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

"What's wrong?" Rose asked recognising a sudden sense of urgency. They had been travelling quietly for several hours and she and The Doctor had been relaxing on the White House sofa, enjoying the fact that, now Wyn wasn't with them any more, they could cuddle and kiss each other whenever they wanted. All of a sudden, though, he had jumped up and run to the console. She was only seconds slower in her response but he was already preparing for an emergency materialisation before she took her place at the life support control.

"I'm picking up a distress beacon." He said. "There's a ship in trouble."

"Rescue mission?"

"Against intergalactic law not to respond."

"You said that once before and it turned out to be a trap set by space pirates."

"Yes," he said. "I know. But I still can't fail to respond."

"What Intergalactic Law? I really don't believe there IS one. I've never seen the slightest sign that ANY law applies out here in space."

"It's more of a guideline," he admitted. "Besides, my conscience can't ignore it."

"Course not," Rose said. "Captain of the Carpathia." That was what he always said in these situations. She was the only other person in that part of the galaxy who recognised the historical analogy, but he said it anyway.

"I'd rather be the Carpathia than the one that didn't get there," he said as he grasped the console and braced himself for the drop out of the time vortex and into normal space. "All that time as the ship foundered, as the Carpathia and the California, the Virginian, the Baltic, the Olympic and the Parisian steamed towards the last known co-ordinate, knowing they were too far away to be any real help, there was a ship nobody ever identified that could be SEEN on the horizon, that just never saw their emergency flares, never responded to their radio SOS's. A ship that might have got there before it sank, might have rescued so many more…"

"Yes," Rose said. "I know. We were THERE." She knew the fact that they had once gone down with that doomed ship was not the only reason why he took it so personally. Pointless loss of life distressed him wherever it was. The possibility of being too late to help distressed him now. That's why he was talking that way. It was his way of reminding her, as if she needed reminding, that life was the most precious thing in the universe.

"I vowed long ago, I'd never be the captain of the ship that stood idly by thinking it was just fireworks. I would not be there on the horizon, offering false hope to the hopeless. I hear a distress beacon, I'm there. To do what I can. Nobody goes down with the ship if I can be there. The TARDIS will always be the Carpathia, doing all it can, the best it can."

"Damn right," Rose said. "Do you know what his name was?"

"Whose name?"

"The Captain of the Carpathia."

"Arthur Henry Rostron. He came from Bolton. Northern lad, like me."

"You're not a Northern lad. You just sound like one."

The Doctor grinned at her before he turned on the viewscreen and they both looked at the stricken spaceship. It didn't appear to be on fire and the life support monitor Rose was looking at said there was no radiation or chemical hazard.

But there was also no sign of life aboard.

"We're too late," she said.

"Scanners are sometimes wrong," The Doctor told her. "We're going in to look." And moments later they were materialising on board the ship.


"This feels like a horrible case of Déjà vu," The Doctor said as their footsteps echoed along an empty corridor. He stopped momentarily and looked at an information panel, the sort that Rose knew from cross-channel ferries that pointed to the toilets and smoking deck, the duty free shop and the lifeboat stations. This was an interactive computerised panel, but the principle was the same.

"Definitely Déjà vu," The Doctor said again. "This is the Starship Robert J. Sawyer."

"Ok," Rose said.

"It's a sister ship to the Starship Alduous Huxley. Don't ask me why, but when humans colonised space they named all their passenger transport ships after science fiction writers. The Alduous Huxley was attacked by space vampyres. Everyone died before it was found. Well, nearly everyone." Rose saw a ghost of a smile on his face. "The last survivor was a girl called Julia who had the good fortune to be found by a teenage Time Lord who happened to work out how to kill the Vampyres before the ship reached a colony full of people to feast on."

Rose smiled. She knew where that story went. But then she realised what he was saying about Déjà vu.

"This is a passenger ship. And there's nobody around."


"The vampyres got here too?"

"I hope not," he said. "But… watch your back."

"The same sort as we found in Ireland?"


