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

Rose sat drinking a dry white wine and watching in astonishment the man she thought she knew everything about as he played an instrument she had wrongly called a tambourine ten minutes before. She was promptly corrected. It was a bodhran. It was played with a small stick that was skilfully tapped in a fast rhythm that seemed to become not individual beats but a continuous sound. His hand seemed to blur as he increased the speed and the rhythm in time to the fast, furious tune the two fiddlers and a tin whistle player had going on. Everyone else was clapping along to the tune. She was too stunned by the performance even for that. She didn't know The Doctor could play a musical instrument, let alone one that she had never even heard of. And he looked like he was having fun. He had that kind of smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes that she saw far too rarely.

"Hey," she said as the musicians took a break and he sat back down with her. "Where and when did you learn to do that?"

"Oh, you know. I've knocked about a bit." He grinned and took a large mouthful of the glass of whiskey one of the musicians had passed to him. "Learnt a few things in my time. You never know when they might be useful."

"And it's useful to be able to play a…."

"Bodhran," he finished. "Yes, gets me in with the crowd around here. They accept me as one of their own. No mean trick when you're in West Cork with a Salford accent."

"Well, as long as you're happy." She watched him finish the glass and somebody put another one at his elbow. "Er… how many of those have you had now?"

"I think I stopped counting after five," he said. "S'ok, it's not as if I'm driving. Besides, I'm a Time Lord. We don't get drunk unless…"

"Unless you want to," Rose smiled. "It is nice here, though. Makes me suspicious. Are there sea monsters out there in the bay or something? You didn't come here to show off your musical skills to me."

"I like it here," he said. "Been here before. Liked it then, too."

"I had never even been to Ireland before I knew you. This is… three and a half times now. I didn't see too much of it when we got artillery shelled in 1916 and blown back into space again. So that really doesn't count. Tara was nice, apart from the Vampyres. And Dublin in 1941."

"It's not a bad life," The Doctor said with a smile.

"Better with two," Rose answered him. He'd said that to her long ago, right back when she first travelled with him. And that had been her reply then, too.

And she was right, he reflected. So many centuries he had wandered the universe. A lot of the time he had been alone. Those were the times when he wondered if it was worth it. The times when it had been fun, when it had felt great to be alive, were when he was with somebody. And especially these past few years when he had been with her.

"Ok, so what is special about Castletownbere in West Cork, Ireland?" Rose asked to restart the conversation he seemed to have drifted away from.

"See that painting there, above the bar."

She had seen it. She'd looked at it several times in the course of the evening. It was a fascinating picture. It depicted an aged, bent old woman with rheumy, blind eyes, who at one and the same time was a tall, beautiful woman with long hair down her back and a shining white dress. She had tried to work out for a while how the figure seemed to be both things at once. It was like one of those puzzle pictures that resolved into a rabbit if you looked long enough for your eyes to water.

It WAS making her eyes water after a while and she stopped looking, but she was drawn back to it again and again. She stood up and walked to where she could look at it closer. There was a title beneath it.

"An Cailleach Beara," she read. She understood how to pronounce the words because of the TARDIS's strange telepathic effect on her that let her understand those five billion languages The Doctor could speak even without it. She understood that it meant "The Old Woman of Bere," and that meant it was connected with the island out in the bay that they were planning to visit tomorrow.

"Local legend," The Doctor told her as he stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder. "The Cailleach is the oldest being in the whole of Ireland. Older than the country itself. She is immortal and is under the saddest curse of all."

"What's that?" She became aware that around her the local Irish people had grown quiet and were listening to this stranger with a Salford accent talking about their legend.

"Love," The Doctor said.


"Doomed to live forever as an aged woman, half-blind, crippled, bent, unless she can find a young man who will fall in love with her. It had to be true love. If any tried to play games with her, if they were not wholeheartedly in love, then she could kill them stone dead. But if one was prepared to love her with all his heart, then his kiss on her old, cracked lips would restore her to the young, beautiful queen that she was. They would be married and live a life of love and happiness and she would bear children to her lover."

"Sounds ok," Rose said. "But… there's a catch isn't there. You said it was a curse. That doesn't sound like a curse. It sounds… nice."

