And in a moment he was gone from us. So… don't think about the future. You and Rose have NOW. Make what you can of it. Let the future sort itself out."

“I AM a soppy article, aren’t I,” he said with a half smile.

“Yes, you are,” Rose told him. “But I wouldn’t have you any other way.” He let go of Jackie’s hand and took hers. She smiled at him and he let himself live for the moment, warmed by her smile, and let the future look after itself.

“I think we’re nearly home,” Jackie said, cutting into the tender moment.

"Do you?" The Doctor turned and looked at her. "How can you tell?"

"Change in the engine sound," Jackie said. "And the screen has changed." She looked at the viewscreen. Earth filled the view and got bigger every moment. The Doctor smiled as Rose took the control to guide them into the right place. The autopilot could just as easily handle a familiar destination like 'home'. But she loved to do it.


They materialised in the usual place by the back wall. But Rose looked worried as she viewed the lifesigns monitor.

"The yard seems to be full of people," she said. "What's going on?" She looked up at the viewscreen. They all did. The yard WAS full of people. Men and women of the flats, some children, and most alarmingly, police.

And when the TARDIS materialised most of them had turned to look at it. And not with particularly welcoming eyes.

"Something is wrong," Jackie said.

"Something that has nothing to do with us," The Doctor added. "Yet… Those people… They look like a lynch mob. I have a very bad feeling about this."

"Most of those people are neighbours I've known for years," Jackie assured him. "We've nothing to worry about."

"Maybe we should go and find out what's going on," Rose suggested. "Doctor, maybe you ought to stay here." She was worried too. Lynch mob looked about right. Though why it should be out for The Doctor she could not imagine.

"I don't hide behind anyone. Besides, this IS nothing of my doing. Why should I be worried?"

"I don't know," Rose said. "But you ARE. You can sense something, can't you." She looked at his face. He looked tense. She knew when there were strong emotions about he could read them. And he WAS worried.

"Let's find out what's going on." The Doctor moved to the door in what seemed like two strides. Rose and Jackie both ran to be with him. Neither were sure what was going on, but sticking together seemed the best idea.


The Doctor wasn't sure WHAT about the emotions he was picking up in his telepathic nerves gave him the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. The moment he stepped outside, though, he knew he had been right in his first impression. He found himself grabbed by the collar and pulled away from the TARDIS by a pair of rough looking men. Both shouted something at him but in the uproar among the rest of the people and Rose and Jackie screaming and trying to reach him he barely heard what they were saying.

He felt their punches though and the kicks that took his legs from under him before he could respond. He fell hard on the concrete paving and was winded. There must have been three or four people kicking him as he got his breath back. He turned and was ready to apply some of his martial arts skills to fighting back when he found himself blocked from his assailants by the least likely person to come to his aid.

"Leave him be," Mickey Smith shouted. "He's nothing to do with this. He's The Doctor." Jackie and Rose reached him in the same moment and between them helped him to stand up. They stood defensively, holding his arms tightly. Mickey was still standing between him and the mob.

"Move aside, move aside, NOW!" An authoritative voice called out and a policeman forced his way to the front of the crowd. A woman moved forward behind him. Her face was scared and grief-stricken, with tear streaks down her cheeks and eyeliner running badly. But she was also clearly angry. It was she who spoke first while the policeman was struggling for his notebook.

"Where is my son?" she asked The Doctor in a tone that was almost accusing.

ALMOST? It WAS accusing. And what he was being accused of felt like ice in his hearts. He didn't need a superior brain to put it all together now and see what the mob was all about.

"There's a child missing?" He looked at the woman and felt her pain. Every parent's nightmare! It wasn't so long ago, when Davie had been grabbed by the 'followers of the Master' that he'd faced that same nightmare himself. He felt for her. But being accused of… His brain refused to accept the idea that HE might be thought responsible for anything so vile. "When? What happened?"

“You should know.” One of the men who had grabbed him almost snarled as he pushed past Mickey and grabbed his collar again. He put his face very close in a manner clearly meant to intimidate. The Doctor looked at him and then beyond him to the crowd that pressed forward now, towards the focus of their anger. Lynch mob was an accurate description. They wanted somebody to blame. And HE, the stranger with a strange half-existence in the community, was obviously number one suspect.

"I don't even know who her son IS!" he protested.

