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

Wyn walked into the console room fresh from showering after a good workout in the dojo. She stopped as she saw The Doctor and Rose kissing each other up against one of the strange coral shaped pillars that supported the high domed roof. She waited a few minutes, but there was only so much of that sort of thing a teenager could take before it got embarrassing.

“Get a room, why don’t you,” she said cheekily. The Doctor looked around and grinned. He stepped back and Rose skipped around to the console and appeared to be checking the data on one of the screens, though Wyn watched what she was doing and was half convinced she was faking it. The buttons she pressed all seemed completely random.

“Got a room,” The Doctor answered. “But then again this is MY ship and if I want to kiss MY fiancée in MY console room, the universe has no business complaining.”

“The universe isn’t complaining,” Rose laughed. “Wyn is.”

“Well, Wyn is on shaky ground too,” The Doctor added. “Do we have to keep reminding her that nobody invited her to be third wheel around here and there is always the airlock.”

“You wouldn’t really put me in an airlock?” Wyn looked worried.

“We don’t really HAVE an airlock,” Rose assured her. “He’s kidding. He does that all the time. You should hear what he used to say to Mickey.”

“Baiting Mickey wasn’t so much fun once he knew you were definitely mine,” The Doctor admitted. “Half the game was seeing if he REALLY wanted you enough to fight for you.”

“He did want me enough. But you fought harder,” Rose said. Then she saw the glint in The Doctor’s eyes and laughed. For a while at first she had felt guilty about Mickey. She’d missed him, even contemplated asking if he could come with them. Although she never for a moment imagined staying WITH him. Not after knowing this fantastic life she lived on board the TARDIS.

But Mickey had only BEEN an issue because The Doctor just didn’t seem to be in the frame as a boyfriend. He always insisted that he WASN’T. He shied away from open displays of affection even though a look or a word or the most innocent touch of his hand on hers could make it seem as if they were lifelong lovers. It took a long time for those cold hearts of his to warm up and for him to admit he COULD love her. But now he had, and if they found themselves clinging to each other, for no reason at all, it was because they both knew they had a lot of time to make up for. In his case, nearly 700 years. They’d be in a room a long time making up for all the kisses they both felt they needed.

And they’d never get that long without the universe stepping in and interrupting, The Doctor thought. Wyn wasn’t the problem. For all he teased her. It was that damned universe out there that threw a spanner in the works every time.

And right on cue the universe hurled that spanner.

The TARDIS lurched violently. They were all thrown onto the floor. The lights went out. The console went dead. The room was plunged into darkness.

“Rose? Wyn?” The Doctor’s voice called out. Even Time Lords could not see in absolute darkness. And absolute darkness was what they had here. He reached out and found the edge of the console and lifted himself up from the ground before feeling in his pocket for his sonic screwdriver. Its blue light illuminated a few feet around him, just about enough for his retinas to process and allow him to see the shadowy outlines of the room. He saw Rose and Wyn helping each other up and he reached out to them both. They were trembling. He was not surprised. He felt a bit shaky himself. But he didn’t want them to know that.

“You ok,” he asked them.

“My wrist hurts,” Rose said. The Doctor took hold of it and felt carefully and said it was just a sprain. But he found the first aid kit and brought them to the sofa. Sitting down he thought he could manage not to betray how scared even he was.

“What’s happening?” Rose asked as he bandaged her wrist expertly just by feel. She hardly expected him to have an answer but she had to ask anyway.

“I don’t know,” The Doctor admitted to her. “I really do not know.”

Rose knew that he occasionally feigned ignorance to throw other people off guard. But this time he wasn’t doing that. He was utterly stumped and she, who knew the subtle nuances of his voice, could tell that it worried him more than he was trying to let on.

“Has this ever happened before?” Wyn asked.

“Not like this,” Rose said. “Not while I’ve been on board anyway.”

“No,” The Doctor added. “This has NEVER happened like this before. I didn’t think it COULD. The TARDIS doesn’t run on gas. The meter doesn’t run out.”

“Did we land before it happened or are we still in space?” Rose asked a key question.

“There wasn’t time to initiate a landing,” The Doctor said. “Everything just shut down in a split second. We’re dead in space.”

“Please don’t say dead,” Wyn said and she sounded frightened.

“Hey,” Rose said soothingly to her. “It’s ok. The Doctor will figure this out. He ALWAYS does.”

“Yeah, course I will,” he said brightly. “Don’t be scared. I’m the genius around here. I always have ideas.”