"The curse is that her husband would still be a mortal man. He would grow old, and she would grow old with him. And no Human has ever lived much beyond 110 or so. Even her most long-lived lover died after what seemed, for her, too short a time. And then she had to begin again, searching for a true lover who would see the beauty of her soul inside the aged form."

"Oh," Rose said. She turned and looked at The Doctor. He was looking at the painting and she was sure there was a hint of a tear in his eye. Then he looked at her and looked around the room at his captive audience.

"There's an old poem," he said. "Does anyone know it?" Everyone had heard of it, but none knew it by heart. "Ah well, as it happens…."

"Aithbe damsa bés mora;
sentu fom-dera croan;
toirsi oca cía do-gnéo,
sona do-tét a loan.

Is mé Caillech Bérri, Buí;
no meilinn léini m-bithnuí;
in-díu táthum, dom séimi,
ná melainn cid aithléini.
It moíni

cartar lib, nídat doíni;
sinni, ind inbaid marsaim-me
batar doíni carsaim-me.
Batar inmaini doíni
ata maige 'ma-ríadam;

ba maith no-mmeilmis leo,
ba becc no-mmoítis íarum.
In-díu trá caín-timgairid,
ocus ní mór nond-oídid;
cíasu becc don-indnaigid,
is mór a mét no-nmoídid…..."

The poem went on for at least another twenty stanzas, but Rose was already hypnotised by his soft voice reciting the words in old Gaelic. She seemed to hear them dually. She could hear the beautiful rhythm of the original language that he was speaking so fluently, and at the same time she heard the translation of the lament of the aged woman who remembered her bright youth and now would welcome death if it were possible.

It is well for an island of the great sea:
flood comes to it after its ebb;
as for me, I expect
no flood after ebb to come to me.

Today there is scarcely
a dwelling-place I could recognize;
what was in flood
is all ebbing.

As he finished there was a silence for a long while. Rose was not the only one staring, entranced, at him. Even the landlord, in the midst of taking glasses from the shelf, seemed frozen. She wondered if he had pulled one of his Time Lord tricks on them and they were in a time fold of some kind. But then a cheer and applause rang out around them as everyone became animated again. Several people clapped him on the back and told him he was a great man. Many of them lamented sadly that a stranger knew their own language and poetry better than they did and poured scorn on their education system, the government, cable TV and anything else they could blame but themselves.

The Doctor had another drink pressed into his hands and he took a mouthful and swallowed before kissing Rose on the lips. The musicians struck up again, this time with their regular bodhran player, and The Doctor took her by the hand and led her into a fast, breathless dance to the tune. Others joined in and a party atmosphere ensued until, too soon, it seemed, the landlord called time and the music stopped. In a very short time everyone finished their drinks and went upon their way.

The Doctor and Rose were among the last to leave. The bar was quiet as Rose found her coat and handbag down under the table where she had been sitting.

"That was as fine a piece of the Irish as I've heard in many years," the landlord said to The Doctor. "And you know the legend of our Cailleach better than some who've lived here all their lives."

"I have a good memory for things," The Doctor explained. "The painting is very fine. It wasn't here the last time I was in this pub."

"You must be mistaken about that," the landlord said. "Or you've not been here since you were too young to be served at the bar. That painting has been there this past thirty years. My father painted it. He was an American, my mother was an islander - from Bere itself. They bought this pub when they married and settled here. And he did the painting to hang over the bar. It's been there since."

"You must be right, I'm mistaken," The Doctor said. "Óiche mhaith dhuit."

"Goodnight to you," the landlord said.


"You weren't mistaken were you?" Rose said as they walked along the seafront to where he had left the TARDIS on the outskirts of the village. "You were here before."

"Mmm?" The Doctor was looking up at the sky, apparently counting the stars.

She repeated the question.

"Oh, yes, in another time, in another life," he said. But there was something in the way he said the words that made her look at him and remember just how often people had bought him drinks tonight.

"You're drunk," she said.

"No I'm not," he answered. "I'm a Time Lord. Time Lords don't get drunk… unless they want to."

