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

Wyn looked around at the carport where the TARDIS had neatly parked itself. Bicycle spares and gardening equipment lined the walls. The normality of it astounded her.

"This is the 23rd century?"

"Yep. Summer, 2210, and a lovely summer it is. David's roses will be coming out beautifully."

"But it's so ORDINARY," she complained. "How can YOUR relatives live in a house like this?"

Rose giggled.

"For a moment there I thought Lloyd Grossman was going to turn up and do Through The Keyhole."

The Doctor laughed. Wyn blushed and protested at being teased.

"Well it IS so ordinary," she said.

"What do you expect?" Rose asked her. "Some kind of space age habitat?"

"Actually, from what Dad was always saying about global warming and the environment, I thought by now people would be floating in boats with UV-ray shields. I knew he was worrying about nothing."

"No," The Doctor told her. "Your Dad is right. It's because people like him started to reverse the damage in your day that London is still here two hundred years later. Humanity got it right just in the nick of time. As for this house - Susan likes 'normality' and 'domestic'. This is the life she chose rather than endless wandering around the universe with me."

"I'd rather be wandering the universe."

"That's because you haven't done it since you were four years old. This was a better way of life for Susan. I don't blame her for taking it."

Rose said nothing. For her the one attraction of wandering the universe was HIM. When The Doctor decided he was tired of it and wanted a house with carport for the TARDIS she'd be ready to give it up, too.

They stepped out into the bright sunshine of the back garden. The family were all there. David and Susan were sitting on sun loungers reading and enjoying the safe sunshine that they had in the 23rd century with the ozone layer repaired and providing protection. The boys were teaching Sukie how to use a climbing frame and slide apparatus that had been erected for her enjoyment. The Doctor stood and smiled as he watched his great-grandchildren at play. They hadn't yet noticed his arrival.

Sukie noticed him first. She slid from the top to the bottom of the slide and ran towards him. He lifted her up in his arms and hugged her. The youngest of his clan, and the one with the strangest physiology of them all, the hybrid with one heart and red human blood, yet the telepathic ability of a Time Lord. He felt her telepathic waves now. They were loud and excited, overwhelming his mind.

"Quiet, my little love," he said to her. "Quiet now." He put his hand on her forehead and radiated calming, soothing thoughts. The pressure on his brain eased. "That's better. You have to learn not to shout so loud."

Wyn watched him with the child and wondered about that one-sided conversation. It seemed odd to her. The child hadn't spoken a word.

The boys came and hugged him as well and then Susan fought her way through the children and embraced him fondly. The boys turned their attention to Rose. They loved her as much as they loved their great-grandfather and regaled her with their latest news while his attention was elsewhere.

"I have been worried about you," Susan told The Doctor. "The boys said there was a problem with the TARDIS."

"Sorted now," he said. And that's all he said. She looked at him suspiciously, but he didn't seem prepared to tell her anything more.

"Come and sit down," she said and with Sukie still claiming his central attention he sat at the shaded garden table. Rose sat at his side. Wyn hung back, suddenly shy and aware that she was something of the cuckoo in this family nest. But The Doctor reached for her hand and sat her on his other side. Before he did anything else he introduced her to Susan and the boys.

"It's nice to think that you are the second generation of Grandfather's friends to travel with him," Susan said to her. "He needs his roots as much as any of us, even if he doesn't admit it."

"Weird you calling him grandfather," Wyn said, taking to Susan at once. She reminded her of her mum. She wondered if The Doctor had thought that, too. Was that why he had been so fond of her mum? "He doesn't look like a grandfather."

"I feel like one," he admitted. "I feel SO old. Especially with a little one like this on my knee." He kissed Sukie's forehead. The child smiled at him. "You're still not talking to me, Sukie?"

"She doesn't talk to anyone," Susan sighed as she poured iced lemonade for everyone. "She doesn't seem to want to."

"She talks to us," Chris said.

"Only telepathically," Susan reminded them, as if this was something of an old problem.

"The kid can talk telepathically, but not in words?" Wyn asked.

"Yes," The Doctor hugged the child closer. "She's not backwards, Susan. There's nothing wrong with her. Her telepathy is already advanced to the stage that the boys were at when they were eight. And her intelligence is far above normal Humans."

"But the boys talked by the time they were two. She's three and two months now."

"There's nothing wrong with her," The Doctor insisted. To be certain he took out the sonic screwdriver and used it to analyse her brain patterns and her vocal chords. He found no physical or mental cause of her reluctance to talk.

"Handy having a Doctor in the family," David said as he sat with them and took Sukie onto his knee. "I must say I've been a bit worried. But you think there's nothing to be concerned about?"

"There IS cause for concern," The Doctor said. "But it's not a problem we can't solve. I think the boys have to stop talking to her telepathically and talk to her in words more often. I think THAT'S why she doesn't use her voice. It's EASIER when you're a natural telepath to simply pass your thoughts and ideas to another telepath. They've been communicating with her that way as long as she can remember - maybe even earlier. It's possible they picked up her latent telepathic waves even when she was a baby."

"We're teaching her the way you taught us," Davie said, alarmed that their sister's problems seemed to be their fault. "And YOU said you learnt telepathically from the age she is. You told us. You said we were OLD to start our education at 8."

"You know more than I do now and you're not even 12," The Doctor answered with a wry smile. "So I was wrong about that. But when I was three, people talked to me normally as well. I learnt to talk just like you."

"WHAT have you been teaching her?" Susan asked the boys. This was clearly the first she'd heard of it, and The Doctor could see from her face she was not happy about it.

"The stuff granddad teaches us," Chris answered. "History and science and stuff."