But Rose knew he was just saying that to keep their spirits up. If it was just the two of them he’d have admitted he was out of ideas. He wouldn’t have lied to her. She knew he thought more of her than to put on a front like that. He knew she would see through it if he did. But he wanted Wyn to feel he had an idea – a plan.

She reached in the dark and squeezed his hand. He knew what it meant. She had faith in him even if things did seem pretty desperate right now.

“Can we get some light,” Wyn asked. “Are there any torches or candles around?”

“We have both,” Rose said. “There are candles in a box in the kitchen and torches in the cupboard under the console.”

“I’ll get the torches,” The Doctor said heading to the console. “But let’s leave the candles where they are.”

“Why?” Rose asked and then she thought of a reason why and didn’t say anything else. But whether it was mention of the candles or she was bright enough to work it out, Wyn had come to her own realisation of the ultimate problem they faced.

“Doctor,” she said. “How long would the air last in here?”

“Long enough,” he answered. They heard him open a cupboard and then several clicks as if he was flicking a switch. “The torch doesn’t work.”

“We got any spare batteries?”

“Spare batteries aren’t the problem,” he said. “I think the power has been drained from everything on the ship.”

“My mobile is dead,” Wyn said. Rose felt in her pocket and reported that hers was too.

“Anything with a battery is affected.”

“The sonic screwdriver works.”

“It's sonic. Doesn’t have a battery.”

“I didn’t think the TARDIS did,” Rose watched The Doctor moving around the console room by the movement of the tiny blue light of the sonic screwdriver.

“The TARDIS has the Eye of Harmony,” he said. “I suppose technically that’s a battery.”

“It’s been drained?”

“The Eye of Harmony is a piece of a star. It’s not possible to drain it. It has a half life of a billion years. Whatever else has happened I don’t believe that. The power has somehow been cut, but it’s there somewhere.”

“It doesn’t feel like it,” Rose said. “There’s not even the slightest vibration. I never noticed till its not there, but the TARDIS ALWAYS had a faint vibration even parked by the bins. But not now. And there’s not a sound. And…”

“And it’s getting cold,” Wyn added.

“Yes,” The Doctor said in a matter of fact tone. “It is.” He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and used it to examine the main door for a long while. “We ARE in space. There’s nothing but hard vacuum out there. But I don’t think I could get the door open even if we were sitting in the middle of a cornfield in Hampshire. We’re sealed in.”

“Sealed in is good when there’s vacuum outside,” Rose said. If she strained her eyes she could just make out the console in the little light. It was dark, silent, the central column frozen, all of its usually glowing panels and buttons and screens blank and dead. That was frightening. For as long as she had been a traveller in the TARDIS the console’s green glow had been a comforting sight. Whether they were travelling or parked, it was always alive, the centre of their universe. Now it was dead. Stone dead.

Permanently? The thought made her heart sink to her shoes, not only because they were trapped in space in a box with limited air, even if The Doctor didn’t seem worried about that, but because it actually really did feel as if a FRIEND had just died on them. The TARDIS WAS more than circuits and metal. And it was dead. That saddened her more than their own situation. As desperate as it was.

The Doctor went to the inner door. He was not entirely surprised when that wouldn’t open either. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and ran it over the lock. There was a click and he opened it cautiously.

Beyond it was a black void. Not space, not vacuum, not anything. It was as if the rest of the TARDIS didn’t exist. Of course it wouldn’t, he thought. Most of the space within the TARDIS was maintained by use of a LOT of its power. Without that power, they collapsed. He was thankful that none of them were in any of those rooms when the power was lost. They would cease to exist along with the room. The only ‘real’ parts were this room and the Cloister room two floors below where the Eye of Harmony was. He firmly believed that was still there, but the connecting space wasn’t.

And he knew that didn’t make any kind of sense, but it was the truth, nonetheless. He closed the door again and groped his way to the console.

“Rose,” The Doctor called to her. “Come here a minute and hold this.” She left Wyn’s side and came to where he was kneeling by the side of the console with a floor panel open. She knelt beside him, but he didn’t have anything for her to hold. Instead, he held her. “We’re in trouble. I need you to know that,” he whispered. “I don’t want to scare Wyn, but we have no food, no water, and we WILL run out of air. And it IS getting colder too. If I can’t figure it out, we’re dead, Rose. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s happened. It looks…. It looks as if the TARDIS is dead. And… and she’ll take us with her.”

Rose made a small, almost imperceptible sound that could have been a sob. The Doctor touched her cheek gently.

“I’m sorry.”

“We’re together,” she told him. “If I have to die, at least I’m with you.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what I think, too. Wish Wyn wasn’t here though. She didn’t sign up for this. If it was just me and you…” He hugged her close for a long moment then he told her to go back to Wyn. She did so. He looked at the wires inside the access panel. There was nothing he could do with them. He’d achieved miracles by re-routing their power in various ways. But now no power ran through them.