Rose shuddered. They weren't the worst creatures she had encountered in her adventures alongside The Doctor. But if she had to compile a top 10 of creep-outs it would be a close thing between them and the Slitheen and the Daleks and the Arachnoids.

"Arachnoids are opportunist predators, too," The Doctor said. "I'm not ruling them out."

Then they reached the mess hall, and The Doctor remembered something he had known for a long time. Sometimes the monsters were Human.

It wasn't Vampyres or Slitheen or Arachnoids, or even Daleks. What had taken place on board the Starship Robert J. Sawyer was a simple robbery massacre by pirates. The passengers and crew had been herded together and shot and then robbed. Rose saw a woman's body lying near the door. Her dress was made of silk, and she must have worn a lot of jewellery. Four of her fingers had been hacked off with a knife to get at the rings.

"They've been dead maybe two days," The Doctor said as he knelt and examined one of the bodies. He didn't need the sonic screwdriver or any space tech. Simple understanding of human pathology told him they were far too late to help these people. But it would have been too late two minutes after the distress signal was sent. This was murder done swiftly and cruelly and exactly for the oldest reason of all. GREED. Rose was close enough to him to see the vein in his neck throb as it did when he was angry. Lots of things made him angry. Life destroyed for the sake of financial gain was definitely number one on THAT list.

"Men, women, children," he said, barely keeping his emotions in check. "All killed for the sake of diamonds, gold, silver! DAMN IT! I probably have more of all of those things in the TARDIS. They could have had the lot and left these people alone." He knelt and touched a child, a little girl, clutching a doll. A boy, maybe her brother, was near her. A woman's hand was outstretched as if to reach them. Rose bit her lip and tried not to cry. She felt The Doctor's arms reach out to hold her. They stopped each other from crying, sharing each other's strengths, holding each other together.

And it was because they were not crying, because they simply stood there, holding each other, silently, that they heard the tiny sound that proved that The Doctor was right when he said that scanners were sometimes wrong. He didn't even bother to use the sonic screwdriver to trace the life they had detected with their own ears. He simply scrambled through the press of bodies. Rose saw him lift aside the body of a young man and a woman who was under him. And then he bent and picked up a small blanketed bundle.

The Doctor stared momentarily at the baby, so small he could cradle it in his two hands, then he clutched it against his chest and he ran as fast as he could back to the TARDIS.

Rose followed behind but by the time she got there, breathless, he was already in the medical room. He had undressed the baby from the damp, dirty clothes it had lain in for days. He had washed it and now he was inserting a needle into its arm.

"What is that?" Rose asked.

"Saline-sucrose solution," The Doctor said. "She's dehydrated. Two days lying there - hidden by the bodies of her parents. She's hungry, too. But I can't feed her until I bring her fluid levels up."

"It's a girl?"

"Yes. A beautiful little Human girl." He smiled warmly at the baby as he continued to examine her expertly.

Rose came closer. She had not had a LOT of contact with babies. Most of her schoolfriends had families by now, but her life had taken a different turn. Even so, an instinct she hardly knew she had kicked into action as she watched The Doctor tending to the child. His own instincts were already in overdrive. For the moment, he WAS a doctor, in the usual sense of the word. He was attending to the urgent medical needs of a starving baby. But at the same time he had once been a father, and she saw the way his eyes softened, how he gently stroked the baby's head, calming it. His hand was bigger than her head. She WAS tiny.

"No more than two weeks old," he said to her unanswered question.

"So she was born on the ship?"

"Those ships take as much as two years to get to their destinations. She must have been conceived on board." He sighed and shook his head sadly. "What hopes her parents must have had for their future - a new baby, a new life, a new planet. They had it all to look forward to. And it was all destroyed in an instant."

"Is she going to be all right?" Rose asked. "Will she…" She watched as he put just one finger over the baby's heart and lungs and she knew he could tell by that gentle touch whether her organs were working or not. He moved down the tiny torso and examined the kidneys and liver, the organs most affected by dehydration and starvation.