"You play football with him and the other kids. They call you the alien. They say THAT'S your spaceship." Automatically, everyone turned to look at the TARDIS. The distraught mother looked at it, her lips moving soundlessly as she read the incongruous words 'Police public call box.' She stepped closer to him. "Is my boy in there? Is he alive?"

"No!" The Doctor said in answer to the first question at least. The other he could not answer for her. “No. Nobody is in there.”

"Maureen," Jackie moved towards the woman and tried to reason with her. "Come on! You can't really think…"

"I don't know what to think," she replied. "Except THAT disappeared the same time Mark disappeared."

"Sir," The policeman appeared to have got his act together now. "Do you know anything about this incident at all?"

"NO!" he said again even more emphatically. "I don't know anything. I… We've been away for three days."

"Exactly." The harsh accusative tone again. He wasn't even sure where from. Somewhere in the mob.

"The boy has been missing THAT long?" Aside from his own difficulty, he felt the ice in his hearts tighten into a ball of agony as he thought of the child. Three days. It was too long. He feared the worst.

"Don't play the innocent." Another woman, comforting Maureen, looked at him. "We know all about you. Wandering about the place at night. Up on the roof, creeping around when decent people are asleep. And as for that box…. Bloody weird thing. The kids have said all sorts about it. They say they've seen inside and it's bigger than it should be and… and there's all sorts of weird lights and…. And they say…."

"He's an alien," somebody else said.

"A pervert alien who snatches kids."

"He's something," another voice muttered.

"Alien or not. He's weird enough to be guilty."

Weird enough to be guilty? That illogical thought summed it all up. He was weird. He was the one people had rumours about. He was their equivalent of the man who lived alone and kept himself to himself and didn't seem to have any social life, or the woman who kept too many cats and mumbled in the street, or simply the person who was a different colour or culture to the rest of the community. Communities were like that. They never sought scapegoats within their own at times like this. It was always the outsider. And this time that was him.

But being able to think about it logically did not take away the accusations and it didn't take away the dull aching certainty that this mob of flat dwellers in North London could do him more harm than a Dalek battle fleet.

"Sir," the policeman said again. "Can you confirm your whereabouts in the past three days?"

"No, not really. But I shouldn't have to. This is a mistake."

"He had NOTHING to do with this," Jackie said, clutching his arm even tighter. "Officer…. You ARE making a mistake."

"Look, Mrs…" The police officer looked at her and something clicked in his memory. "Mrs Tyler isn't it?"

"Yes," she said.

"Three years ago YOU accused this same man of kidnapping your daughter." He looked closer at him. "It WAS you, wasn't it?"

That about did it. That piece of information circulated the crowd in seconds. The hysteria went up a distinct notch. So did the noise.

"That was…. A mistake," Jackie said, and groaned inwardly. She knew that sounded lame and she knew she might just have inadvertently sealed The Doctor's fate.

"Besides," Rose said, clutching him even tighter. "I was nineteen. If I wanted to go off with him it was my business."

"Even so," the officer said. "You can't give any account of yourself, sir. And your activities have raised suspicions before. I think you'd better come with me." He reached out and put his arm firmly on The Doctor's shoulder. Rose and Jackie cried out in panic and tried to pull him away.

"NO!" The Doctor yelled, and he broke free of both women and the policeman and pushed aside all who stood between him and the TARDIS. He had been swept several yards from it by the crowd but now he didn't let anyone get in the way of his reaching it. He was not running away, though. He simply wanted to fight his corner from his OWN territory. At the door he turned and faced them. His face was pale but for a rapidly mending bruise on his cheek, but he stood firmly. "NO!" he said again as the police officer pushed through the crowd towards him, three of his colleagues also moving in. "Call it resisting arrest, if you must. But I am NOT going to be made a scapegoat of a lynch mob. So just SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU."

Rose had been looking at him as he spoke. And she saw the change that came over him. He had looked scared with the crowd pressing in. But in an instant he regained his usual assurance and took command. She looked from him to the crowd, suddenly silenced. She went to his side, in the space left as those closest backed away. He glanced at her but indicated with a slight gesture of his hand not to come nearer. She understood and obeyed. Even though her first instinct was to hold him, to stand between him and the mob and protect him, he had to sort this out for himself.