“Doctor!” He heard Wyn speak in the darkness. “Please come back here to us. I hate not being able to see you. And if there’s nothing you can do, you might as well come sit with us.”

She was right. He closed the panel and stood up. He crossed the floor and sat beside Rose. She leaned against him and he closed his arms around her. He felt Wyn beside them. “Come here,” he said and put one arm about her. The universe had suddenly become a much smaller place, consisting of the three of them. A cold, dark, frightening universe, but at least they had each other.

They didn’t talk much. All the thoughts each of them had were too frightening to put into words. They just held onto each other.

“Doctor,” Wyn said after the silence had stretched into an hour. “Is it my fault?”

“Is what your fault?”

“This. Did I do something? Did me being here cause a… What’s the word for it…. Begins with a p….”

“Paradox,” Rose said. “This doesn’t feel like one of those. Usually they’re more interesting. And there are other people about. Or usually other versions of him.”

“We don’t need any more people here,” Wyn said. “Let’s keep what air we’ve got.”

“It’s not a paradox,” The Doctor said. “And no, it’s not your fault.”

“Is it ours?” Rose asked. “Should we have been keeping our eyes on something instead of on each other?”

“Wasn’t your eyes you had on each other when I looked,” Wyn said. “There was some serious lip suction going on and his hands were…”

“My hands were doing nothing I need be ashamed of,” The Doctor said. “And Rose and I are formally betrothed by contract and by consent. The ‘lip suction’ is permitted.”

“Wasn’t it a contractual requirement,” Rose giggled, forgetting for a few seconds the trouble they were in.

“No, I left that out,” The Doctor said, trying to keep the light mood going. “You’re mum was uppity about it already. If I’d written in a snogging clause she’d have flipped. Consider the minimum daily snog level a verbal agreement. And bear in mind verbal agreements are legal under Gallifreyan law.”

“We’re not on Gallifrey though.”

“You’re on a Gallifreyan ship with somebody who is not only a qualified Gallifreyan lawyer but also a member of its diplomatic corps. Consider this a roving Gallifreyan consulate. Gallifreyan territory.”

“Gallifreyan ships are rubbish,” Wyn said. “If they break down this easily.”

“They DON’T break down this easily,” The Doctor answered. “This is the first time in about 800 years.”

“So it’s OLD and decrepit and just fell apart.”

“How long can a TARDIS keep going for?” Rose asked.

“I don’t think anyone knows. Most people had traded in Type 40s when I left Gallifrey. This was always the oldest one going around. I doubt a TARDIS has ever been tested to destruction.”

“Until now?”

“Let’s not go there.”

“Well, doesn’t anyone else… other Time Lords…. With other TARDISes… don’t they know?”

There was an awkward silence. Wyn sensed that something in what she had said was wrong.

“There aren’t any other TARDISes,” The Doctor said finally. There aren’t any other Time Lords. I’m the last Time Lord. This is the last TARDIS. It’s not just the Gallifreyan consulate. It IS the last piece of Gallifrey left. And yes, it is a rather pathetic remnant. And maybe I am, too. But we’ve kept on going ok – up till now.”

“But the TARDIS COULD just have given up from old age,” Wyn said. “Just like… died.”

“Yes,” The Doctor admitted. “It could.”

“Then we’re going to die with it,” she said.

“No, we’re not.” The Doctor assured her.

“Doctor… I may hate science, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about it. I asked you about the air. You said we have enough. But you lied.”

“No he didn’t,” Rose protested.

“Yes, he DID.” Wyn insisted. “At least he didn’t tell the whole truth. Because YOU must know, Doctor, that it’s not lack of air in an enclosed space that kills people. It’s build up of Carbon Monoxide. It forms when there isn’t enough oxygen in the air to form Carbon Dioxide – the stuff we normally breathe out from our bodies.” She felt that they were both looking surprised at her knowledge. “I come from a village full of old coal miners. We know about this stuff. And I’m right, aren’t I.”

“You’re right, Wyn.” The Doctor admitted. “All the time I’ve lived aboard the TARDIS, all the people who were ever with me, we ALL took heat, light, water, food, air for granted even in deep space. Nobody ever wondered how the Carbon Dioxide scrubbers worked – or if we even had any.”

“Do we?”

“They’re under the console. But they’re not working either.”

“So how long do we have?” Rose asked.