"We got to her in time." He allowed himself to smile. "I'm just giving her another saline injection, and some vitamins and iron, all the things she's lacking after lying there so long. And in a little while you can feed her."

"Me?" Rose looked at him. "How?"

"Look in the kitchen," he said. "You can bet the minute I stepped on board with her the TARDIS arranged that we'd have baby milk and bottles in the fridge. And if there's not a supply of disposable nappies in the bathroom I'll be very disappointed with the old girl." He finished with the saline injection and he wrapped her in a clean blanket and gently passed her to Rose.

"You look after her," he said. "Like I said, you can feed her soon. Give it half an hour. The TARDIS will have anything else you think you need somewhere."

"Where are you going?" Rose asked as she hugged the baby - as she had been longing to do all the time The Doctor had been looking after her. She was amazed how light she felt. A tiny, fragile thing.

"I'm going to go check the passenger manifest and compile a list of the dead and try to find out who she is." He looked at Rose and smiled. "It could take me an hour or two," he told her. "Just in case you worry about me being gone so long. I'll be okay. The ones who did this are light years away now."

"I won't worry," Rose said. "Besides, I shall be busy looking after her. We're all she has in the universe. She needs us."

The Doctor looked at Rose and seemed about to say something. Then he changed his mind. There was a potentially dangerous bridge on the horizon, but he would cross it when they reached it.


Finding the names of the parents who had a baby on board the starship only two weeks previously was not difficult. He simply looked at the records of the medical centre. He downloaded their information onto a portable memory chip he could interface with the TARDIS later. But that wasn't the only reason he had come back on board. He went first to the bridge and switched off the beacon. There was no point in bringing any more help. There was nobody left to help. But he did send out a message to the galactic police - the force the humans put in place to deal with piracy and other problems with their colonies and traffic to and from them. They would be many hours even if they picked it up right away.

Meanwhile he downloaded the passenger and crew manifest onto a portable device and went back to the mess hall. The bodies had lain there for two days or more and the room was warm. He wanted to ensure that, when the ship was finally docked, and relatives were able to claim their loved ones, they were in a better state than they were at present. He turned the temperature right down to begin with. That would help prevent further decomposition. Then he set to work, laying the bodies out, identifying them from the photo records on the manifest, putting the families together, closing their eyes and making them look decent. He knew that a dead body was just a shell. That indefinable thing that his race and humans both called a soul was long gone from these shells. He could not say where a human soul went to. That was for others to decide. But when he put the body of a six year old girl next to her mother, and placed her doll in her arms, he was sentimental enough to think that the gesture brought some peace to them.

"I'm sorry," he said as he stood by the door and looked at the long lines of bodies, now decently covered by linen cloths. He turned the temperature down further now he was done. "I wish I'd got here sooner. I wish I could have helped. This time…. This time I was too late."

And Time Lord though he was, he knew that's how it had to be. He couldn't turn back time and make the dead live. That was the cardinal rule. Things had to be as they were.

He heard footsteps behind him and span around. He was relieved to see a group of galactic police. They had arrived much sooner than he had expected. He had planned to leave before they arrived, leaving them as much evidence as he came across as he made the bodies decent. There was precious little. The perpetrators would likely get clean away. There was a universe for them to hide in. He took out his psychic paper and prepared to identify himself to them.

Rose was enjoying herself. The Doctor was right. The TARDIS HAD accommodated its newest crew member. She found baby milk already made up in the kitchen and nappies in the bathroom and in the wardrobe, dozens of little dresses. She chose the prettiest, pale pink with a white "apron" with strawberry shaped motifs all around. She dressed the baby in it and she looked like the sweetest doll she ever saw. But she was better than that. She was a real baby. She could give back all the love she was given.

And Rose already felt she loved her.


She was sitting on the sofa feeding the baby when The Doctor arrived back with the galactic police commander. He smiled as he saw the baby dressed in pink lace. Well done, TARDIS! But Rose looked so natural, so motherly as she held the baby. He was not surprised at what the commander said next.

"Don't you worry about bringing your wife and child into deep space with so much danger around?"

