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

How often had he been told he had no patience?

Most of his life, The Doctor reflected. His teachers at the Academy said so. His father said so; so did the old monks of Mount Lœng who had taught him meditation. Lack of patience was his biggest handicap in learning the disciplines.

And right now he was proving them all right. He had run out of patience an hour ago and now frustration was gnawing away at him.

Because all he could do was wait and hope.

They told him to pray as well. But he couldn't do that.

He walked to the other end of the corridor where the coffee machine stood and put credit discs into it. A cup of scalding liquid appeared in the hatch and he took it and walked back to the other end. He looked out at the same grey, rainswept view of London he had looked at for two hours already and let the coffee go cold. He didn't even want it. The action of walking to the machine, putting in the credits and taking the drink had simply taken up another thirty seconds or so of time.

He had no patience, and he was a control freak who couldn't bear not to be in charge, not to be running things, not to be making the decisions.

And right now he was waiting. Somebody else had made the decisions and was in charge now. He was out of the loop. He didn't even know what was happening or how long it was going to take.

Or if it would even work.

No, he had to believe it would work. That was why he came to the 31st century, when medical knowledge was as advanced as the Human race was ever going to make it, when everything that was 'humanly' possible could be done. He brought her here because here the chances of it working, of it all being all right in the end, were better than anywhere else in the universe and any other time.

But even here they couldn't give one hundred percent guarantees.

Wait, hope, pray!

He almost wished he DID have the comfort of prayer. He wished there was something he believed in, some ritual he could perform, a form of words that would bring peace of mind. But he came from a world without gods, without religion. He knew there was nothing and nobody out there, or up there, overseeing the universe. There was nothing to ask intercession for the sake of the woman he loved.

He believed in science. All his life he had put his faith in logic and scientific rationale.

But they weren't enough at a time like this. There was no logic. There was no scientific rationale for the feelings he had for Rose.

Love wasn't logical. Love wasn't rational. It couldn't be measured or quantified. It certainly couldn't be explained. And it made absolutely no sense that somebody like him should ever BE in love. But he had been twice in his life, and both times now he had grieved for it.

"What is the use of emotions if you cannot save the woman you love?" The words of the Dalek that first caused him this kind of pain by letting him think it had killed her came back to haunt him and frustrate him right now. It was meant as a taunt, to get him to do the wrong thing. But it had become a useful axiom in the past years. He had saved her many times. At least as many times as she had saved him.

But this time he couldn't save her. It was down to somebody else to do that.

And that was WHY he couldn't sit still, why he couldn't relax. Why he wanted to punch his fists through the plate glass window. Why he couldn't even find solace and the passing of the hours in his usual meditation. His mind refused to let go. He had tried several times, but he couldn't do it. He couldn't even sit still long enough to begin the discipline.

Despite being so famously lacking in patience, he knew how to sit in contemplation for hours on end in the purification rituals of his world and could put himself into deep trance for days.

But not now. Not while she was in that operating theatre.

He wanted to scream. His frustration was so acute.


It had all been so perfect. For a week they had enjoyed hiking across country, enjoying this planet whose only challenge had been the rugged, mountainous terrain.

"How far back is the TARDIS now?" Rose asked as they sat outside their tent and watched the sun go down and unfamiliar stars appear in the sky above them.

"Well, we're making about 20 miles a day, and we've been hiking for seven days," The Doctor told her. "140 miles back that way."

"Not a good planet for the remote autopilot to break down on," Rose giggled.

"Nope," The Doctor fingered the key in his pocket. It did feel strange to be so far from the TARDIS for so long. But it would be cheating if they had it with them. The whole point of a trip like this was to rough it without the modern conveniences.

The whole point of the trip was to be utterly and completely alone with the woman he loved, he reminded himself. And THAT bit had worked out wonderfully well. They ought to find more virtually uninhabited planets and go camping, he thought as they went into the tent and prepared to settle down to sleep for the night.

"Comfy?" he asked as they snuggled down together inside the sleeping bag.