“If the TARDIS really has died on us, completely, never to work again,” The Doctor said slowly. “IF that’s what’s happened, then we have about twelve hours before the levels get so high that unconsciousness and death would result.”

“That’s….” Rose swallowed hard. “That’s not so bad.”

“Not so bad?” Wyn sounded astonished.

“It’s… it’s a gentle kind of death. Just go unconscious and die without knowing it. Better than freezing or starving over days of pain and misery. It’ll be over quickly. Twelve hours…. Better than twelve days.”

The Doctor felt her body shudder as she held back from crying. He pulled his arms tighter around her waist and kissed her gently on the cheek. She was right. Of the ways they could die here, the CO build up was the kindest, if it happened that way, if they did just slip into quiet comas, it could be much worse - although he was aware that there were other symptoms that were less pleasant.

He adjusted the sonic screwdriver and read the CO levels. 60 parts per million. 50 ppm was the safety level NASA worked to in their space programme. It was already going up. At 200 parts Humans would experience slight headaches. At 400 they would have severe, distracting frontal headaches. At 800 they would have migraines, nausea, dizzy spells, convulsions, hallucinations. And if they were not given direct oxygen at that point they would pass out. Slowly after that their brains would die, their hearts and other organs would fail, and death, gently, yes, painless, yes, but inevitably, would come.

And for him… for the last Time Lord…

The same, but it would take him longer. He could recycle his own air within his body for a while. He could process the CO within his system and prevent it poisoning him. He was doing it now. The reason it was twelve hours, and not eight, was that actually, only two people, not three, were breathing the air.

But he couldn’t do it indefinitely. Eventually it would kill him, too.

But not till after Rose and Wyn were dead.

No, he thought. If that was what he had to face, he wouldn’t let himself live a moment longer than they did. He didn’t want to sit here alone, waiting for death to claim him too. He’d make it quick and simple if it came to that.

“Doctor,” He heard Wyn’s voice as if from afar.

“Yes?” he answered her.

“Don’t cry. Men aren’t supposed to cry.”

“Whoever told you that was a bloody liar,” he said. He hadn’t even realised he WAS crying. “But…. If we’re conserving oxygen it’s not a good idea anyway. We should try to keep calm and quiet.” He steadied his hearts and lungs and stopped crying. It was a discipline he had learnt as a child. Stopping himself from crying when he felt he wanted to cry saved him from another kick in the ribs from the bullies who hated a half blood. They kicked him until he cried, then kicked him more BECAUSE he cried – because only half bloods DID.

He felt as if he’d been kicked now. But this time by his best friend – the TARDIS. He couldn’t believe SHE would do this to him. If a breakdown was imminent, such a terminal one as this, WHY hadn’t she initiated a landing, got them somewhere safe first.

That was illogical. As much as the TARDIS was intelligent, as much as it was psychically in tune with his wants and needs, it wasn’t, never was, SENTIENT. It couldn’t tell him it was sick. It couldn’t tell him it didn’t have it in itself to take them on one more journey. And it couldn’t get them to safety before it died. It WAS an it, not a she. That was the truth of it.

No, The Doctor argued back. As illogical as it was, the TARDIS was a she, was a great lady, a brave and a strong lady at that, who he had put his faith and trust in like…

Like a mother. That’s what the TARDIS was to him. He was six years old when his mother died. Through a miserable childhood and adolescence that lasted until he was 180 years old he missed that kind of love most boys took for granted. Then he got the TARDIS – this TARDIS. Type 40s weren’t exactly the elite models. They were ok for students to get around the universe in. Later, friends used to laugh at him for never trading it in for a bigger, better, newer model. He was 450 and still using his training TARDIS. It was like a Human of 45 who still went to work in the beat up mini he had at university.

But they never understood. Maybe it was because he’d had it so long. Maybe it was because he was a daft, sentimental half-blood who got too emotionally involved with everything. How DID he ever come first in Emotional Detachment class? If he didn’t know himself better he’d swear he cheated. Whatever it was, his TARDIS was far MORE sentient than it was ever meant to be. He was far more in tune with it than any other Time Lord who regarded their TARDIS as a mere vehicle. It HAD become his surrogate parent, giving back the love he gave to it.

And now it was dead he really did mourn its passing as much as he raged against the horrible irony that he, too, was dying with it.

Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, he thought. If it wasn’t for…

For Rose. And the dream they shared of a sweet, long life together. He mourned for the grey eyed babies he longed to have with her.

For Wyn. He thought of Jo and the pain this meant to her. The terrible let down. After all these years she’d thought of him as a hero who could fix everything, and he couldn’t get her little girl home safe to her.

For Susan and his great-grandchildren. His family. He longed to see them one more time, to say goodbye.