"That's better," he continued, not shouting, but in a voice loud enough so that everyone could hear him. "Ok, so let's get a couple of things straight here. There's a child missing. I understand that. And that's bloody awful. So why are we all standing around in this yard throwing false accusations about? You think I did it. Well, let's leave the burden of proof out of this for now. But I've been around here often enough for most of you to know me. I know most of you by sight at least. And yes, I know your kids. Played footie with them. My own kids play as well when they're visiting. Funny though, I've never seen any other dad out here kicking the ball about. Or any of the mums. So who's to blame when one of them goes missing? The bloke who bothered to take an interest in them when you were all down the pub or in front of your tellies? The one who's a bit different? The one you have these daft stories about. Do I LOOK like an alien? Does THIS look like a spaceship?"

He'd called that bluff with the kids before and it didn't work. But strangely, with the adults it DID work. They suddenly looked uncertain. They seemed to have forgotten that the TARDIS HAD materialised in front of them all and he, Rose and Jackie had emerged from it. Fifteen second memory!

"So! I ask again, WHY are you all here if there is a child missing. Why aren't you searching the streets, checking sheds down the allotments? Why aren't you lot doing a door to door instead of bothering me?" He glared at the police contingent. "You're all wasting my time and putting the child's life at risk." Then he turned and went into the TARDIS. Rose, Jackie and Mickey followed him after a few seconds.

"Thanks," he said to them all in a weary whisper that belied his strength before. "Thanks for believing in me."

"Well, come on!" Mickey said. "You wouldn't… you'd never…."

He went to the viewscreen. The crowd, stunned by his words, WERE organising into search parties, and soon the yard was nearly empty.

But there was a knock at the door. Rose went this time, looking at The Doctor and mouthing to him to stay put.

"Look, Miss Tyler!" The same policeman was at the door - the one she remembered two years ago asking her about her relationship with The Doctor after her 'missing' year. If aliens hadn't crash landed in the Thames there might have been more awkward questions. As it was, everyone forgot about the 'Where is Rose Tyler' campaign - so much so that the faded posters were still on the wall by the lifts. She didn't like the idea of "Where is Mark Grey" being pasted over them.

"He has nothing to do with this," she said. "Just leave us alone."

"That's for US to decide," the policeman insisted. "And as THIS is the only 'building' or 'vehicle' - whichever it qualifies as - not yet searched…. I have to insist…"

"Let them in, Rose," The Doctor told her. "We have nothing to hide." Rose stood aside and four police officers filed in through the door, all of them doing a double take as they looked around.

"For the record, I didn't lie before," The Doctor told them calmly. "My words were, 'Do I LOOK like an alien? Does THIS look like a spaceship?' So now you know that the answer is yes on both counts. But that still doesn't make me a child abductor. So do what you have to do here the same as you did in all the other places you've searched so far, and be done with it." He touched the console and closed his eyes. "Please, unlock all the doors. Let nothing be hidden from them. EXCEPT…. PLEASE hide the rack of swords in the dojo. I don't feel up to explaining those." He felt a slight vibration from the TARDIS and heard the clicks of locks all down the mysterious corridor beyond the console room. The TARDIS was co-operating with the police.

"Doctor?" Jackie moved near to him and spoke quietly as three of the officers began searching the TARDIS and one remained watching in the console room. "I suppose it's not possible the kid snuck in here the other day?"

"If he did he's not here now," The Doctor replied and showed her the schematic on the life-support monitor he had already called up. He had already thought of that himself. The interior of the TARDIS had no other lifesigns but themselves grouped together in the console room and the three police officers going along the corridor.

"Suppose he's lost in China in 1998 or SangC'lune or…."

"Please let it be SangC'lune," Rose murmured as she came the other side of The Doctor and slipped her arm around his waist. He put his around her and pulled her close to him. "He'd be SAFE there. Nobody would hurt him there."

"Sir," the policeman protested. "I really think you should stand away from that… machinery."

"WHY?" he asked. "You have no idea what this machinery is. What makes you think me being near it is in any way harmful?"


Another knock at the TARDIS door cut off whatever the policeman was going to say. Jackie went to the door this time.

"Maureen?" She looked at the woman who stood there - the mother of the missing boy. "What is it?"

"I need to talk to HIM," she said. "Please…" The Doctor came to the door beside Jackie. Maureen looked at him and fresh tears fell. "If you…. if you really are what the kids say… Then you must have some technology… some power. Please…. Use it to help find Mark."