"Well, it looks to me like you wanted to," Rose told him. She walked on and then turned and walked back to him. "You need to put one foot in front of the other and then repeat the operation a couple of times more."

"I know how to walk," he said. "Learnt that 950 years ago."

"Well, either you're going senile, or you're definitely drunk." Rose looked at him. He LOOKED drunk. His eyes were strangely glassy and unfocussed and his smile fixed like somebody who was still working on a joke that was told an hour ago.

"Just looking at the stars. That island is in the way, or I could see all the way home."

"I'll have it moved first thing in the morning," Rose told him and took his hand firmly. "Come on, Time Lords may not need to sleep, but I do. And it's getting cold, too."

"Rose Tyler, I love you," he said as they reached the TARDIS at last and he fumbled for his key. "Come to bed with me."

"I always do," she told him, taking the key from him and opening the door. Though, if he carried on like this, she was seriously contemplating sleeping on the sofa. She slept beside him on the one condition that nothing happened between them contrary to his Gallifreyan honour. But could he be trusted to remember his Gallifreyan honour?

Would she mind if he did?

Yes, because she didn't want it like this, with him forgetting himself in a haze of drink and then regretting it in the morning.

"If you love me, that's ok then," he said and as she closed the TARDIS door he bounded across the console room and into the corridor beyond. She came a little slower and when she reached the bedroom, he was in the bathroom. She changed into her nightdress, brushed her hair, and got into the bed. He came out of the bathroom, hair damp from the shower but still looking glassy-eyed and still smiling.

"You look beautiful," he said as he slipped between the sheets and cuddled up to her. "Rose Tyler, I don't tell you that often enough. You really are beautiful. And I love you. I will love you till the day I die."

"Tell me that when you're sober and I'll believe you," she said.

"You don't believe I love you?" he asked.

"I don't believe what any man says when he's drunk," she answered him. "Not even you."

"Rose…" He slipped his arms tighter around her and pulled her into a long, lingering kiss. It was a sweet one, as beautiful as ever it was when they kissed. He felt like the man she loved. But she wasn't sure.

"Doctor… Please. I don't like drunks. And I don't want you to be one."

There was an edge in her voice then. And she turned from his embrace and pressed her face into the pillow. She wasn't exactly crying. But she wasn't exactly happy, either. This was a side of him she wasn't entirely sure she liked.

It shocked her that he HAD such a side. She'd heard him talk about getting drunk. There was a passing remark once about Lloyd George drinking him under the table. She KNEW he had got up to quite a bit of mischief in Milan with his friend Puccini, and he'd shared some risqué men only stories with Jack about the sort of people you run into in spaceport bars. But she had thought most of it was a front. He WASN'T that sort of man. And she didn't want him to be.

"Rose…" When he spoke again his voice was softer, more like she expected it to be. "Rose, look at me." He put his hand on her shoulder and gently turned her face towards him again. "I'm NOT drunk," he told her. "I was a little bit, coming along the seafront. I really did want to feel it for once. But I got rid of the alcohol from my body before I came to bed. Just like expelling a poison from my bloodstream. I sent it all out of me through the pores of my skin and washed it away in the shower."

"Well you looked it," she said. He didn't now. His eyes were normal and his expression was just one of concern that he had upset her without knowing why. "You sounded it."

"I was putting it on. Kidding you. I'm sorry, I went too far. I scared you."

"Mum's boyfriends would get drunk sometimes. And then they'd tell me I was beautiful…"

"Ah." The Doctor reached and held her gently. "I'm not one of those. I'm sorry if I reminded you of things you'd rather forget."

"For a moment, you seemed more like…" She shook her head and pressed herself close to him. She felt the familiar form of the man she loved and looked into his slate-grey eyes to see his honest soul within. "Tell me again what you said before."

"You are beautiful, and I love you, and I will love you until the day I die."

"See, I believe it now."

"I wouldn't lie to you even if I was so drunk I couldn't stand up," he promised her.

"It's a sad thought, though. You're a Time Lord. You're only middle aged at 952. You could live to be 3,000. And I'll be long gone. You're just like the… the one we were talking about… in the picture and the poem."

"An Cailleach Beara," The Doctor said.