Goodbye? They all needed that.

“Rose,” he said. “Give me your mobile a minute.” She didn’t ask why. He felt her press it into his hand. He opened the back and applied the sonic screwdriver to the battery. It was a bad thing to do. Sonic energy was very different even to the souped up battery that powered her intergalactic mobile. He hoped he could give it a ten minute charge at least without blowing the circuits. He gave it back to her and she gasped as the LED screen came on.

“Call your mum,” he told her. “Don’t tell her we’re in trouble. Don’t worry her. But… just… just talk to her for a few minutes. In case…”

“In case it’s the last time?”


Rose did so. She didn’t know how she kept her voice steady. Just hearing her mum on the other end made her want to cry. But the few minutes of silly small talk about what her mate Shireen had said to Jackie the other day was nice. She knew the battery couldn’t hold out for long though, and she said goodbye and ended the call. She didn’t need to be told what to do next. She gave it to Wyn and told her to do the same. Wyn, too, found a strength from within and sounded cheery as she asked her mum how everyone was and told her she’d be home when she was ready, and she was enjoying seeing new stuff with The Doctor and that she LOVED her. Her voice nearly went when she said that. But maybe Jo would just put that down to a little homesickness.

Rose and Wyn hugged each other for comfort as the mobile battery faded out, severing that temporary link with home and normality. The Doctor sat forward with his hands on his temples and he put up the strongest mental wall he could build before he contacted the twins.

“Hello boys,” he said cheerfully. “You ok? Yes. I’m fine. I’m kind of busy here, but I just wanted to tell you… that I love you. All of you. Chris, Davie, I love you. And Sukie, my little love. I can feel her, too. But she’s too little to understand. Boys, give her a hug from me, will you. And your mum. Can you…. hug your mum and tell her from me I love her, always have loved her. And for every wrong I’ve done her, I am sorry. Tell her that, won’t you.” The boys were sharper than Jackie or Jo, or maybe it was because it was harder to hide his emotions mentally than on a mobile phone. They knew something was wrong, and they sounded upset when they answered him, but he brushed away their questions. “Just do that,” he said. “And remember that I love you always.” He cut the connection. He sighed deeply.

“Do we have any aspirin?” Wyn asked.

“Don’t keep aspirin in the TARDIS,” The Doctor replied absently. “Its poison to Time Lords. Body can’t process it.” Then he thought about her question on a Human level. “Why?”

“I’ve got a bit of a headache,” Wyn told him.

“Me too,” Rose said. “There’s paracetamol in the first aid kit,” she added. “But we’ve no water to take them with.”

“I’ve got half a bottle of flat coke here,” Wyn said and they heard the sound of rummaging in her pockets. “Three days old.”

“Flat is better,” The Doctor said. “Take small sips, and it will quench your thirst better than fizzy stuff.” Almost as if to confirm the inevitable, he checked the CO level. 210ppm, he noted. The minor headaches were right on cue. Another couple of hours and it would be heavy migraines.

“Do you want some?” Wyn asked him, holding out the bottle to him.

“I’m ok,” he said. “Time Lords are actually quite well adapted to deprivation. We can do without food and water for a good few days without harm.”

“So can people, can’t they?” Wyn said.

“About four days,” The Doctor said.

“Not our problem then.”


“Tell you what is,” Wyn said. “And if you tell me Time Lords have this covered too I’ll punch your nose in… and I know its not going to kill us, but if I’m going to die in a couple of hours, I really don’t want to do it bursting for the loo.”

The Doctor suppressed a laugh. Wyn was right. While hardly life threatening it WAS a problem. For the girls at least. He wasn’t going to risk the abuse to his face by admitting that his race DID have that one covered as well. After all, they had wedding ceremonies that lasted twelve hours and purification rituals involving as much as three days in meditation.

“To the right of the cabin bed,” he said. “Kick the panel there. There’s a bunch of cleaning stuff. You’ll find a bucket. Take it to the far end of the room first, if you please.” He gave her the sonic screwdriver to see by.

When Wyn was done Rose also needed the ‘facility’. The sound effects from the far end of the console room for a few minutes were ones nobody really wanted to think about. But when it was over they all felt better for it. On her way back, Rose picked up the blankets from the cabin bed and brought them to the sofa. It WAS much colder than before. She wondered how much colder it might get. Would it get too cold before the air ran out?

She had meant what she said about dying this way being better than any of the other things – starvation, cold, thirst. It sounded a warm, fuzzy kind of death. And it did give her a great deal of comfort to be with The Doctor. She loved him more than she ever loved anyone in her life, and if this was it, well it would be nice to die cuddled up close, the smell of leather and lambswool, the warmth of his body, the sound of his two hearts next to her.