The Doctor hesitated a moment before answering. He saw Rose look up at him. He couldn't exactly read her expression but he didn't need to.

"She wouldn't be anywhere else but with me. Besides, our ship has its own defences. We're safe enough."

"Cosy life though. Travelling in your own ship, going where you choose. You must be pretty rich to enjoy such luxury."

"I get by. You were asking about…." The Doctor froze in mid-sentence and looked again at the commander. A moment later the commander was lying on the floor making bubbling noises while The Doctor smashed his gun down on the corner of the console and broke it into three smoking pieces.

"What the hell…." Rose looked up from the sofa wondering how they had got into beating up policemen in the time it took her to wind the baby.

"You're NOT the Galactic Police," he said coldly. "You're the ones who did this. And you set the beacon…. To attract other potential victims."

"You think you're so clever!" the commander snarled.

"Well, yes. That stands to reason," he answered as he stepped over the man to reach his communications console. He pressed the preset that put him immediately in touch with a higher authority than the Galactic Police - the 22nd Space Corps. Unlike the Galactic Police they had hyperdrive AND rudimentary time travel capability and they would be there quickly. But maybe not quickly enough. The Doctor dragged the commander to his feet and secured his hands behind his back with handcuffs from his own fake policeman's kit. He looked at Rose.

"I'll be back in a bit. I'm just going to disable this one's ship so that he and his men can't leave before the 22nd get here."

"We're ok," Rose said. "Baby and I are just fine."

He smiled at her and gave his captive a firm poke in the back to persuade him to move.

When he returned Rose wasn't in the console room. He checked out the kitchen and bathroom before finding her in the bedroom, curled up on the bed asleep with the baby cuddled up to her. He smiled to see them like that, but he needed to talk to her all the same. He gently woke her.

"Sorted. The bad guys are going to jail. The REAL galactic police are still on their way, but the 22nd have it all in hand now. I've put us in temporal orbit for a bit of peace and quiet."

Rose sat up and looked around and wondered how there was a baby's crib next to the bed now.

"I found it on the ship. I thought it would be easier than me sleeping on the floor while you two hog the bed." He took the baby and settled her in the crib and bent and kissed her tenderly. "Poor little thing. Never mind, you're safe now."

"We should name her," Rose said. "I was thinking about that before."

"She has a name," The Doctor said. "Tamara Goulding. Her birth was noted in the ship's log. Her parents were Karan and Fenner Goulding from York. She was their first child."

"Tammy," Rose said with a smile.

"Yes, if you like." The Doctor looked at her and took a deep breath. "Rose, she HAS history. She had parents. They have parents somewhere. They may have brothers or sisters. She HAS a family somewhere."

"She has us," Rose said. "Doctor, nobody in the universe knows she's alive. Nobody would know. Nobody would care. We… we could be her parents. We could…"

"Rose…." He sat by her side and put his arms around her. "Do you think that thought hasn't crossed my mind? What could complete our lives better? It's what we've both wanted for a long time. We've talked about it. We know we're still a long way off having a child of our own. And she looks like the answer to all our hopes. She's healthy, beautiful, perfect. She COULD be ours. Nobody WOULD ever question it except… except my Susan and your mum."

Rose laughed as she had a vision of her mum's face if they arrived at the flats right now.

"After we brought her round from the faint she'd understand," Rose said.

"Yeah, she probably would." The Doctor agreed. "But…."

"Then we could." Rose looked at him pleadingly. "We could keep her. Please… let's do that."

"Rose!" He closed his eyes and groaned. "Rose, don't make me the one to say no. Don't make me the bad guy in this."

"Then say yes," she begged him.

"I can't," he insisted. "At least not…" He stopped and looked at her. "Rose… Listen to me, please." He held her by the shoulders firmly. "I don't want to give you false hope. I'm telling you this straight. I'm going to try VERY hard to find Tammy's real family. And if they exist, if they want her, if they can take her and give her a good home, give her love, give her everything I would hope and wish for her, then that's what we're going to do. That's the right thing to do. And then we're going to walk away and stay away. She will never know about us, never know who we are. Never know who rescued her from the disaster where her parents died. And…"

"And we just forget about her?"