"No!" Susan protested. "Let her be a baby for a little while before she has to be a genius. I want her to enjoy playing on the slide not analysing the angle of descent."

"I think we should be grateful they ARE giving her something to stimulate her mind," The Doctor said. "It's the only thing stopping her telepathy from frying all our brains. Sukie is a super-telepath. Very rare. Mental abilities; telepathy, telekenesis, remote projection will be as easy and as natural to her as breathing once she's learnt to control it for herself. She's unique. A hybrid super-telepath."

"Wow!" Rose remembered the first time he had told them Sukie was a hybrid. He had mentioned that on Gallifrey they considered hybrids as handicapped, the way people on Earth would regard somebody who was deaf or blind. Only on Earth people were KIND to the deaf and blind. On Gallifrey they treated hybrids as the dregs of their society.

"They wouldn't know what to do with her on Gallifrey," The Doctor said, and Rose wondered if he had been listening to her thoughts. "Whether to reject her for being a half-blood or praise her for being a greater telepath than any of us."

"They'd call her an abomination, Grandfather," Susan told him sadly. "And so would people on Earth if they knew. She's my little girl. She's beautiful and I love her. And I don't want her treated as a freak."

"Gallifrey sounds a right nasty place," Wyn said. "Picking on a little kid."

"Our ideas about eugenics left a lot to be desired," The Doctor said. "But mostly it was all right. It was home. Friends, family."

Susan put her hand over his. The sunshine seemed suddenly cold as they both thought sadly of the home they had lost. It was a grief they shared, the last two people alive who were born on Gallifrey. David and Rose looked at each other. They had something in common too, as the people who loved them and tried to ease the pain of their loss.

"I've put my foot in it, haven't I," Wyn said. "Me and my big mouth."

"It's ok, Wyn," The Doctor told her. "It's not a taboo subject. It's a painful subject, but it's not one either of us seek to avoid. We're both proud to come from Gallifrey, for all of its faults. It's where our roots are. Roots are important."

"That's what I told Susan when I asked her to marry me and put down new roots here on Earth," David said.

"Yes, because then I thought we could never go back to Gallifrey," Susan told him. "But you HAVE been back, haven't you, Grandfather?"

"Couple of times," he said. "They lifted the Banishment. Forgave me my sins against them."

"Forgave you!" Susan laughed bitterly. "They should have gone down on their knees and asked for YOUR forgiveness for what they did to you."

"I agree," Rose said. "They treated you rotten all along."

"It's all in the past," The Doctor said. "Gallifrey lives only in my memory, and Susan's. Our race lives on, through the children." He looked at Sukie as she sat on her father's knee, eyes bright and alert and looking as if she was taking in every word said around her. The Doctor looked closer, reaching into her mind. She WAS taking it in, he noted. She may only be three years old, and she may not talk, but behind that silence was a keen mind that was learning everything. And if she was reading their minds, too, she had learnt some disquieting things about what her own ancestors thought of her.

"Sukie is a part of that legacy, too," he insisted. "She IS a special child. She needs all that ability trained and honed. It's the only way to protect her. She needs to know her limits - if she even has any. And she needs to control her abilities. She mustn't stand out as a freak. And she mustn't come to the attention of those, even on Earth, who would see her as a wonder of science and not a wonderful little girl who we ALL love."

He felt and understood Susan's worst fear clearly. She thought Sukie might be taken from her by those who might want to use her abilities for scientific or political ends.

That worry was partly his fault, he realised. When they lived in the London of the 1960s, when Earth was in the midst of what it called the Cold War, he had given Susan dire warnings about showing off her own limited psychic powers. He told her how governments might fight to possess somebody like her as a weapon against their enemies. And he was not just being paranoid. There WAS a very real danger. There still was. There was no Cold War now, but Earth scientists had always been fascinated by Extra-Sensory Perception and the uses that could be made of it. There were worse things they could use Sukie for than spying on Moscow.

"Who will train her?" Susan asked. "I couldn't cope with the boys. They overwhelmed me as soon as they started to develop their skills. I can't train a… a super-telepath."

"I will, of course," The Doctor assured her. "The same way I trained the boys."

"You are NOT taking her away with you the way you take them," Susan told him firmly. "Nobody takes my baby from me, not even YOU, Grandfather. I absolutely won't have it. She doesn't set foot in the TARDIS without ME with her."

"No," he conceded, knowing that Susan was serious about that. She and David had both resented his influence over the boys to a certain extent. She wanted her daughter to belong to her alone. "No, I won't do that. If you can put up with us cluttering up the place for a few days I'll get her started, then the lessons can continue by remote when I move on. The boys can help. But they have to be careful what they teach her. I know I had already started on advanced sciences and the history of Gallifrey by the time I was her age. I also know I had screaming nightmares about some of the things I learnt. And I know that I hated every bit of it. I was happiest playing in the garden like any child, or listening to my mother tell me stories and sing old Earth songs to me. I'm not going to overload her with things even adults have trouble with. I'll train her in telepathy; teach her to communicate without giving everyone a headache; work up her telekinetic skills. And the boys can teach her poetry, music, art. Fill her mind with gentle things that won't disturb her."

Susan agreed to that plan. David knew it would be no use him objecting. His family was not an ordinary one. His children were the future of the Time Lord race. He had given up even hoping they COULD be normal.

He was proud, in a way. His sons were, The Doctor said, brilliant even by Gallifreyan standards. His daughter was a phenomenon in her own right.

"Well," he said. "You've got a perfect opportunity to spend time with Sukie tonight, Doctor. Susan and I are going to be away. It's our wedding anniversary, you know. We're going to have dinner and a West End show and then spend the night in a nice hotel. And the boys are going to an all night party with their own friends. We can cancel the babysitter and leave it to you."