Regrets? Yes. Of course. She had been engaged to him for seven months in real time. But so much of it had been spent saving bits of the universe she hardly had time to get used to the idea. He was a Time Lord. Eternity should be theirs. Now they had only a few hours.

One thing she would never regret was being there in the first place. For all the danger they had faced together, all the heart stopping, horrible moments, all the times when they had faced death square in the face, she didn’t regret stepping on board the TARDIS, leaving the safe, ordinary life.

Who could say she would have lived any longer if she’d stayed home, anyway? At least one of the things she’d missed in that year she was away the first time she went with The Doctor was terrorist bombs on the underground. And there were plenty of ordinary, everyday ways to die, too. She remembered a girl in her class at school who stepped off the pavement at the wrong time and the next day they were having a special memorial assembly with everybody crying.

Nobody would have a memorial for her. They’d never know. Was that good or bad? It was what her mum had feared the most about her taking up this strange life. Never knowing if she would be home or not. But The Doctor was right before. Hearing her voice was what she needed. Telling her what was happening would have hurt and distressed her. Better she didn’t know.

It was like 9/11 - the people in those aeroplanes. Knowing the terrorists intended to kill them all. Knowing there was no hope, no escape. And all they could do was phone their loved ones and say goodbye.

She remembered thinking about it at the time. Wondering how anyone could manage, living through those last minutes, knowing there was no hope, and this was it. What went through their heads? What did you think of at a time like that?

Now she knew.

Funny, but she wasn’t frightened. She was sad. But not frightened as such. She didn’t want to die. But if she must – if it was now, today – then in a strange way, she was ready.

She just didn’t want to die with such a horrible headache as she had just now.


Wyn WAS frightened. She was trying not to show it. Whatever The Doctor said about men not crying, it just wasn’t cool. After all, she’d grown up with three brothers. Even if she had cried, she’d have got no sympathy from them. And she wasn’t going to cry now. Not in front of Rose, not in front of The Doctor.

Especially not in front of them. Rose, who was so cool, so pretty and so clever, who could actually DRIVE the TARDIS, who could do all those martial arts and sword fight and all sorts of cool stuff, would think she was a total dork if she started crying now. And as for The Doctor…

As for The Doctor. He was just about the only person who had ever really had faith in her. He stuck up for her in front of her brothers. He had been mad at her for sneaking aboard. He had given her the biggest telling off she’d had in years. But that was only because he REALLY cared. If he didn’t, he’d just have taken her back to her mum and left it at that. And ever since, although he had made jokes all the time about not wanting her there, she knew he did really. She knew he cared. And that was nice. And she thought he respected her. He praised her when she got things right in the dojo. And he was patient when she got it wrong. The best teacher she’d ever had.

No. She didn’t want to break down in front of him. She wanted him to know she was as tough as Rose was, as HE was. When he had cried, that had been unnerving. She didn’t expect that. She wondered still if that was real. Was he just putting it on to make her and Rose think it was ok to be scared? That was such a decent thing to do. But there was no need on her part.

Besides, could it really be true? The Doctor ALWAYS had a way out. She might have stopped listening to her mother’s stories about him when she was twelve. But that didn’t mean she didn’t remember. There was never a tight situation that he didn’t figure something out. He saved whole planets. Surely he could save them.

She closed her eyes. That felt better. The blue light from the sonic screwdriver was making her headache so much worse. Maybe if she could sleep a little while, everything would be ok when she woke up.

“Doctor,” Rose said weakly. “I don’t feel so good.”

“Headache?” he asked and his hand touching her forehead felt cool and soothing.

“Bad one,” she said. “That means things are getting worse, doesn’t it.”

“Yes,” he said. “Sorry. I wish I could say differently. Wyn? Are you ok, Wyn?” When she didn’t reply he reached out to her. “Wyn, wake up. Don’t sleep yet. Try to stay alert.”

“Leave her be,” Rose told him. “If she’s asleep, it’ll be easier on her. Let her go quietly.”

“Not yet,” he insisted. “Wyn, please, hang in there.” He lifted the girl from the sofa. “Rose, hold this.” He thrust the sonic screwdriver at her and she held it up. “She’s in a faint.” He laughed. “Poor kid. She’d hate to hear me say that. She tries so hard to be tough and tomboyish. Faint is such a girlish word.”

“She’s still a girl,” Rose told him.