"No, but I don't care as long as you're uncomfortable beside me," she said. He grinned and kissed her as he blew out the lamp and they lay together in the darkness. It wasn't particularly comfortable, and some nights they had barely been warm, but a feather bed to lie in alone would be comfortless compared to a groundsheet and a sleeping bag and her body pressed close in his arms, her head on his shoulder as they settled to sleep.


Just before dawn their peace was shattered.

"#$%£*&" The Doctor yelled as he heard the space craft's engines roar overhead. Something was coming into land in the valley below their encampment.

"Bloody Sunday drivers," Rose muttered as he scrambled out of the sleeping bag. "No consideration."

"That's a Verellian ship," The Doctor said as he stood and watched it land.

"A what?" Rose crawled out of the sleeping bag, feeling tousled and still not quite awake. "What's it doing here?"

"Not sightseeing, anyway," The Doctor said. "Verellians are scum."

"Ok…" There was something in the way he said that last word that told her the people in that ship had to be the worst. She crept back to the tent and found the binoculars she had been using to see things The Doctor saw with his Gallifreyan eyes.

"They just look miserable to me," she said as she focussed on the group of people who had poured out of the craft. They seemed an odd assortment of humanoids, mostly dressed in rags and tattered clothes that seemed incongruous with the rather sleek looking ship.

"Not them," The Doctor said. "They're the merchandise. The Verellians are that lot standing by the door."

Rose adjusted her binoculars and looked again.


It wasn't just that they weren't humanoid. She'd met species with heads like birds, ones with faces that looked carved out of wood, and any number of reptilians that were perfectly polite and charming as long as you didn't accept an invitation to lunch with them - reptiles tended to eat their meat live. It was not very appetising and you just couldn't look away when you saw the fur stuck in their teeth.

But these really did look nasty. They were squat, heavy set, with features that reminded her of pigs, if you got pigs with heavy, hooded brows and dark facial hair.

Even if The Doctor had not already said they were 'scum' she would not have put them down as nice people to know. She had experience enough to know that you really could NOT judge by appearances, but this was definitely the exception to the rule.

"But the prisoners aren't chained or anything," Rose observed. "Why don't they make a run for it?"

"That's why…" The Doctor pointed. One of the male prisoners TRIED to get away. He sprinted away from the line and ran as quickly as he could. But he was no more than fifty yards away when he stopped, dead. Literally dead. His body juddered as if an electric current was going through it and his clothes began to smoke. A minute or more passed before his charred body fell to the ground. And for much of that time he had been screaming in agony. Rose stopped looking. The Doctor held her close as she put her hands over her ears to block out the death cries of the unfortunate man and wished he didn't feel compelled to watch.

"We have to do something," Rose said after the screams had stopped.


Of course they'd had to do something, The Doctor mused as he finally drank the cold coffee and stared at the iron grey sky of a miserable day. It almost seemed as if the weather was matching his mood.

Of course they had to do something. He couldn't walk away from an injustice like that. And nor could Rose. He had taught her that.

No, he hadn't.

That courage and sympathy for others was already there. She had barely known him when she risked her life to save him from the Nestene. She'd always had that sense of what was right. Even if HE could have walked away from that scene, she couldn't have done.

So there was no point in beating himself up over what happened. He didn't drag her into anything against her will. She had been as ready to face the danger as he was.

He knew that, of course. He knew he carried no blame.

But he STILL felt guilty.


"Of course we have to do something," The Doctor said. "And fast."

"What are they doing now?"

"The slaves are building their own slave market. Portable platform to parade them on in front of the buyers. Of course. That's why they're here. This planet is uninhabited. It is under the jurisdiction of no government. So they can evade the laws that ban slave trading."

"The women…" Rose looked at the group working feverishly at their task. "A lot of them are women. Will they…."

"Bedroom slaves," The Doctor said, his eyes glittering with anger. "Some of the young men, too, probably. Depends how depraved the buyers are."

"Where do the buyers come from?"

"This will have been advertised in advance in spaceports, pirate TV transmissions. They'll be here later. But if I have anything to do with it, they'll have nothing to buy. Come on."