Fine by me," The Doctor said. Then he told the boys it was time they showed him how their soccer skills were improving. David put Sukie to her afternoon nap and then got on with dead-heading his roses. Rose and Wyn settled down to relax in the sun with Susan, talking among themselves about the one subject they had in common - The Doctor. Susan laughed out loud to find that, despite her travels in the TARDIS Wyn still found it amazing that The Doctor WAS a real person.

"You don't know what it was like when I was a kid," she said. "My bedtime stories were about The Doctor fighting monsters. It's a wonder I grew up as normal as I am. But I just thought mum was making it all up. I used to think she ought to write it all down and sell it as a book. Then suddenly he walks into our lives. A REAL person. And it turns out that the bedtime stories are actually banned from publication under the Official Secrets Act!"

"That's grandfather all over. He just turned up again in my life, too. And poor Rose there. She was just minding her own business, doing her job, and suddenly she was plunged into the madness of his life, a million light years from her home."

"Never regretted a moment of it," Rose murmured softly as she listened to the conversation, sleepy and relaxed in the sun that was all the more welcome after the cold, dark fright they had not so long ago. "He's my man. I love him. And, Wyn, don't you dare make any of those sick noises for me saying that. I do love him. I never thought love like I have for him was possible. I thought it was fairy tale stuff. That it never happened. The amazing thing is that he, with all that he has seen and done and been could love ME as much as that."

Wyn didn't make sick noises. She was looking at Susan. And she wondered why The Doctor's granddaughter looked so disturbed when Rose mentioned how much she loved him. Because Susan DID look disturbed by it. She saw her glance at the engagement ring Rose wore. And her lips pressed together as if she was biting back something she knew she should not say.

Of course it must be a BIT weird, Wyn realised. Rose was 24 years old. The Doctor was 952 and a great-grandfather. It was one for the tabloids. Usually when a younger girl hooked up with an older man people would say she was a gold-digger waiting for him to drop dead. That wasn't the case here. The Doctor came from a race that lived thousands of years. He’d outlive everyone.

It WAS real love. Wyn was a tomboy teenager with no romantic allusions, and she saw it plain. The Doctor and Rose were nuts about each other. And surely Susan knew that.

"Wyn," Susan said quietly. "My children inherited their telepathic abilities from me, through MY Gallifreyan genes. I can read thoughts when people are thinking the sort of things you're thinking. I can't answer your questions. The situation is complicated. I just have to trust grandfather to know what he is doing and not let anyone get hurt."

Wyn looked at her. She had no answer. But she really hoped Susan was right. Because The Doctor and Rose were the two best people she had ever met, and she knew it would be a tragedy if they didn't get married and live happily ever after. Wyn didn't particularly BELIEVE in happy ever after, but for once she might concede it.

In the evening, the boys went out to their party. They were excited. Strange and wonderful experiences with their great-grandfather were commonplace now, but being invited to a party didn't happen very often. They didn't have many friends. One of the drawbacks of their extraordinary life was that it meant that interacting with ordinary people their own age was difficult. They had so little to talk about. But for once they were going to a party. It was a party at the science club and the plan was to stay up all night watching a particularly good meteor shower with other scientifically inclined boys and girls, but it was STILL a party. David and Susan were glad to let them enjoy the opportunity of normal Human life. The Doctor agreed it was important. It bothered him that he was responsible for making the boys SO different.

"No," Susan assured him as she and David got ready to go out as well. "It wasn't really you. It isn't fair to make you think that. Even before you began to teach them to be Time Lords they didn't really make friends easily. And they WERE bullied. You helped them a lot. You taught them ways to defend themselves against the physical blows and you gave them strength of mind and self-esteem against the mental cruelty." She smiled and remembered her own experiences of being a teenager in London. "I never really made friends at school either, did I? That's why Ian and Barbara came looking for my home to talk to you about me - because I worried them. But we didn't have a home as they expected it to be - we had a police box in a junk yard. At least the boys have a place they can bring their friends to." Then she turned to the welfare of her other child. "You do know how to…" But The Doctor grinned and hugged her playfully.

"It might be five hundred years since I changed your nappies, Susan, but I do remember the principle." Susan laughed and blushed and told him that Sukie was potty-trained anyway. Then she kissed him and went off with David.

"Now, that I can't picture," Rose laughed as he brought his youngest great grandchild to the drawing room and sat down with her. "You… nappy changing. The high and mighty Time Lord who doesn't do domestic. Besides, I thought you were rich. How come your servants didn't do the icky stuff?"

"Because she was my child and I cared for her, 'icky stuff' included. When I was home, and not tied up with High Council business, I looked after Susan just like any ordinary parent." He sat Sukie on his knee and smiled. "What do you think, my little love? Can we think of something better to do for the evening than discuss the soggy end of parenthood?" She looked up at him and smiled and he heard her in his head clearly ask him to tell her a story. He smiled widely. "Good idea. A story with pictures. Your mum can teach you to talk another day. Tonight I want to teach you to concentrate that wonderful mind of yours."

He held out one hand as he held the child with his other arm. He concentrated and made a three-dimensional picture of a swan appear on his palm. Sukie's eyes grew wide with joy. "Can you make it fly?" he asked her. He was surprised and proud when she did it first time. He felt her psychic energy channelled into creating a flying swan image. Then he began to tell a story. It was called the Children of Lir, and it came from Irish mythology. It was far from a children's story, having in it some lurid detail. The children of the story were transformed to swans and forced to live an eternity in that shape by the jealousy of their father's enemy, only to die of old age once returned to human form. But it was a beautiful story all the same and Rose and Wyn watched in fascination as the images in the air changed and illustrated the story as if it was an animated tale on television. And the wonderful thing was that the child was doing it. She was inventing the pictures from her own imagination as she listened to the words of the story.