“Yes.” He took a breath - his first in at least twenty minutes. He concentrated hard and then he put his mouth over Wyn’s and blew oxygen into her lungs. He raised his head and turned away to expel the CO from his own body and took a fresh breath before closing his airways in order to recycle the new air around his body. He looked at Wyn. She was starting to come around. The breath of pure oxygen revived her. “That’s better,” he said. Then he looked around at Rose. Her eyes seemed as dilated as Wyn’s did when she was in the faint. Classic signs of hallucination caused by hypoxia.

“You love her better than me,” she said in a strange, hoarse voice that did not seem like hers. “You want her with you instead of me. You hope I’ll die first…”

“Rose….” The Doctor sighed. “Delusions, hallucinations are part of the symptoms.” He laid Wyn back gently on the sofa and turned to his fiancée. “Come on, Rose.” He pulled her close to him and kissed her and breathed the pure oxygen out of his lungs and into hers. Rose came out of her hallucination and gasped in surprise to find him kissing her. But that was the second time he had given the oxygen from his own lungs to somebody else while holding CO in his own body and his blood had absorbed too much of it. When he stepped back he swayed dizzily and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead as he fought back nausea.

“Doctor!” Rose screamed as he slipped down onto his knees. She reached out to him and he clung to her as he fought for enough breath to recover his equilibrium.

“THAT did it,” Wyn suddenly screamed and they felt her run past them. Somehow she made it as far as the console without tripping over anything but then they heard the sound of breaking glass as she smashed her fist down on a data screen. “THIS DID IT! IT DIDN’T WANT ME HERE. IT WANTED ME DEAD.”

The Doctor caught up with her and dragged her away, holding her lacerated hand carefully. They were making good use of the first aid kit today, he noted as he got her back to the sofa. As the hallucination passed she sobbed quietly. The Doctor did his best in the imperfect light to ensure there was no glass left in the cuts before he bandaged her hand. Then he reached and touched her forehead gently. He radiated calming thoughts into her mind and she slowly stopped sobbing and fell into a gentle sleep.

“That’s better,” The Doctor said. “Normal sleep, not a faint, not a coma.” He looked at Rose. “You should try it too. Sleep a little while.”

“No,” she said. “Not yet. I don’t want…. I don’t want to not wake up. Let me be with you a little while longer.” She put her arms around his neck and he reached and held her. He put his hand around the back of her head and drew her near to kiss her gently. “That’s nice,” she murmured. “Kissing, warm, nice kisses.”

“Yes,” he said. Though his hearts were burning with sorrow as he held her. She was slowly slipping away from him. He could feel it. “Rose, I love you,” he said and kissed her again. One long, sweet kiss. If it was to be their last, he wanted it to be a good one. “Sleep in peace, my love,” he said, as she closed her eyes. He laid her down gently on the sofa beside Wyn and put the blankets around them both, although it was not cold now. The lack of oxygen and the build up of CO made the room stuffy and close rather. He kissed her again on her now unresponsive lips and slowly slid down on the floor beside her.

He put his head in his hands and cried quietly now that he didn’t have to seem brave for either of them. He looked at the LED display on the sonic screwdriver. 780ppm. At eight hundred the permanent brain damage, liver and kidney failure began to be an issue. It wouldn’t be long now for them.

He reached out and brushed Rose’s cheek. She didn’t respond. She was asleep. She would never wake up. She had maybe an hour left, Wyn too. At least it would be a peaceful hour. They should feel no pain.

Even so, he wondered. If death was inevitable, why prolong it? Why not end it now, for them both – then for himself? It would be so easy. His hand over their faces, cutting off even the limited air supply they had, painless and easy. For himself, there WAS a packet of aspirin in the first aid kit. Rose had bought them once in a small shop that hadn’t any other alternatives. He would be dead in minutes if he let his body absorb the poison.

No, he thought. He couldn’t do it. Not for them, not for himself.

Because life was always better than death. Because life was always worth fighting for, till the very last moment, and then beyond that moment. Because Life was something he had always fought for and WOULD always fight for to the bitter end. However near that end was.

He wished, though, dearly wished, that he could die first. He didn’t want to be left alone. He had been alone most of his life. But he didn’t want to be alone in his last moments.

He reached for the first aid kit and found the foil blister pack that was loose in the bottom of it. They were four innocent looking round pills, a mild analgesic for Humans, but by some quirk of biology a deadly poison to him. He pressed them out of the foil and held them in his hand. He put them to his lips, his hand shaking suddenly, his mouth horribly dry as if the tears falling from his eyes were the only moisture left in him.