"Yes. The Cailleach. Her Human husbands die and she's left alone. Poor thing."

"For thousands of years," The Doctor sighed. "Yes, it's a pity."

"YOU should have married her." Rose said. "You wouldn't have died and left her alone. She'd have been happy for longer."

"I didn't love her." He replied. Then he seemed to tire of the conversation. He pulled her close to him and kissed her gently and sweetly and for once he was asleep before she was. Maybe the alcohol DID affect him a tiny bit, she thought as she pressed herself nearer to him and let sleep come upon her.

They both woke early enough to take a quiet walk on the beach. Rose thought The Doctor was a little quiet as he walked. She slipped her arm around his back and squeezed him tight.

"You're forgiven, you know," she said. "For last night."

"I don't deserve you," he told her. "I was an idiot. Got to thinking too many thoughts last night. That's my only excuse."

"Thoughts about what?"

"About the Cailleach. She and I DO have a lot in common."

"You both live a long time and can regenerate. She's not one of yours, is she?"

"No. She's Human in her ancestry somewhere. A freak of nature I suppose." He looked at Rose. "Anyone else would assume she is a legend. You accept her as real."

"Things I've seen with you… Vampyres, Daleks, Gelth, you name it, why wouldn't she be real? She is, isn't she?"


"You've seen her?"

"Yes." He looked out over the bay to where the Island of Bere was visible against the morning sky. "She lives in a cave over there. Nobody knows where it is - well, except me. The last time she took a husband was a little over fifty years ago. He would be old now. Maybe even dead."

"Are you thinking of going looking for her?" Rose asked.

"Thinking of it. Not sure if it's a good idea."

"Since when did you worry about whether something is a good idea or not?"

"She can kill with the power of her fingers if she's angry. And barging in on her makes her angry."

"But if you and her are old mates, must be ok."

"I didn't exactly pop around for tea."

"Still, this is you all over. You meet people, and you never look in on them to see if they're ok. I mean, she might NEED the company."

"Rose, this is not exactly like bringing meals on wheels to an ordinary old lady. This is a powerful creature with emotional problems that would keep a team of therapists in business for years."

"I know but…" Rose looked out to sea, to the island hunkered there on the horizon. "You want to, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," he said. "I DO want to see if she is all right. I don't know what I can do if she isn't. Maybe I can offer her friendship. That's the one thing she has never had. Lovers, yes. But friends, no."

"Let's go," Rose suggested. "If you don't, you'll eat yourself up wondering." She laughed. "You might turn to the drink again and then where will we be?"

He laughed.

"No, I won't do that. I promise. But…." He looked out to sea again and he smiled. "You're right. I've got to go look."

"There's a ferry service," Rose told him.

"The last time I went to that island by boat I had to swim back. We'll go by TARDIS."

The TARDIS materialised on the beach, above the tideline. The Doctor stepped out, smiling triumphantly at getting it so right.

"Low tide, fantastic. The cave entrance is under water at high tide, but we can just walk right in for the next hour or so."

"So you expect this visit to be done in an hour?"

"If it isn't we'll have to wait till the tide goes out."

"Better hope your friend is in a good mood, in that case."

"I hope she remembers I am a friend." He looked at Rose. "Might be better if you waited this one out, you know. Eibhlin isn't really known as a sociable old girl."

"I'm sticking with you. If we're going visiting dangerous ex-girlfriends of yours I'm keeping an eye on you."

"Nice to feel wanted," he said. He was glad of her company. But it was true that Eibhlin was dangerous. And she might choose to be dangerous to Rose, seeing her as competition for his affections. He was not entirely at ease about this.

The cave was almost impossible to see until they were right on top of it. Anyone who didn't already know it was there was unlikely to find it.

The Doctor knew it was there. He stooped low under the entrance. Rose followed. Inside they stood up and walked on dry sand right to the back of the cave. There they followed a tunnel that opened out into a larger cave, dimly lit with rushlights.

"Who enters my domain?" The voice that echoed around the cave was cracked and hoarse, but it had a strength behind it that struck fear into the listener.

Or it was meant to. The Doctor simply stepped forward, extending his hand in friendship.