"Was that the first time she heard that story?" Rose asked when he finished and they let the swans fly away into the air.

"I'm not sure," The Doctor said. "It's the first time I've told it to her, but it's one I used to tell her mother when she was a baby. She might have passed it on."

"A Time Lord, light years away from Earth on Gallifrey, told bedtime stories from Ireland?" Wyn smiled at the idea.

"We're lousy at that kind of thing on Gallifrey. We're better at teaching advanced thermodynamics and temporal physics and legal precedence. We don't place enough value on creative imagination. And we don't have many good fairy tales. The only one I remember is a horror story about the Fendahl. But my mother was an Earth Child. She told me stories. And I still managed to be as smart as everyone else in my class. So they couldn't even say that creative imagination stunts the scientific mind."

Sukie wanted more stories. Her brain was still underused and needed filling with experiences.

"I know a story," Wyn said and began a complicated tale full of nearly unpronounceable Welsh names and places in which the Prince of Dyfed changed places with the king of the underworld for a year and had various magical adventures involving swords and ogres and dragons and monsters of various colourful kinds. Again, Sukie's psychic imagination filled in the detail with beautifully formed images in the air.

When she was done, they looked at Rose, who looked blank for a moment before launching into the story of the Ents of Entwood from Tolkein. She noticed that The Doctor didn't seem to enjoy that story too much, though it had always been a favourite of hers even before everyone jumped on the bandwagon with the movies.

"Trees with living spirits," he said. "Bit too real for me."

"You're thinking of Jabe, the tree woman?" Rose asked him. "I knew you fancied her, you know."

"I did not," he protested. "I just admired her liana."

Rose giggled. "That's your story!"

"Besides, she was a brave woman. She sacrificed her life to buy me the time to save everyone else." He sighed. "But not all tree spirits are as beautiful as Jabe. I fought an enemy once who used a weapon that turned flesh and blood to vegetable matter - it turned people into trees. Only deep inside they still knew they were meant to be people."

"Errkk," Wyn said. "Could you…did you change them back?"

He smiled grimly. Wyn believed he could do anything. She probably got it from her mum. Jo never lost faith in him. But she was wrong. He wasn't completely invincible and he didn't always have the answers.

"Couldn't," he said. "Once it was done the cellular structure was set. Even if I knew how to reverse it, you wouldn't get a whole person back. At least you'd get the whole material - but not in the right shape or the right order or… consistency."

Rose and Wyn both thought about that briefly - especially the bit about consistency - and "Errkk" about summed it up.

"I'll never look at a tree the same way," Wyn said.

"Me neither," Rose added, wishing he hadn't mentioned it. Things like that were ok in fantasy stories. But to know it was possible, and that he had seen it happen, was freaky beyond everything she had seen in his company.

"Not everything I ever saw in my life was 'errkky'," The Doctor assured them. And he began to describe - with illustrations from Sukie - a race of people he once met who were humanoid on land and dolphins when they swam in the sea, and lived in a domed city at the bottom of the ocean. A gentle people who would harm nobody and nothing.

"Why have we never been there?" Rose asked. "Sounds nice."

"I took the co-ordinates out of the TARDIS databank. I decided it was better for them if they were left alone on their world. They don't need to be reminded of the universe beyond the planet they have. It is perfect for their needs and unknown to any race that could harm them. I want it to stay that way."

"Pity. We don't seem to go to enough nice places."

"I ought to try to do something about that," The Doctor reflected. "Somewhere in the universe there is a planet where nothing wants to harm us."

"Would be nice if it was called EARTH," Rose said pointedly.

The Doctor smiled at her. He had the same thoughts constantly. This WAS a beautiful planet and it ought to be peaceful. But he had spent more time fighting to save it from being turned into a radioactive rock than any other planet in the universe.

The pictures Sukie was making changed. They all looked at the strange ethereal figures that were being created now. Wyn thought they looked like raindrops. They were translucent and their bodies caught the light in the way raindrops do. But their faces reminded her of….

"What's that painting with the guy with the long face screaming?" she asked. "Homer Simpson did a skit of it once."

"The Scream by Edvard Munch," The Doctor told her. "Yes, I see what you mean. But we've not started Sukie on art appreciation yet. Where is she getting this from?" He looked at her. She was leaning against his chest placidly watching the creatures and smiling as if they were friends. "What are they?" he asked her. In his mind he heard the word "Shades".

"Shades?" he questioned out loud. "Is that what they're called?" Sukie nodded. "And where do they come from?" Sukie blinked and concentrated and an image of a planet coalesced in the air.

"I've never seen that planet before," The Doctor said. "I don't suppose there's a star chart in that little head of yours, Sukie?" She blinked again and so did he when he saw the star chart appear in the air. Not that it helped. He couldn't identify the sector from memory anyway. Once, he could have. He was very good at that sort of thing as a student at the Academy. He had learnt astronomy from his own grandfather, one of Gallifrey's foremost experts in the field. He allowed himself a moment's reminiscence about cool nights on top of Mount Lœng with a telescope and the old man patiently coaching him in the wonders of the cosmos. His desire to explore it probably stemmed from those nights and his grandfather's enthusiasm for what lay beyond Gallifrey's rather narrow society.

He'd got lazy, he thought. The TARDIS did the course plotting automatically. He couldn't remember the last time he even LOOKED at a star chart. He at least committed this one to memory. He'd look it up when he had a chance.

But why did the child have such vivid images in her head? That he didn't understand. And looking into her mind didn't reveal anything. He was reluctant to probe too deeply and risk hurting her. Child minds were delicate things. You could look, but you couldn't touch.