He started down the hill. Rose followed. She didn't know what the plan was. But she knew he had one.

Yes, he had a plan. But the initial one simply involved kicking the Verellians one by one until they got the message that slavery was a nasty business. That was never going to work. But even before he had formulated a better one, Rose was following him, faithfully.

"Bang goes peace and quiet," she said as they picked their way down the hill using the cover of rock outcrops. "Well, we had seven days of it, anyway. I suppose it was asking too much for some rogue entity not to land on the same planet as us after that long without a scrap to get stuck into."

"Why couldn't they have landed the other side of the planet. We'd never have known and had nothing to feel guilty about!" The Doctor mused. "I WAS enjoying the peace and quiet."

"You're only kidding. You'd never ignore somebody in trouble."

"Some days, I am so tempted. My people would have done. This is nothing to do with our planet's well-being, so ignore it."

"You never would."

"Is it because I'm a hero, or because I'm a busy-body who can't resist interfering?" he asked.

"Hero, definitely," Rose assured him. "The good guy every time. The good guy in black. Just to confuse the old time movie heroes."

"I like black," he said.

"Never complained. It looks good on you."

He smiled and looked at her in the practical light combats and top she had been wearing this trip. Not as feminine as he liked her to look, but perfect for a seven day hike, and ideal for a scrap with the scum of the quadrant.

"I have to get into the ship and disable that damn thing. It's called an electronic manacle. It works by sending out a signal to receivers fixed to their ankles. If they step too far out of the transmitter range, or if they try to attack their guards or any other act of disobedience, they're zapped. As you saw."

"I don't want to see that again," Rose said. "It was horrible."

"It's an example of how downright nasty they are. Those people are money in the bank to them, but they're prepared to have one die every so often as an example to the others."

"Tell you one thing," Rose said as they observed the entrance to the ship and the two Verellians on sentry duty. "I am NOT going to use feminine wiles to distract the guards."

"I don't think that has EVER worked outside of Hollywood," The Doctor replied. "Besides, I'd never use you like that. And even if I would, you're not their type. Their women have way more facial hair."

"Ok, so what is the plan?" she asked him.


There wasn't a plan, he reflected as he paced the corridor once more. That was the problem. He'd just decided there and then that he had to do something to rescue what amounted to a mere handful of people, from just one small-time example of the evil of the universe. But he had no idea how.

And these WERE small time. Defeating them, in the big picture of a universe full of corruption and oppression was nothing. Their captives were nothing in that bigger picture.

But he had spent eight lifetimes fighting just these sort of battles for just such small victories. Yes, there had been the big fights, too. There were whole solar systems with better lives because he had stepped in and said no to some hideous plot. But mostly he had fought these small battles and made it right for small people.

And what else, when all is said and done, could anyone do? And when all is said and done, these fifty or so people in their rags and tatters and their despair were just as worth saving as a whole planet.

He adjusted his sonic screwdriver to emit a small laser beam. It was a very effective tool but only at short range. It needed augmenting. He touched her hand and felt the diamond solitaire she wore. He held up her hand and focussed the beam through the diamond. He heard Rose gasp with astonishment as the augmented laser bored straight through the brain of the first guard, then the other in quick succession. Almost comically, they fell backwards, leaning against the doorway as if they'd just fallen asleep on duty. Perfect, The Doctor thought as he broke cover and ran for the door. With any luck nobody would notice they were dead for a while.

Yes, he felt a little shoddy using her engagement ring as part of a lethal weapon. He wondered what Julia would have thought. Or his mother. They had both worn it before Rose.

Julia would have understood. She'd fought her fair share of space ugliness beside him. It might have needed explaining to his mother. Or maybe not. He knew so little about her. He remembered a kind, caring, loving woman whose eyes were filled with love for him. But then Julia had looked that way when she was a mother herself. And she had been a girl who could throw stun grenades while he went into the fray. Her and Rose were both fantastic that way.