"Maureen!" Jackie said, trying to bluff still. "The kids say all sorts of stuff. You can't take any notice…"

"Bring her in," The Doctor decided. "I don't know what I can do, but I'll try." He went back to the console as Jackie took Maureen by the hand and led her inside. Again there was the startled look at the TARDIS interior. Then she smiled weakly through her tears. "The kids say you're kind of like Superman, and you can do stuff. And you've fought things called…. Dal…Daleks and saved earth from invasion and…."

"Chris and Davie have been telling tales to their 21st century friends." The Doctor smiled ruefully. "I'm NOT superman. I never fly and I don't own a cape. And my Rose has more brains than Lois Lane any day. But if there's ANYTHING I can do. Of course, I will."

"Mrs Grey," the policeman began. "I really don't think…"

"You lot have been no help," she snapped at him. "Three days my boy has been missing and nothing. I have the right to ask anyone I want to help, don't I? You were saying about a TV appeal… well first, I'd like to appeal to…. To HIM."

"It's your right, madam. But anything he finds… by whatever means…. The police have to be informed."

"I'll do anything I can," The Doctor repeated. "But I have no miracles, Maureen. I can only try."

"This is his picture." Maureen pressed a photo into The Doctor's hands. He glanced at the school picture of a boy with a cheesy grin and his tie crooked and remembered which one of the local kids WAS Mark. He was a clever little pass and move footballer, he recalled. Got past HIS defence last time they played out on the yard and scored a great goal.

"And this is his jumper. I was thinking… maybe you can do that thing like on telly, where people can sense stuff from a piece of personal clothing."

"Not my style of thing, Maureen," The Doctor said. "Sorry. But… let me see what my spaceship can do." He looked at the jumper. Then he reached to Rose's hair and pulled one of her slides out. He used it as a makeshift pair of tweezers to extract a hair from the jumper. He looked at the mother. Like Jackie and Rose her hair colour came from a bottle. In her case a vibrant henna. This was a natural light brown - the boy's hair. And the follicle was intact. He carried it carefully to the console and opened a small panel. He carefully inserted the hair and closed the panel. He pressed some buttons and watched the monitor beside it carefully.

"Whoever did this…" Maureen said shakily. "If Mark is hurt…. If he's…. They should string him up."

"On my planet we had something called the atomiser," The Doctor said in a matter of fact way. Funnily enough nobody needed explaining what it did. They all fairly accurately guessed. Even Maureen. "But its not been used for that crime for 1,000 years."

The last time it HAD been used for an execution, he remembered, was for the man who murdered HIS son and his daughter in law. But he pushed that thought out of his head. The last time a child killer had been executed was before he was born, a thing of legend talked about in whispers.

"Sound like it works then," Mickey said. "As a whotsit… deterrent."

"No." The Doctor was firm in his views on certain matters. "I don't even trust MY race to administer the death penalty. Even they're not right all the time. As for humans - you make TOO MANY mistakes." That point was clearly felt by everyone. Even the policeman.

"I'm sorry for… for before….for blaming you," Maureen said. "It was just that…."

"Mob rule," The Doctor shrugged. "What bothers me is that while everyone was accusing me - for no reason at all - the REAL criminal was getting away with it."

"What DO you do up on the roof, anyway," Mickey asked out of the blue.

"Yes," Maureen said. "That is sinister."

"No it isn't," Rose answered. "If you must know, he looks at the star that his planet used to orbit. It makes him feel less homesick."

"Funnily enough, I also like being up there because it makes me feel closer to all the stupid human-ape life around this city. Because I care about you all. Especially those of you who try to be a bit less stupid and ape-like. But right now I'm not too happy with the 'grab a pitchfork and torch and storm the castle' attitude of some of you."

The TARDIS console beeped urgently at that moment, cutting off any reply to his words. He looked at the viewscreen and pressed a few buttons then he looked at the policeman.

"Ground floor, number eight," he said. "You told me you did a house to house."

"That's Reg Filey's flat," Jackie said. "He's the caretaker of the block. He… Well he was the one that punched you in the face." Jackie looked a bit sheepish as she said that. His bruises had already mended, of course. But the memory was still there.

"ALL the flats were searched except…."

"Well, MINE," Jackie said. "Since I wasn't there."

"And number eight," the policeman admitted. "Because Mr Filey was working with us all day yesterday. Organising the search of the canal. We never got around…."

"The boy is in his flat," The Doctor told them. He looked at the DNA signature that was showing on his console screen.