"No, we will never forget. I don't think we will ever do that. But we'll know we did the right thing."

"And if there is nobody?"

"If there is nobody, there are such things as orphanages."

"Doctor, have you ever heard Jack talk about growing up in an orphanage?"

"Yes," he admitted. "Ok, there are OTHER options."

"And one of them is we keep her as our own, raise her as OUR daughter."

"Yes. It's one option. And I agree, it's an attractive idea. But Rose… it's the LAST RESORT. I want you to understand that. Only if there is NO OTHER WAY."

"Don't shout," she said. "You'll frighten her."

"I wouldn't do anything to frighten her in a million years," The Doctor answered. Rose looked at him, his eyes soft and loving as he looked at the baby. She knew he was hoping as much as she was that Tammy really was alone in the universe.

He was. Which was why he searched thoroughly, and then searched again and again. Because he wanted to be sure.

It took three weeks. And that made it all the harder, because in those three weeks they both came to love her. Rose was devoted to Tammy, taking care of her every need. She slipped so easily into the routine of motherhood. Even the middle of the night feeds, when she knew he was awake anyway, because he only ever slept a few hours at a time. She insisted on doing it. He made her coffee while she fed Tammy and changed her and cuddled her and then put her back to sleep. He watched her and his hearts burned with the memory of when he WAS a father, when his son's crib was beside their bed and he brought coffee for Julia as she attended to their Christopher.

And he started to hope. He had not said anything more about it to Rose, but he had begun to feel that, after all, they COULD be a family together. He'd let himself dream of a future with the three of them in it. The dream was a good one.

And then he found her grandparents. Mr and Mrs Brent, Karan Goulding's mother and father, living in York, England, Earth in the 25th century. And he knew what he had to do. And he knew it would tear the hearts out of them both, but he HAD to do it.

"No," Rose cried when he told her. "After all this time? No. It's not fair. I thought…. I hoped…."

"So did I," he said calmly, though he felt anything but calm. When he had seen the matching result of his search he had wanted to erase it and pretend he had NEVER seen it. But he couldn't. He could not deceive himself, he could not deceive Rose, and in a million years he could not deceive Tammy. He couldn't call her his own knowing that it was a lie. He knew he could not have her call him daddy knowing that he had withheld her from people who could love him as much as he did. His hearts WERE breaking. But he knew what they must do. So did Rose.

"Let's have one day more," he decided as he looked at her. "One perfect day, just the three of us. Somewhere nice."

"This is to make me feel better about giving her away?"

"Yes," he said. "Yes, it is. It's a memory for us to treasure. So… choose where you would like to go."

She chose an ordinary park, in summer, on Earth, in her own time. A place with grassy places to sit, with an ornamental fountain that cooled the air, with trees that offered shade, and a jazz band playing on the bandstand, the music drifting across the whole park pleasantly. They spent the day there, in a tree-shaded spot, with a picnic to eat and ice creams when the vendor came around. The Doctor brought a camera and took photos of Rose with the baby, and she took some of him, and they got a lady passing by to take some of them together. She told them they were a lovely looking family and their baby was beautiful and they both smiled brightly to be told that.

"And we will be, Rose," The Doctor told her. "In time, it will be real for us. We'll come back here again when we have a baby of our own and it won't be a lie."

"I know," she said. "I believe in you. I know it WILL happen. But it seems so far off. And Tammy is here now. And she's real, not just a dream, a hope… and…" She shook her head. "I'm not going to cry. It IS a nice day. This WAS a good idea. It will be a day to remember. Thank you for it."

He smiled and kissed her gently. He was glad she was being calm. He just hoped she could keep it up tomorrow when they went to York in the 24th century to take Tammy to her new home.