And yet, as much as he admired that in them, a part of him that Rose would call the male chauvinist pig felt guilty for putting them through it. They both deserved to wear beautiful clothes and go to parties and have a nice home with beautiful things around them. They deserved to be loved and protected, not flung into battles like this.


Not put into mortal danger, not hurt so grievously he still didn't know if she was going to live. He crumpled the cup and threw it into the recycling receptacle that would have it reconstituted into a new, clean cup in the coffee machine within minutes.

He looked at the clock above the nurse's workstation. It was only five minutes since he last looked. Unless the bloody thing had stopped.

He had the sudden urge to find a room without a clock in it. He didn't want to see how the time was dragging by.

A Time Lord who didn't want to know the time. There was a curious irony there.

Nuts to irony, he told himself as he stepped through the only other door in the corridor that the public were allowed into. He paused for a moment, surprised by what he found.

It was an oratory - a place where those who believed in religion could sit quietly and pray or think.

It was quiet, cool, and comfortingly half dark with the windows blacked out and candles around the altar. And it didn't have any clocks. He sat down on one of the seats and leaned his head against the rail in front of him.

For a few moments the peace of the place did soothe him. But his restless brain wouldn't let him be for long. He looked up slowly and was aware of an icon with a votive candle lit beneath it. It was one of those old fashioned pictures of Christ, as a man with benevolent looking eyes reaching out a hand towards the onlooker. The Doctor looked at it. Intellectually he knew the significance of such pictures. The Son of God on Earth, a living man whose willing sacrifice saved mankind.

"Been there, done that," The Doctor whispered. "In fact, YOU only did it once. I've been through that eight times now."

The candle under the icon gave it a strange kind of life. But The Doctor knew that's all it was. There was nobody listening. Nothing to believe in. Intellectually he knew the story. And he knew that's all it was. He felt nothing of the faith that gave Humans comfort.

He had never needed religion in his life. But for the second time in an hour he actually wished he did. Maybe that was the great flaw in his people, his way of life. They had nothing to believe in.

"If YOU exist, you know what I need from you." He glared at the icon, almost daring a response.


He made it into the ship. He sent two more Verrelians to a not too peaceful sleep inside. As nasty as they were he still disliked killing. The two at the door had been necessary. But if he could subdue the rest by other means he would.

The bridge had three Verrelians aboard. He dealt with the communications officer first. He was closest to the door and in any case that prevented any emergency response being sent out. A sharp karate chop even to those thick necks sent them to dreamland easily. And it was a second or two before the navigator and pilot realised there was anything going on. He crossed the floor in a time fold and took them both down before they even noticed.

Verrelian was a difficult language to read. Especially in the shorthand script on their instrument panel. It took him a little while to work out what everything did, and he was wary about pressing anything that might alert the other guards who were overseeing the prisoners. Their two comrades dead by the door were a giveaway if they came back to the ship.

He did put the viewscreen on so that he could keep an eye on things while he found the controls for that device that kept the prisoners in such terrible bondage.

"Oh $*%£%#," he swore as he saw one of the guards coming towards the shuttle. Once he rounded the corner the game was up.

He swore again as he saw Rose slip down from her hiding place to take on the guard. As he turned the corner and saw the two dead guards she leapt at him. Her Sun Ko Du scissor kick was perfectly executed, and the guard went down, but the game was up. Another guard ran at her and this time she had lost the element of surprise. The Doctor let out a scream of anguish as he saw her lifted by the Verrelian and thrown bodily against the rocky outcrop they had hidden behind.

He wasn't the only one who cried out. From the ranks of the prisoners a man suddenly turned and ran at the guard who had hurt Rose. The Doctor looked in horror as the electric shock ran through his body and astonishment, and just a little admiration of his courage as he grasped the Verellian guard. Both bodies charred together before The Doctor located the control and shut it down.

He ran outside. The sacrifice of one of them had put a new idea into the minds of the prisoners. Take one of their captors with you as you die. When another turned ready to make the same sacrifice they were nearly as surprised to find that the current no longer worked. But that meant they could REALLY fight back now. The remaining guards were subdued by the overwhelming numbers of the prisoners.