He closed his hand around the pills and folded his arms over his knees. He sobbed and cursed himself for being so weak-willed he couldn’t even swallow four tablets. He tried again. He put one in his mouth, but he couldn’t swallow. His throat felt so constricted. He spat it out again. Slowly he opened his hand and let the other pills drop. He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands and waited for the inevitable.


The vibration began just a fraction of a moment before the lights came on. For a moment he didn’t realise what was happening. He opened his eyes and looked up as the console began to light up. The central column moved slowly upwards with only a slight groan of complaint. And as if to prove that everything was ok now he felt the room fill with cool, fresh air.

He climbed slowly to his feet and made it to the navigation console. He brought up a schematic of the space sector they were in as the viewscreen came to life showing the starfield slowly revolving around them.

“Well….” he whispered hoarsely as he looked at the starmap in front of him. “So… that’s what it was all about.”

“Doctor?” He looked round as he heard Rose’s voice. She sat up and looked around her. “Are we…” She breathed deeply. “Everything’s ok?”

“Yes,” he said. He held out his hand and she stood and came to him. He hugged her around the waist as he pressed buttons joyfully on his familiar console.

“What happened? Why did we lose power if… if the TARDIS WASN’T dead.”

“We ran into a null point phenomena.”

“Er… isn’t that Norway in the Eurovision?”

The Doctor laughed. It was good to have enough air in his lungs to DO that.

“Quite possibly,” he said. “But it’s also a very rare hazard of space travel. So rare this is the first time I’ve ever come into contact with one in 800 years of TARDIS travel.” He moved his hand over the viewscreen controls and zoomed the picture in on what seemed to be a perfectly ordinary starfield apart from one dark patch that seemed not to be merely the vacuum of space but even emptier than that. “It’s a sort of dead space, like a black hole, but even weirder. Nobody is even sure HOW they happen. Black holes are the result of supernovas. I know a fair bit about those. But NPP’s are mysteries. What IS known is what they do if you get too close.”

“They kill power?” Rose guessed.


“Even in a TARDIS.”

“Even in a TARDIS. Which is NEWS to me. I thought we were pretty much invulnerable. Magnetic fields, radiation, sonic pulses, transmats, we’re supposed to be protected from them all. Hang on.” He turned some more knobs and on the viewscreen a small object flew out from the TARDIS and arced gently before going into a wide orbit around the black void in space. “Warning beacon. Just outside its field of influence. Nobody else will go through what we just did. I hope not. anyway. Any ordinary spacecraft would be doomed. At least this old girl knew how to switch herself back on.” He patted the console tenderly. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I should never have doubted you, should have known you wouldn’t let me down.”

He looked around. “Wyn? Is she awake yet?”

“No. But she’ll be ok, won’t she? I feel ok now. Surely she just needs to sleep.”

“CO poisoning….” The Doctor crossed the room in a few quick strides and knelt by the sofa, lifting Wyn gently. His hearts sank. She was alive. He could feel a pulse, slight as it was. But her lips were blue and though there was enough air now she seemed not to be getting enough of it. He put her flat onto the floor and took a deep breath before beginning CPR. Rose knelt beside him praying that she would be all right.

“Drastic way to get a snog, Wyn, love,” he said with a smile as he sat up at last. He brushed her cheek gently. The blueness had gone and she looked like she was coming out of a gentle sleep. She opened her eyes and looked up at him. “Welcome back.”

“We’re alive?” she asked.

“We’re alive. But it was a close one. Another few minutes….”

Rose looked down at the floor and picked up one of the small white pills that had been dropped there. Aspirin? She looked at The Doctor. He caught the expression on her face and she saw just the tiniest flicker of acknowledgement in the blink of his eyes, a slight twitch in his facial muscles, the briefest intake of breath, that told her he knew that she knew what he had come close to doing. And that she would never mention it.

Wyn sat up and hugged The Doctor. “You did it,” she said. “I knew you would.”

“The TARDIS did it,” he said. “I should have known SHE wouldn’t let us down. She was in trouble for a while, but she got her act together.”

“Are we going to carry on where we were going now?” Wyn asked. “To that planet you were telling us about, with the volcanoes?”

“Eventually,” The Doctor said. “But I’m going to take a detour to my granddaughter’s house first. I think she’s going to be worried about me.”

“Mum will be worried about me,” Rose said. “And Wyn’s mum.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But Susan can’t order me to stay home when she finds out what happened. Either of you want to take the chance if we head to your mums?” Rose and Wyn looked at each other and grimaced as they both imagined very similar conversations that would not have very good outcomes. “See what I mean? Let’s touch base and make sure everyone knows we’re alive and well first and then we’ll head out in time and space again the way we ALL want to be.”