"Eibhlin, it's been a long time. You're looking…."

He paused. Cliché's like, "you're looking well" were completely inappropriate. She was not looking well. She was looking terrible. She looked older and more feeble than he ever remembered. Her eyes seemed nearly blind with cataracts and her back was bent and twisted with age.

"How do you know my name?" she demanded.

"I know you, Eibhlin." He stepped closer to her. He knew she had some rudimentary telepathy. If he was near enough to her she could read his mind. She would know him as somebody who had been close to her before. She would know that he meant her no harm.

If she didn't kill him out of hand first.

"I know who you are and what you are," The Doctor said. "You're the Cailleach Beara."

"I know what YOU are," the Cailleach responded in a cracked voice of great age. "Time Lord. Man from the stars. Last of your kind."

"Yes," he said.

"I know you," she said. "I can feel it."

"We met before. In the past. When you sought a husband to make you young again and sire your children."

"Yes," the Cailleach said, this time in the voice of a young woman, and for a moment her form shimmered and she WAS young and beautiful. "Yes, we met before. You were young then. You had your lives before you. I WANTED you."

"I could have been the ease of your great burden. A husband who wasn't a fragile Human, who could have stayed by you for millennia."


"But I didn't love you. The magic only works if there is love in the heart of the man. He has to give himself willingly to you. I pitied you. I understood you. But I didn't love you. My kiss didn't bring you what you needed."

"I remember that kiss. It seared my soul. But it wasn't the kiss of a lover. Your pity touched my heart, but I needed pure love. Not pity."

"I still can't love you," he said. "But I have come to know your grief. I know what it is to watch the one I love grow old, to die in my arms, and know I have to live on without her."

"It hurts, so much," she said. "The loneliness is a physical pain."

"Oh yes," he said in a hoarse voice. "Oh yes, I know it."

"The soul dies a little each day, but you can't die with it."


"Yet you choose to risk your hearts that way again."

"Yes. Yes. For love, I would risk that again. Just as you do. You could spend your eternity in this place, lonely, but at least knowing that you won't be hurt again. But you go on, endlessly, seeking love that will last forever, but doing so among mortal men whose bodies will fade and die before your love for them fades." He caught his breath and choked back his own emotions. "Yes, I know that feeling. I know how foolish it is to hurt myself that way. But I choose the love of another Earth Child."

Rose gasped as the Cailleach turned her eyes on her. Until that moment she had felt as if the creature hadn't even seen her there. She seemed to have eyes only for The Doctor. She had no use for a rival for her affections.

It was a bit of a shock to her to realise that was what she was. And an even bigger one to realise that this creature WAS one of The Doctor's old flames. However briefly, however fleeting, they had once both had feelings for each other.

"She is a good choice," the Cailleach told him. "She is pure of heart and true in her love for you."

"That she is."

"Yet you have chosen the path that leads only to grief once again."

"The path that leads to happiness, to fulfilment."

"I used to think so."

"It has been more than fifty years. Is your chosen husband still living?" The Doctor cut to the heart of the matter.

"No," she said. "He died. As I knew he must."

"I'm sorry," The Doctor told her.

"I know that you are. You still pity me. Others fear me, but you pity me."

"Yes, I do. I would pity any living thing whose life is such a burden to them."

"Then do one thing for me," the Cailleach asked him. "Help me to end it."

"End what?"

"My burden, my life."

"NO!" Rose screamed. "No. Doctor… she's asking you to kill her."

"I know what she's asking. And you're right, the answer has to be no. I can't murder you."

"Not murder," she replied. "I am willing to die. I lack the courage to take my own life. I ask only the complicity of one who could make it possible."

"You ask the impossible. I have always cherished life, sworn to protect it. I cannot be a party to such a thing."

"I hoped you would understand. You know this despair. You know what it is to seek the oblivion of the grave."

"I…." He was startled to find that she could dig THAT deeply into his psyche. It was unnerving.

"You have tried to end your own life."

"I was stupid. Death has only one outcome. Life has a million possibilities."

"I want only that one outcome. The peace of the grave."

"I'm sorry. I can't help you to that end."