It was possible these "Shades" and even their apparent location in the universe were entirely figments of her imagination. The imagination of a child could be a bigger and more wondrous place than the universe itself. The "Shades" and their world could be her 'imaginary friends'.

"Time for bed," he said after another story with less puzzling illustrations. He went to take Sukie to her room. Getting her into her nightdress and tucking her into her bed, kissing her goodnight, he felt his hearts tugged by sweet and long suppressed memories of when Susan was a little girl. Yes, when he was not tied down with work he had been happy to be as complete a parent as he could be. If there was any regret it was that work DID interfere too often and he didn't get to share these sort of moments with her often enough.

Afterwards he taught Wyn and Rose the basic rules of multi-dimensional chess using the ornamental set Susan kept on the sideboard. They had almost grasped the idea before they started to be too tired for a game that needed such careful concentration. Wyn settled down for the night in a sleeping bag on the living room floor and he and Rose retired to the guest bedroom.

"I think you make a wonderful parent," Rose told him as she snuggled next to him. "You were lovely with Sukie."

"She's a fantastic child," he said.

"It's more than that though," Rose continued. "Seriously, whatever did happen to 'I don't do domestic'? Was that just a defence mechanism to stop yourself becoming emotionally involved with anyone? Or to make yourself seem like a tough guy? You didn't have to do that, you know. You're still you even with the softer side let out occasionally. In fact I like you better that way. You were a bit of a cold fish when I first met you. Mr Untouchable. When you're with the boys or with Sukie, or even Susan, I am sure that's the REAL you. The other you is so cold and distant and won't let anyone reach you, and it isn't what you are really. I suppose it's safer that way. You don't want your enemies to know that you're a big softy underneath the hard man act. But you ARE, really."

"I hate being analysed," The Doctor replied in a sleepy voice that she KNEW he was putting on. "Especially when the analysis is right. Yes, I'm a big softy. I love being a parent. It's nice to have a chance to experience it again. Even the icky parts of it."

"You can do the icky stuff when WE have kids," Rose told him.

"I look forward to it," he said. "Nothing could make me happier." He put his arm around her shoulder and held her close to him. Rose sighed. He kept the hope alive in his hearts. So did she. But it was still so far off she didn't dare even dream about it. Thinking about it felt like self-torture. So she didn't think about it. She snuggled closer to his warm body as he prepared to enter into his nightly meditative trance and she let ordinary sleep come over her.

The Doctor came out of his meditation abruptly. Wyn was screaming in the other room. But he was also aware of something else - something that had broken into his meditation where ordinary noise would not and overwhelmed his psychic senses. Sukie was also screaming.

"Rose?" He turned and saw that she was already awake and reaching for her dressing gown. "Go to Wyn. Sukie needs me more."

A judgement call. Both were in trouble. His first thoughts were for the child, his own flesh and blood.

Was he making the right call? Was he ignoring Wyn because she wasn't his own?

No. He was going to the aid of an innocent child, incapable of defending herself. Wyn, as young as she was, as vulnerable as she could be, was a capable girl who could handle most things. And Rose was equipped to handle almost anything. Between them they should be ok. Sukie DID need him more.

He put the light on. Sukie was asleep in her bed, as she should be. But she looked distressed. She was crying, and when he touched her she was covered in a cold sweat. She had wet the bed, too. And he was getting her telepathic thoughts so loudly it was hurting him.

"All right, my little love," he said lifting her out of the bed and sitting on the floor with her. It was as much as he could do until her hold on his mind was eased. "It's all right, granddad's here for you." As soon as she felt him holding her she began to calm down. Her eyes opened and she looked up at him, sucking her thumb. He remembered vividly that Susan had done that at this age, long, long ago. So had her father when he was this small. He smiled to himself. Of all the experiences of his life, it was strange that he found himself feeling nostalgic for the joys of cuddling damp, sticky and none too fragrant children in the middle of the night.

When she was calm enough he found a clean nightdress and changed the bedding and put her back into her bed. She lay there watching him with those big eyes and he smiled and remembered what else he did when he had to soothe a child to sleep. He began to sing, softly, in a language nobody who had not travelled by TARDIS would recognise. It was Venusian, and the one thing Venus was good for was lullabies. He had sung them to his son, and his granddaughter. And she remembered them and sang them to her children. He felt Sukie singing along in her head. Her telepathic signals were calm and quiet now, and he felt them becoming cloudy and disjointed as she fell asleep.

He stood up and saw Rose and Wyn both at the door.

"Are you ok?" he asked Wyn.

"Yes," she said as he came past her to the bathroom to leave the bundle of damp bedding in the laundry hamper. "But…. Doctor… Don't tell me I was hallucinating or dreaming. I know the difference. But I saw the kid… the little one…. Standing beside me with a knife."

"What?" The Doctor looked at her in astonishment. "No. That's impossible."

"The knife is on the floor near her sleeping bag," Rose said. "I don't know what else happened. When I got there Wyn was screaming and there was nobody else there."

The Doctor went to the living room. He looked at the sharp carving knife lying on the floor. He picked it up by the tip and brought it to the table. He asked Rose to fetch his sonic screwdriver and she quickly and without question did so. He used its UV light to examine the knife. What he found astonished him.

"Wyn, I apologise for disbelieving you," he said. He could have run a full analysis of the handprint on the knife handle. But there was no need. There was only one person in the house with fingers that small.

"It really WAS Sukie?" Rose looked at him equally astonished. His expression was one of horror. He had proved that a child of three years and two months old had threatened Wyn. A child who was his own blood relative at that. A child he loved dearly. He felt a little sick at the thought.