"Alive?" Maureen asked, hope in her eyes for the first time. The Doctor turned to her and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Yes," he said. "Hang in there. This is almost over." He looked at the policeman. His voice hardened. "You never searched his flat. It never occurred to you to suspect him? Because he was Mr Helpful."

"Oh, my God," Jackie groaned. "Is it THAT simple?"

"Reg?" Mickey was amazed. "But he was the one going on about lynching perverts. How could we have been so stupid?"

"Sir," the policeman looked at The Doctor. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Get your colleagues out of my corridors and get over there. Now…"

With that, he ran across the TARDIS floor and out the door. The policeman began running himself a few seconds after him, still calling on his radio for his colleagues who were somewhere in the TARDIS's deep interior.

"Sir," the policeman called as he tried to keep up with The Doctor. "What are you doing?"

"Saving a child's life," he said as he reached flat number eight.

"You can't just do that," the policeman protested. "We need a warrant."

"YOU need a warrant. You can wait outside if you want. I'm going to find Mark."

The Doctor stood back and aimed a finely judged scissor kick at the door. It flew open, the hinges bent in by the force of his kick. Mr Filey came running to the hallway and met with a punch that laid him flat. Nothing that would be found in any martial arts manual, just the punch driven by the anger any parent would feel for one such as him.

The Doctor didn't even break his stride. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and adjusted it. There was clearly a life-sign in the main bedroom. He dashed there and pulled open the built in wardrobe. The boy was hunched up, bound and gagged and blindfolded. He flinched at first when The Doctor touched him, but a calming word settled him as he unfastened the cruel bonds.

"You're the alien who plays football," the boy said in a cracked voice. His mouth was dry from the gag.

"Yep, that's me," The Doctor said. "Come on, Mark, you're mum's missing you." He helped him stand, but he fell down again, his legs weak from being tied up. The Doctor picked him up in his arms. "It's ok," he told him. "All over now."

The rest of the police had reached the splintered door as The Doctor turned and stepped over the unconscious Filey.

"Let us take him from here," one of them said. But the Doctor just glared at him.

"You lot concentrate on getting Filey into the back of your van before the mob gathers again. Even he doesn't want to be lynched. A fair trial. That's what English justice promises. Let it live up to that promise." And he walked out of the flat and out into the yard.

He was only halfway across the yard when Maureen ran out of the TARDIS and reached him.

"Oh, Mark," she cried, hugging the boy. "Doctor…. Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm…. my little boy. You saved him. How can I ever thank you…. Mark, I was so worried about you."

The Doctor stood back from the reunion. He was relieved the child was all right. He'd seen flashes of Filey's mind even from the brief contact he'd had with him. His intentions had been sickening. But the hue and cry around the estate meant that he'd been unable to do anything but keep the boy hidden.

"He'd better go to the hospital to be checked out," a policeman said. Filey was being taken away under close guard and a car was brought into the yard to take Mark and his mother.

"Yes," The Doctor agreed. "Though there's nothing wrong with him a good meal and a few hours rest won't cure. Maureen, you can be assured of that."

"Thanks to you, Doctor," she said again as they got into the car.

He watched it drive away and then he walked back to the TARDIS.


"Well, that's over," Jackie said.

"Thank goodness," Mickey added.

"Thank The Doctor," Rose smiled. "The hero who saved the day. Now everyone can get back to normal."

"It's not over." Everyone turned to look at The Doctor. He sat in the command chair by the console, his feet jammed against the side of the navigation panel. And neither Jackie nor Rose, nor Mickey had ever seen him look as miserable as he did just then.

"I liked it around here," he said. "It was nice, having a place I could 'park' the TARDIS, where nobody bothered much about it. Where I could kick a ball with the youngsters while you two talked hair and make up and TV up in the flat and I could spend a quiet hour looking at the stars and everything was ok. Longest times we've had of total peace were parked here by the bins. And I didn't mind the daft things the kids said about me being an alien. They were kind of funny. 'Specially when they debated whether I had a reptile skin inside or which planet I might be from."

"So why the past tense?"

"Because we'll have to go. Even though they know it was Filey, the suspicion will still be there that I'm not safe with their kids, that I'm something sinister, somebody to be wary of. I can't. I don't want…."

"You're right," Mickey sighed. "There are people around here who STILL think I murdered Rose when she first went off with you. Even though she's been here walking around the place loads of times since."

"When do we have to leave?" Rose asked. She had not even thought about it, but he had said WE'LL have to go. Not I'LL have to go. He knew she would come with him. That was the tiniest consolation about all this.