"Then go. Leave this place. Do not torture me with your youth and your life, and your sweet love. Go from me."

"I am sorry," he said again, backing away from her and reaching for Rose's hand.

"You were right," she said as they picked their way across the rocks to where he had left the TARDIS above the tideline. "You couldn't help her to die."

"I know. But it really doesn't make me feel any better."

"What if she kills herself anyway?"

"I hope she doesn't. I meant that, about life having possibilities. She is sad, lonely. I wish there was something I could do for her."

"She married a man fifty years ago," Rose said. "But he died. What about their children? Did they have any? Where did they go?"

"They would have gone their own way, made lives for themselves. They would be ordinary Human children, no different from anybody else. They would have got ordinary jobs."

"What was the man like who married her? You know, don't you?"

"He was an American tourist visiting here. He was entranced by her and took the chance - kissed her and proved his love so that she could become young again."




He looked at his watch.

"Pub's open."

"No it's not. It's at least half an hour yet."

"Will be when we get there," The Doctor grinned.

The TARDIS materialised in the corner of the bar. The landlord was changing the optics when the eerie sound and air displacement heralded its arrival. When The Doctor stepped out and greeted him in a friendly tone it didn't help his state of mind very much.

"The… the bar doesn't open until 11," he stammered. "I can't serve you until then."

"Let me get YOU a drink then," The Doctor said. Rose took the startled man and sat him down at one of his own tables while The Doctor went behind the bar and poured a double whiskey from the optic.

"Need a little talk with you, Eoghan," he said. "Eoghan MacKenzie. That's the name on the licence over the door. Didn't even click with me at first. Should have done. You even said it yourself. Your father was American and your mother was an islander. What you didn't mention was that your mother was the oldest islander of them all."

"What?" Eoghan looked at him. He swallowed some of the whiskey and looked at him again. His words still didn't make sense. "What has my mother got to do with anything?"

"Your father loved her very much. That painting - very accurate. It really does look like her, in both forms. But I'm probably the only person in the universe who would know that."

"She was the model for the younger version of the Cailleach."

"Eoghan, your mother IS the Cailleach. Your father was her latest husband. They fell in love more than 50 years ago. The magic worked. She became a young woman again. She came with him and they bought the pub and settled down to live a normal life, have children, be happy. And they were. Until your father died. How long ago was it?"

"Ten years ago," he said.

"Yes, he'd be in his seventies by then. A good age for a man, but not for the Cailleach. For her it must have felt like he was taken from her too soon. What happened to your mother after your father died?"

"She went mad with grief. She wandered off one night and we never found her. We… assumed she drowned in the bay. Her coat and shoes were found washed up by the tide."

"She didn't. She's alive. She is the Cailleach Beara, Eoghan, and she lives still, grieving for her husband and for her lost children. YOU are her child."

"This is crazy," Eoghan said. "How…"

"Even if he is, how can that help?" Rose asked.

"When my wife died, the one comfort I had was my son." The Doctor looked away from them both at that moment. He looked at the painting. "I had that same moment of madness, wanting to be alone with my grief. But then I came back to my son, and we comforted each other. Eoghan, your mother is in despair. She wants to die because a life without love is meaningless. We can't give her the love of another husband. She has to find that herself. But YOU can give her a son's love. It is, take my word for it, the one thing that can ease the grief of widowhood."

"My mother…"

"Let me take you to her." He reached out his hand and Eoghan took it. He was dazed and puzzled by all that he had seen and heard in - he looked at his watch - it was no more than ten minutes since everything he thought was real turned upside down.

"In… in there?" He looked at the TARDIS. Rose smiled at him and assured him it was roomier inside than it looked.

"How come we're scrambling over rocks again?" Rose complained. "You could have put the TARDIS right into the cave."

"Eoghan needs to know how to find it. So he can visit on his own after we've gone on our way. Are you right there, Eoghan?" The man was still puzzled but after his trip by TARDIS he was starting to feel it was possible to believe just about anything. "You see the path back up there to the top of the cliff. It's about a mile walk then to the village, and the ferry to the mainland. You can make the trip as often as you want."