The Doctor ran to where Rose lay. His hearts were frozen with grief. He'd seen how heavily she had landed and how still and pale she was. Blood poured from a gash on her head, but what worried him was the twisted way she was lying and his worst fears were confirmed when he used the sonic screwdriver to examine her.

She was alive. But only just. And she was grievously injured. Her back was broken in three places. If he moved her wrongly now her spinal cord could be severed in one or more of those places and she would be paralysed.


Of all the cruel injuries, The Doctor thought as he sat in the oratory, still staring at the icon of an Earth Deity he didn't believe in.

Better off dead, some would say. He didn't. He believed life was worth holding onto until the end. But when he thought about what it would mean to a girl like Rose he felt almost as if they were right. She was so full of life, so active, so independent. How could she learn to cope with being unable to do anything for herself? Being dependent on somebody else for her every biological need?

Dependent on HIM. That much he was certain of. He would be there to help her come to terms with such helplessness.

He knew he would have to change his whole life for her. No more exploring the universe, no adventures. The only fight he would have would be a daily fight against despair - hers and his.

But he would do it. He would do it for as long as she lived, if he had to, if it came to that. That's how much he loved her. He would sacrifice everything he had ever valued in his life to take care of her.

"I would, Rose," he whispered, fighting back bitter tears that he would not let betray him now. "I would do that for you."


"Can we help?" One of the prisoners ran up to him and had to repeat the question twice more before The Doctor responded.

"I have to get her onto my ship," he said, standing and taking out his TARDIS key. It was parked 140 miles away in the quiet spot where they had landed, but it responded immediately.

The prisoner blinked in astonishment as he found a strange room solidifying around him along with the man and the injured woman who had come out of nowhere to bring freedom to him.

"What…." he began to stammer.

"Too long to explain," The Doctor said. "Look, wait here with her. Don't move her. I need to get…" He ran off down the corridor to the medical room. It had what he needed. A stretcher, neck brace, restraints. If she was kept very still, he might be able to stop her spinal cord from sustaining any worse injury than there was already. He ran back to the console room and the prisoner helped him to make her safe on the stretcher.

"What are you going to do now?" he asked. "She needs a hospital."

"She'll get one. The best the universe has to offer. What about you lot? That ship - Do any of you know how to fly? It ought to get you as far as Castrita - the twin planet of this one. You can report your abduction to the Galactic Police. They'll sort it out."

"We have pilots," he said. "We were a survey team on our way to a new Earth colony planet - to determine how much terra-forming it would need. They intercepted our ship - took us all prisoner." The man paused. "We already lost eight of our number. Two more today. Horrible…"

"I know," The Doctor said. "I saw it. I'm sorry."

He was sorry, but at the same time irritated. He didn't want to know these things. He didn't CARE about these people any more. They were free of their captors. What they did now was their business. He just wanted to get Rose to a hospital.

"They were brothers, you know. That's why… Garrick… after he saw his brother die… and then your friend… I think he just decided enough was enough…"

"My brother was called Garrick," The coincidence shook him. He wished he'd never even known the name of the man he saw die so horribly. It made it worse that the name already tore his hearts in two.

He didn't even ask the name of the man as he let him out of the TARDIS and wished him luck. He still couldn't feel anything for them. He hoped they would be all right. He hoped the Galactic police would come and round up the Verellians and put them in a cold dark place for a long time. But his first thought was for Rose.

"Doctor…" As he set the co-ordinate and the TARDIS entered the time vortex en-route to the thirty-first century, Rose opened her eyes. He was at her side in an instant.

"Don't move," he said. "Keep as still as you can. I'm taking you to hospital. You'll be all right. But you have to keep very still."

"I CAN'T move," she said. "I can't feel my legs. Doctor… hospital? Why? Why can't you… You're my doctor…."

"I don't have the skill," he told her. "Not for this. I need to get you to people who know about these kind of injuries. Now, hush. Go to sleep. When you wake up again it will all be ok." He passed his hand over her forehead and sent her into a gentle sleep before returning to the console. "Please," he whispered to the console. "If you love her as I love her, please land as smoothly and gently as you can."