"It couldn't have been her," he reasoned. "Not voluntarily anyway. Something must be using her."

"Well, I'll go with that," Wyn said. "Little kids don't usually turn into knife-maniacs in the night."

"Something using her?" Rose thought aloud slowly. "Doctor…. The Gelth…. They used Gwyneth's psychic powers to get through to Earth…"

"Yes," The Doctor answered. "Those are the lines I'm thinking of. Something that would need an untrained psychic mind to break into our reality."

"Poor kid. Do you think she knows?" Wyn asked. "Does she have any idea she nearly…"

"No!" The Doctor almost snapped his reply. "No. She is too young even to know the concept of right and wrong, of guilt. No."

Rose had a feeling much of what he said was wishful thinking. He HOPED that Sukie was not aware that she had held a knife in her hand and approached Wyn as she slept. He desperately didn't want the little girl emotionally scarred by such a thing.

Rose hoped he was right.

"What are we going to do?" she asked.

"Tonight, nothing more," he said. "But we're all going to stick together. Wyn, get back in your sleeping bag. Rose… grab a blanket and stretch out there on the sofa." He went back to Sukie's room and lifted her from the bed, wrapping a blanket around her. He came back and sat in an armchair with her tightly held in his arms. She didn't stir. He watched as Wyn and Rose slowly fell asleep again. He himself stayed awake, his night vision allowing him to watch them all in the darkness. After a while the sounds of the two girls and the child breathing regularly as they slept was the only sound in the room.

He touched Sukie's forehead and gently probed her mind. What he saw was all perfectly normal. Her dreams were soft, sweet things, like clouds or cotton wool. She felt safe and loved. And she was. He'd had very little to do with her life. He had spent much more time with her brothers. But he loved her just as much as he loved any of his children. And they WERE, regardless of where they came in the family tree, HIS children. Christopher, Susan, Chris, Davie, Sukie. He loved them all with a father's love. They each in their turn were his chance to experience the best aspects of that 'domestic' life he used to avoid like the plague.

And that same instinct that made animals the universe over fight to the death to protect their young was boiling in him as he contemplated something using his child for evil purposes.

The evil purposes appeared to have given up for now. In the warm quiet of the darkened drawing room, he almost felt himself drifting to sleep. But then, suddenly, he was wide awake and alert again. He had felt something. Something cold and heartless and utterly malevolent touched his brain.

"Sukie," he whispered. He looked at her. She was awake and looking at him with wide eyes. She was shivering with fright. "What is it?" he asked. "What is it, my little love?"

The image of the creatures she had called Shades came into his head. They WERE screaming and this time he felt he could HEAR them doing so.

"No!" Wyn and Rose stirred in their sleep as he yelled out loud. He stood up from the chair and put Sukie in Rose's arms. "Get out of that child's head," he demanded. "I won't even listen to you until you stop using an innocent child as your conduit. I won't have it. You won't use her."

"What's happening?" Rose asked. She was struggling to hold Sukie. The child was writhing as if in pain. The Doctor, too, looked as if something was torturing him. His face was pale and he was sweating and his eyes were wide and unblinking.

"The Shades…. They're an entity… a race of beings that live in a non-corporeal form… sentient energy. They say they want to escape from something that is hurting them."

"Don't let them," Rose said. "Remember the Gelth. They lied to you and…"

"Why the knife? What was that about?" Wyn asked. "If they're the victims why were they…"

The Doctor was already asking that question. The reply horrified him.

"They say it wasn't them. It was their enemy. The thing trying to harm them. It wasn't… Oh my…. It wasn't trying to hurt you, Wyn. It was trying to make Sukie kill herself. Because she was the safe haven for the Shades. They were hiding in her mind to get away from it."

"Oh!" Rose hugged the child in her arms and watched as The Doctor continued to fight his mental battle.

"All right," he yelled. "Come out of HER mind and deal with me directly." He screamed as they apparently DID as he asked. He seemed crushed down by the weight of the psychic energy pouring into his head. Rose and Wyn looked on in horror as he groaned out loud, his hands over his ears as if he was afraid his brains might pour out of them. Wyn tried to come towards him, but he shouted at her to get back.

"Neither of you come near me," he said. "I can't… It's trying to take over my brain. If it does…" He screamed again. "It wants to kill me. And it might… It might make me kill you first." He turned and ran. He was fighting to keep control of his own head. But he wasn't sure how long he could hold it back.

Where could he go? If he went outside the entity could kill him in all kinds of ways. The Thames was at the bottom of the garden. It could drown him in it. Or there were any number of edged weapons in the garage and garden shed. But the house held countless potential methods of suicide too.

It wanted to kill him to force the Shades out of his head, out of their haven. If it succeeded, they would run to the next mind that was open to them - Sukie. It would kill her and they would run to the next - one of the boys, or Susan. And when it ran out of telepaths they would be cornered and it would devour them. David, Rose and Wyn, anyone else on the planet with ordinary minds, couldn't be taken over by the entity. It could only reach telepathic minds. But it might hurt them if they got in its way.

He could only think of one room where he might be safe. Sukie's room. There were no knives in there, no tools, no sharp objects. The furniture was all cushions and rounded corners, a safe environment for a small child. He ran in there and slammed the door. He pushed the child's bed up against it before throwing himself down on the soft mattress.

The Shades were 'huddled' in the corner of his mind like frightened puppies. He knew they WERE the innocent parties in this. They were - he tried to listen to what they were trying to tell him. They came from the planet they had showed him through Sukie. But they had been driven from it by the other entity, the one they called the "Aggressor." A good description of it. He could feel it in his head. It was there, trying to take over his consciousness. Trying to force him to hurt himself.