"To see my mother…. Who is an immortal being… who lives in a cave…"

"Now which of those things is the most unlikely?" The Doctor asked him.

"This is a big thing for him," Rose told him. "Give him chance to get used to it."

"The tide's going to be in soon. This time we're going to have to hope that Eibhlin DOES want to give us tea. We'll be stuck for a couple of hours."

"She doesn't seem like a tea and biccies type of woman. And she seemed quite insistent on NOT being bothered again. Are you sure we're not walking into trouble?"

"Trust me," The Doctor said.

"I always trust you. Not sure why. Sometimes you REALLY don't make sense."

"Oh, I do. Eoghan, come on, old son. We're almost there."

Eoghan had no choice but to trust him, either. He knew the tide was coming in fast and the cave entrance he was shown would definitely be under water in a half hour or so. But the rest…

"Eibhlin!" The Doctor called out as soon as he entered the outer cave. "Eibhlin, old girl, come on out. I've brought somebody to see you."

"Are you mad?" Rose asked him. "At least let's go quietly."

The Doctor bounded to the tunnel entrance. Rose looked at Eoghan and shrugged. They followed him. What else could they do.

"Are you mad?" Eibhlin's cracked voice echoed around the inner cave as they emerged from the tunnel.

"I already asked him that," Rose said. "Nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks this is a daft idea."

"Why did you return? I was merciful to you for the sake of friendship. I let you leave. But now you come back to torture me again."

"I bring one who will be a comfort to you, Eibhlin." The Doctor said. "Don't you remember your own son?"

"My son?" Eibhlin looked uncertainly at the man who stepped nervously forward.

"You grieved the loss of your husband, but you forgot that you have a son who loves you. A child's love is just as strong as any other kind of love. I should know. I've known that kind of love more times than I deserved. My son, my granddaughter, her own children. Their love means so much to me. I know it can be a comfort to you if you let it."

"My son…" Eibhlin stepped past The Doctor and went to Eoghan. He stared at her.


They embraced each other. The Doctor stepped back and watched as a small miracle happened. Eibhlin's body didn't become that of a young queen as it did when she found a new husband, but it did become a little younger. She stood upright, a woman of maybe 60 or 70 years of age, but with her health and strength still. She looked at her son with warm, deep affection.

Eoghan looked around at The Doctor.

"I… I don't know what to say."

"Don't say it to me. Say it to her. You've got ten years to catch up on." He turned to Rose. "Come on, we're not needed here." He took her by the hand and they walked back to the outer cave. The tide was coming in and the entrance almost under water.

"We're stuck here for a bit then," she said.

"Could be worse." The Doctor sat down on the sand and made himself comfortable. Rose sighed and joined him. It COULD be worse, she admitted to herself. The cave was cool and pleasant enough. The sound of the incoming tide was soothing. It was a bit like the cave behind the waterfall on Gallifrey that they had once spent a night in.

The Doctor obviously thought the same thing. He put his arm around her shoulder and brought her close to him as he lay back on the sand.

"Will they be ok?" Rose was perfectly happy to snuggle up to The Doctor anywhere. But she couldn't help glancing towards the tunnel to the inner cave.

"Course they will. Mother and son. Nothing more natural. They'll be fine."

"He thought his mother was dead. She forgot he was even alive, because her grief for her husband overwhelmed her?"

"And now they're together again. They can comfort each other."

“But she’s still immortal. Sooner or later she has to find a new mate to be young again.”

“I’m not sure she is,” The Doctor said. “I think… I’m not sure… but I THINK we may have broken the curse. She transformed through his love, but not into a young woman, but into a woman of the age she ought to be as the widow of Eoghan’s father. I think she might live out the rest of her years now and die as a mortal in the natural course of things, die with her son by her side, with no regrets.”

“So her death would be a happy ending for her?”

“It would be an ending. And that’s what she needed. That’s why she asked me to kill her. But this way is better. She no longer feels she’s all alone in the universe. Nobody should feel that. Worst feeling there is.”

“You’ll never be alone,” Rose assured him, realising he wasn’t talking about Eibhlin anymore.”
“Never is a long time,” he said. “But at least I’m not alone now. And that’s good enough.”