"Tomorrow morning," he said. "Give you chance to say goodbye to your mum and collect anything you might need from the flat."

"I won't get to see mum again?" Rose looked upset at that. So did Jackie.

"Maybe you ought to stay," The Doctor said, though the thought made his hearts scream at the injustice.

"No," she said. "I belong with you, wherever you are." She looked at her mother. "You understand that, don't you, mum? If he has to go, I have to go with him."

"Yes," Jackie managed before she burst into tears. "Yes, I understand that. Doctor… just look after her. And try to get her back to me somehow."

"I'll try," he promised. "But it might be months."

"This isn't fair," Mickey said as he stood up and walked out of the TARDIS door. They watched him on the viewscreen as he trudged back to the flats across the now empty yard. Jackie said she thought she'd better go as well and told Rose to come up later and find whatever she wanted to pack.

"It's NOT fair," Rose cried when it was just the two of them. She went to where The Doctor still sat, still looking devastated, tears gently falling down his cheeks. She perched on his knee and put her arms around his neck. "You rescued the kid. You're the HERO. They should be welcoming you with open arms."

"I never set out to be anyone's hero," he said. "A bit of respect would do, a bit of trust. But I don't need to be their hero."

"I feel like it's my fault," Rose whispered as she pressed herself closer in a hug. "I brought you here. I'm the reason you stuck around."

"It's Reg Filey's fault for kidnapping little boys," The Doctor said. "Let's remember THAT." He brushed her hair back where it had fallen loose. The hair slide was in his pocket. He put it back in place and kissed her. The kiss felt nice. As disappointing as the day had been, however sick in his hearts he still felt, he had her kisses to comfort him. That was something to be grateful for. He closed his weary eyes and savoured the pressure of her slight body against him.

She went up to her mum's for a few hours in the evening. She didn't bother to pack anything. The TARDIS gave her everything she ever needed. But she spent the time with her mum. They neither of them talked about what had happened today, or how long it might be before they saw each other again. They just cherished a few quiet hours together. Then Rose kissed her mum goodbye and put her coat on.

"When do you think you'll leave?" she asked. "When I wake up tomorrow… will I look out and see the TARDIS gone?"

"Probably," Rose said.

"I like seeing it there. Knowing the two of you are both safe there. That you're not being chased by anything horrible, or risking death. Both of you safe and sound there where I can see you."

"We'll be ok," she promised. "You look after yourself. WE worry about you here on your own, you know."

"I'll be fine. I'll miss you." They hugged and then Rose made her way down to the TARDIS.

It was quiet inside. The lights were turned down low. She saw The Doctor lying on her bed in the corner. He was asleep. Ordinary asleep, in the Human way. She realised he had cried himself to sleep. Her heart broke for him. She wished she knew how to make it right.

She could do a small thing for him, at least. Make him more comfortable. She reached and unfastened his tightly laced boots and slid them off his feet, dropping them beside the bed, and she gently eased his arms out of the leather jacket. He’d sleep more comfortably without it. He hardly stirred as she gently rolled him over to get to the other sleeve. She touched his cheek gently. The muscles twitched but involuntarily. He was so deeply exhausted, mentally, that he was even unaware of her touch.

She kicked off her own shoes and lay beside him. She put her arms around his shoulders and curled her body around his. She felt him close his arm around her waist, but again it seemed an involuntary, instinctive action, rather than any real awareness that she was there.

At least they were together, she thought. Nothing could take that from them.


The Doctor woke in the morning. He felt strange. He so rarely slept in the ordinary sense of the word. And this sleep did not seem to have refreshed him at all. He still felt heavy-headed and miserable.

He gently moved from Rose's side. They had slept the night together. Fully clothed, above the blankets, nothing anyone could find inappropriate. But they had been together. In any other situation that would have been an experience he treasured. But even their love for each other felt tainted by those horrible suspicions. People remembered that he had taken Rose away for a year and there had never been an adequate explanation for that. The assumptions of what he, a middle aged man, had done for a year with a teenage girl had been so ugly they made him sick. But he had gained Jackie's trust. He had gained the acceptance of most of the local people as a part of their community in a sort of ad hoc way. He had loved playing with the children. And the thought that anyone might find that inappropriate really DID sicken him.

Should he go now, before she was awake, he wondered, looking at the drive control of the TARDIS. No, he decided. She had the right to know, to be aware of them leaving. To say goodbye to her home.