For a moment it succeeded. He felt himself looking down on the room, as if in an out-of-body experience. He watched in horror as his body was pulled off the bed and slammed against the wall like a rag doll. He FELT the pain as his skull smashed against the wall. He felt his breath knocked out of him and his ribs bruise. And while he was still reeling he was thrown a second time, and a third. He felt his arms break as he automatically raised them to protect his head. He could hear the Shades howling in terror inside his brain and outside the room Rose and Wyn yelling to him, Sukie crying in fright.

He forced himself back into his own head, pushed the Aggressor back from control of his motor functions, and let himself collapse onto the bed. His body was already repairing the damage done to it. He clutched the pillow and pressed his face into it as he tried to hold the Aggressor off long enough to mend his physical injuries. He knew it was not done with him yet. Round two was going to come very soon.

He felt the gentle minds of the Shades as they hid within him. No wonder they had been attracted to Sukie's mind, he thought. She had the same gentle innocence as they did. But they couldn't have stayed there, even if the Aggressor was not there as well. Sukie had to be in control of her own mind. Anyway, they belonged somewhere. They had shown him their home. When he had got rid of their enemy, this thing that wanted to destroy anything that got in its way, he would try to take them home.


The doorbell rang. Rose went to answer it cautiously, using the safety chain. It was four o'clock in the morning. She couldn't imagine who would be knocking - unless it was a neighbour complaining about the noise.

"Rose!" Davie and Chris cried together. "What's happening? Granddad… is he…" She opened the door and they rushed past her. Coming up the path behind her was a man who had to be a teacher. He had that look of a know-it-all who thought he was better than everyone else just because he had a degree.

She was right.

"I'm Daniel Clay, the science-master. The boys were watching the meteor shower and suddenly they both became agitated, convinced that something was wrong at home. I brought them back because it was upsetting the other children." He paused. "IS everything all right? I can hear a child crying…."

"She sleepwalks and wakes up in a panic," Rose said. "It upsets everyone in the house. But it's really nothing to worry about. Thank you for your concern. The boys will be fine now they're home."

She wasn't sure HOW she kept her voice steady, or how she convinced Mr. Clay that she was a responsible adult to leave the boys with. She was just glad the banging had stopped for the moment Although when she thought about it the silence that had followed was even more terrifying. How badly had he hurt himself?

Clay seemed satisfied. She watched him drive away then closed the door and put the chain on again. She turned and ran to the boys as they stood outside their sister's room. She hugged them both. She found their strength comforting. They were only eleven years old. She was the adult, but they were there for HER, not the other way around.

"Granddad's hurting," Chris said. "We felt it."

"I know," Rose told them. "He's…. well I'm not sure WHAT he's doing, but he's fighting something that's in his head. It WAS in Sukie's head but he made it come to him and he's fighting it."

"Granddad," Davie called, hammering on the bedroom door. "Granddad, let us in. We can help you."

"No," they heard him yell. "No, keep away boys. Keep away. It's too dangerous."

"He can't let anyone near him," Rose said. "He's afraid the creature could make him hurt us."

"We can reach him with our minds," Chris said. "We can help."

The Doctor suppressed a scream as he felt the new assault on him begin. The sensation of a malevolent thing trying to fill his head and block out his own thoughts and feelings was horrible. He remembered towards the end of his first incarnation, when he had forgotten things too often and lost track of where he was. He had worried if he was beginning to suffer from dementia. The thought of not knowing WHO he was had terrified him. Regeneration had given him back his senses but the memory of that feeling stayed with him.

It felt like that now. He was losing himself. The Aggressor was taking over more and more of his mind.

"I am Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow," he told himself. "I am the last Time Lord of Gallifrey. I am Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmal-lõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow. I am the last Time Lord of Gallifrey. I love Rose Tyler of Earth. My mother's name was Marion. My wife's name was Julia. My son…." He bit his lip as he tried to concentrate. "My son's name was Christopher. His daughter's name is Susan. She is my…. She is my granddaughter. And I love her. Her children are Davie, Chris and Sukie. I am…." He groaned aloud. For a moment he couldn't remember his name. "Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmallõupdracœfire-delunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow." He laughed at himself. There were no half measures with a name like that. You either knew it or you didn't. If he lost that, he would lose more than his identity.

The Aggressor changed tactic again. The Doctor clutched his chest as his hearts both went into arrhythmia. He breathed deeply and tried not to panic as he fought to steady them. That was nearly as painful as breaking his bones. And it was dangerous. If his hearts were stopped for more than a few minutes his body would be forced to regenerate. He wondered what would happen if he did so with the Aggressor still inside his head. It was possible the thing could get incorporated into his DNA. What sort of being would he come out as?

That was a terrifying thought.

Now it began the physical violence on him again. This time he managed to stay inside his own body, but he could do nothing to stop it being abused as his motor functions were taken over and he found himself again thrown against the wall. His blood flowed as his nose was broken. He was pulled back like a rag doll and again thrown at the wall. He fell back with a sickening crunch, feeling his arm break in two places as he hit the floor.

"Granddad!" he heard Chris's voice inside his head. It came loud and clear as he crawled painfully to the bed and lay down again, curled in a foetal position. The boy's telepathic wave seemed to push the Aggressor down long enough for him to recover again. "Granddad, we're here to help."

"I don't think you can," he said. "And I don't want this thing to hurt you."

"We don't want it to hurt YOU," Davie replied and he could feel their anguish. They knew exactly what he was going through. They had felt it with him. They had hurt with him. And now, though he wished they were miles away, safe, watching meteor showers, they were fighting alongside him. He felt them in his mind. They were strong, stronger than he was after fighting the Aggressor for nearly an hour and having every kind of mental and physical abuse thrown at him. He was close to breaking and the Aggressor knew it. He could feel its triumph and the fear of the petrified Shades.