When they got there The Doctor went to the door on his own, leaving Rose and the baby in the hire car. He was glad he did, because he found a family in mourning who had just returned from a memorial for their daughter and son-in-law, and it needed careful explaining. At first they took him to be a reporter looking for a local story about the international disaster of the Starship Robert J. Sawyer. When he told them his true reason for being there Mrs Brent almost fainted in shock. On unsteady feet, supported by her husband she walked to the garden gate while The Doctor went back to the car and brought Rose, carrying the baby, to meet them halfway. Rose gave Tammy to them without a word. There were no words she could say. But she managed to smile and look as if she was happy for them. The Doctor brought the bag of clothes and toys and feeding bottles and nappies into the house. They were invited to stay to lunch. His first instinct was to refuse, to leave as soon as possible. But Rose needed a little more time to get used to the parting, and Mr and Mrs Brent needed to know the truth about what happened to their daughter from the only person who knew anything about it at all. But finally, The Doctor told Rose they had to go. They both hugged Tammy one last time and then he took her by the hand and told her not to look back as they drove away. She cried all the way back to the TARDIS. He felt like crying, too, but he had to keep calm. One of them had to.

"What if they don't love her as much as we do?" Rose asked tearfully. "What if they hurt her? What if they're cruel to her?"

"She's their dead daughter's little girl. She is their second chance. They will love her like nobody EVER loved a child. And you know they will. You're just trying to convince yourself that nobody else could love her like you… like WE did. And you can't do that, Rose. You have to believe she is going to be a happy child with a loving family."

"Why must we walk away? Can't we at least keep in touch? Send her birthday presents, that sort of thing."

"No," The Doctor insisted as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit. "We have to leave her to grow up with her family. We would just be reminders of the fact that her parents were murdered. Let her put that behind her."


"Rose…" The Doctor sighed. He looked at her. He loved Rose so much his hearts felt incapable of holding it in. He would do anything to make her happy. And he COULD do almost anything, give her anything. Except….

Except a baby. They had always talked about having children as a promise for the future. And for Rose it had BEEN in the future. And she hadn't thought about it much. But now those instincts had been woken in her and he knew that if he could not give her more than a vague promise it could be the very thing that might break them apart. She might think that an ordinary man who could give her a child was a better prospect than his whole wonderful universe without that blessing in their lives. And he didn't know what he could do to make it right, apart from work all the harder to find a way for it to happen.

Meanwhile, there was, at least, one small thing more he could do that would make the parting from Tammy a little easier for her. At least he hoped it would. He went to the console and turned the destination indicator and then set them on a short jump in time.

"Where are we?" Rose asked as they stepped out of the TARDIS.

"York, England, twenty-one years after our last visit. Come on."

They were outside the University of York. People were going into the auditorium. The Doctor took Rose's hand and led her inside. She still didn't understand what it was about.

They were at a graduation ceremony. Rose tried not to lose concentration as the Chancellor of the University made a long, dull speech before the students were called to receive their degrees. Then she felt The Doctor clutch her hand tightly as Tamara Goulding stepped up to receive her diploma. She was slim, pretty, with long dark hair curled around her shoulders. She smiled as she received a round of applause as the top student of her year.

"Oh my." Rose whispered excitedly. "Doctor…. OUR baby, OUR little girl just graduated. Oh… Aren't you proud of her."

"Yes," he said. "Very proud."

"Can we talk to her?" Rose asked.

"It's not a good idea," The Doctor told her. "That's not why we're here. We're just here so that we know. So that we can see that her life has been - will be - everything either of us could have hoped. And it is."

They went outside with all the other proud parents of graduates to a garden where a buffet reception was set out for them and the official photographer was taking photos of the students and their families. They stood aside, under a tree by the edge of the reception and watched. They saw Tammy with her friends, with a young man who seemed to be more than a friend. They watched as she found her grandparents and they hugged and kissed her and told her over and over that they were proud of her and loved her.

What made Mrs Brent look their way, they did not know. But for some reason she did. And they saw her puzzled look as she tried to remember where she had seen them before. They saw her look back at her granddaughter and forget about them in the excitement of the day. When she glanced again that way they were gone.

Outside in the street nobody saw an old fashioned blue police public call box disappear.