"Hey," Rose sat up and looked at him. "You ok?"

"Not really," he said. "But I'm doing my best."

"Yeah, me too." She stood up and came to him. She hugged him for a long, quiet moment. "Do you want some breakfast?" she asked. "I can cook something."

"No," he told her. "I'm a Time Lord, remember. I don't need feeding up." He sighed. "We ought to go. There's no point in delaying." Yet he made no move towards the controls. He very rarely initiated the dematerialisation when they were on Earth. He let Rose do it. But she didn't want to do it this time.

There was a knock at the door. It made them both jump.

"The police again?" They both thought the same thought.

"Might be mum," Rose suggested. "Come to say goodbye to us both." She went to open the door. The Doctor waited by the console pensively.

She had expected her mum, the only person likely to be knocking on a Sunday morning. She was surprised to see Mark Grey, looking no worse for his experience, in the middle of a crowd of boys.

"Is he there," they asked her.

"Is who there?" she replied.

"The alien… the Doctor. We want him to come play football."

"Does your mum know?" Rose asked Mark. "Are you okay?"

"Was her idea," Mark said. "She said I should get out in the fresh air and not be scared to go out now that they've got the man who did it."

"Marks's mum told mine that she should let us come and play," one of the other boys added.

"Mine too," another said. "And she said we should ask him to come and kick about the ball with us. Because he's a real hero and we've got to show him that we're all sorry for thinking anything else."

"I'm not sure…" Rose began but The Doctor appeared behind her.

"Give me five minutes," he said with a smile that lit his eyes even though they were still red rimmed from crying. And he WAS just about five minutes. He returned with his face washed and a football shirt on that made all the London kids laugh out loud. Preston North End! His Theta Sigma name on the back caused even more amusement and within ten minutes he found he had a new name to add to all those the universe had given him over the centuries. Ziggy. Not as impressive as Ka Faraq Gatri. But it would do.

He played football all morning and most of the afternoon. The game seemed endless. The team players changed continuously as boys went off to get their dinner and others came to join in, but The Doctor was the linchpin of the game throughout.

And as the afternoon wore on and the game continued, a sort of miracle happened. Nobody expected it to last. High rise concrete flat developments were the social failure of the late 20th century. But for a little while, it almost worked. The fathers, jolted by The Doctor's comment about them not being around, emerged from the flats and joined in the game. The mothers left their tellies and came and watched. A crate of beer was produced. Somebody set up a barbecue. Quite WHY people who lived in a high rise with no garden owned a barbecue nobody asked. But something like a party atmosphere ensued.

The Doctor, taking a break from the football, watched in amusement as one of the kids sprayed a bright yellow square on the ground around the TARDIS and wrote "FREE PARKING FOR ALIENS". He had just finished when a police car arrived. The mood of the crowd became tense again as the same officer from yesterday and a colleague approached The Doctor.

"Officially, sir," he said. "We're here to give you a caution for taking the law into your own hands and hitting Filey. He was muttering about pressing charges earlier but he seems to have quietened down now. Put his hand up to everything, by the way. Just as well. I'm not sure YOU would want to give your name and address in court."

Too right, The Doctor thought. And he didn't fancy some smart-alec defence counsel asking him HOW he knew where to look for the boy.

"Unofficially," the policeman continued, remembering Filey out cold on the floor. "Well, I just want to say if you hadn't, I would have, and it's definitely better coming from you." He reached to shake The Doctor's hand and never actually got around to the official caution. As the car left and the 'party' continued Mickey and Jackie came to his side.

"They're not bad people when you get to know them," Mickey said looking around at his neighbours. "I had some words last night. Seems like they got the message. So…" Mickey grinned sheepishly. "We're not exactly friends, Doctor. You took Rose from me. And that hurt. But I don't want you to leave and not come back here."

"Neither do I," Jackie told him. "You're….well… FAMILY," she said. "We have to be there for each other."

That was the biggest miracle of the whole day, The Doctor thought.

"Well, seeing as I've got my own parking space." He smiled. Jackie breathed a sigh of relief. So did Rose. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her.

Maybe the people had learnt their lesson about suspicion TOO well but the stranger who stood at the edge of the yard went unnoticed and un-remarked upon. He opened his mobile phone and pressed the preset number.

"I've located the Time Lord." He said and hung up. If anyone had glanced towards the shadowy corner again there would have been nobody to see.