But now the boys came in, like storm-troopers, like the cavalry coming over the horizon. But they came defended, a mental shield between them and the Aggressor. He felt its uncertainty as they moved in, coming between it and him, giving him a respite to gather his strength and build a shield of his own.

"Ok," Chris said when he judged that his grandfather was ready to cope. "Let's get it."

The Doctor felt the boys mentally surround the malevolent entity, cutting it off from doing him any more harm and letting them, the three of them, force it onto the defensive. He felt the Aggressor screaming in his mind. But it was a scream of anger and frustration. They were blocking it off, forcing it into a mental cage that they were gradually making smaller and smaller as they pushed it back, pushed it down.

He screamed himself with the physical pain as the Aggressor suddenly burst into flames. It actually felt as if something was on fire inside his head. His eyes felt as if they were being stabbed from behind the sockets and lights danced in front of his vision, even when he closed his eyes. But it was the death throes of the Aggressor. He felt its malevolent presence fade from his mind.

He stood up and breathed in and then exhaled through his nose. An acrid black smoke emerged from his nostrils as if from a fire-breathing dragon - the remnant of the Aggressor expelled from his body. He felt light-headed. He felt triumphant. So did the Shades. He felt them in his head like fireworks going off.

"If you're going to hang around in there, then you're going to have to settle down and not do that," he admonished them. Not that he planned for them to stay there forever. As endearing as they were he didn't need them as lodgers in his brain.

He pushed the bed back into place and looked around the room. It was surprisingly intact. The Aggressor's assaults on his body had not left any aftermath. If he was lucky, Susan didn't need to hear about it.

He opened the door and stepped out. The boys, Rose, Wyn and Sukie were all waiting, anxiously. Wyn stepped towards him then drew back nervously.

"It's ok," Chris said. "The thing's gone now. He's…. he's himself again."

"That I am," The Doctor said, hugging them both. "What would I do without you two? You're fantastic." Sukie came to him and he lifted her in his arms and held her tightly. "Yes. Your friends are fine. I can feel them. Can't you?" She nodded happily and leaned her head on his shoulder. He smiled at Rose. "You deserve a big hug too, but my arms are occupied at the moment."

"I can wait," she smiled. "You're sure you're ok?"

"I'm absolutely fantastic," he told her with a wide smile. He looked around at them all. "Come on. Before Susan and David get back, let's take a quick field trip." He carried Sukie, who was reluctant to let go of his neck. The boys followed. Rose and Wyn ran to catch up.

In the TARDIS, he programmed the drive control carefully with the star chart he had kept in his memory and primed the Fast Return Switch to bring them back when they were done to no more than ten minutes after they left.

"There," he said, flicking on the viewscreen. They all stared at the planet - if it WAS a planet - around which the TARDIS had made a rather unlikely orbit. It looked as if it was made of smoke or water, or something completely unsubstantial. They could see right through it to the star field beyond. But it WAS a planet. They could make out continents and oceans and even mountain ranges.

"It's a ghost planet," Wyn said. "Is that possible?"

"If you'd asked me yesterday I would have said no," The Doctor answered. "The TARDIS isn't even entirely sure. Navigation says there's nothing there. But the flight control is happy to hold us in orbit around it."

"This is where the Shades come from?" Rose asked.


"Was there a disaster or something? Were they another victim of the Time War?"

"No." The Doctor smiled as he felt the Shades bubbling with excitement inside his brain. "It defies all logic, all physics, but apparently it was ALWAYS here. And they've always lived there, happily, until the Aggressor kidnapped them and used them as its energy source, drawing from the immense psychic waves they create. It used them like rechargeable batteries. It seems like they renew themselves in some way. As long as the Aggressor never took the whole of their energy they could keep on living, but as slaves; cattle to be milked as it travelled through space. Then they picked up Sukie's super-telepathic waves and saw her as a chance to escape."

"But the Aggressor followed."


"And it's dead now?"


"So they're free? They can go home?"

"How?" Wyn asked. "We can't exactly LAND there."

Her question was answered almost as soon as she asked. A blue light began to beam up from the planet. They saw it moving towards the TARDIS, but nobody felt any fear. It was not a weapon. It was not going to harm them. It enveloped the TARDIS and the pitch of the engine changed up so that it almost seemed to be singing while the blue light came through the walls.

"Shouldn't be able to do that," Rose said. "Not to the TARDIS."

"The Shades don't live by the same laws of physics we do," The Doctor said with a smile. "Go on then, all of you," he added, addressing the creatures in his head. He opened his mouth and breathed out and a stream of blue light came from him, mixing with the light that surrounded them. "Goodbye," he said at last. And he felt Sukie's voice in his head. She said goodbye as well. He thought she seemed a little sad at parting from them. "Don't be sorry," he told her as the light receded from the TARDIS and drew back into the ghostly planet. "They've gone back to their families. And now it's time for us to go back. Your mum and dad will worry if we're not home. We don't want Susan to think I can't manage a simple bit of baby-sitting."

Rose smiled and came to him. He had promised her a hug and she meant to claim it from him now, while he looked so happy.

"Another wrong righted in the universe," he said as he held her in his arms. "And I get to kiss my girl afterwards. Can't be bad."

"Just remember it was the kids who did the clever stuff," she told him. "Sukie was the one who helped the Shades escape in the first place. And you were on the ropes until the boys came in and rescued you. As superheroes go, you're a bit of a wimp at times."

"I still get to kiss the girl though," he said with a smile. "Shut up, Wyn."