Whether it heard him or not, the TARDIS DID land smoothly in the emergency department of the hospital that, in the 31st century stood on the site of the Free Hospital for the poor he worked in as a student doctor in the 1860s. It was a sweetly symbolic co-incidence. If he believed in omens it might have meant something. He didn't. He believed in science and medical skill. He stepped out of the TARDIS and demanded help from the startled hospital staff. Their surgeons were what he believed in.


"I don't believe in you," he said, staring at the icon as it continued to give the impression of movement in the candlelight.

"I know about your religion. I know there are those that would say I do your work - fighting the darkness out there, helping the poor and oppressed. Funny, they were the ones you cared for. Now they seem to be my responsibility."

The candle flickered.

"Some people think I am a God anyway. Those fantastic, gentle people of SangC'lune. Well, not me really. My people. I just happen to be the only one left. If one of them came to me with the kind of problems I have now, I'd have something to say to them. I don't know what. But I'd give them something better than a candle in front of a picture."

The candle flickered. Patterns that could be mistaken for movement by somebody who had faith in such things crossed the picture.

"But who has the answers for me?" The Doctor continued. "Everyone looks to me for their strength, their inspiration, their answers. But who do I turn to? I AM the only god I believe in!"

And that was the trouble.

"Should I pray to you? Would it make any difference? If I do, and she's ok, then you claim it as your miracle, your answer to my prayers. But I've put her in the hands of the best surgeons in the history of the Human race. My faith is in them. And don't tell me it's YOU who guides their hands."

"And what if I pray to you and she dies, or she is paralysed from the neck down and I even have to wipe the tears from her eyes because that's not the life she wanted to have with me? What then? Do they say it's Your will, and You have a purpose in what you do that I cannot see?"

"What if you don't pray but God grants you the favour you ask of Him anyway, because your heart is good and He sees that even if you try to shut Him out?"

The Doctor looked around. He thought he was alone. He wondered how long the old priest had been sitting there at the back of the oratory.

"Gets me coming and going doesn't it, your religion. Whether I believe or not, you claim me as one of your angels. You put me to the test through her. Through my worry for her. And you tell me that she is in your God's hands whether I believe in him or not."

"What did you mean about being 'the only god you believe in?'" the Priest asked.

The Doctor looked at the priest. He had soft brown eyes, like his father's - like his own when he was in his first incarnation. Though it threw logic and scientific reason out of the window he trusted brown eyes.

He told him about being the last of the Time Lords and the last God of the people of SangC'lune.

"But you don't believe you ARE a god?"

"I don't even WANT the responsibility. I have no choice. They need me."

"And you need the young lady you're so upset about, who is in the hands of the surgeons here in this hospital."


"I will pray for you, and for her."

"I'd rather you didn't. I don't want the confusion. I want to know that men with their scientific knowledge saved her. That's what I believe in."

"I believe their hands are guided by God," the priest said. "Which of us is right?"

"I don't know. But she'd better be all right. Because according to you, if she isn't then HE is to blame!" The Doctor glared at the flickering icon, daring it to have some input into the discussion.

"He is a God of Love and he does not inflict suffering on people on a whim."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that," The Doctor answered. "If I thought the suffering I've endured in recent years was the work of some Deity… the destruction of my people… so many innocents… Where is your God of Love when innocent people are suffering? Famine, flood, war… Where is your God when these things are happening?"

"Many people have asked that question," the priest said. "Humankind have free will. When they use that free will to make war, when they fail to provide for the hungry, when they do not help those hit by natural disasters, it is not His will, but man's."

"That's a terrible answer," The Doctor said. "If I was Human, I'm not sure I'd be convinced."

The priest was on the point of speaking again when the oratory door opened. A white-coated medic stood there.

"Mr Tyler?"

"Yes," The Doctor said. He had given that name for the sake of clarity when he brought her into the hospital. He wanted them to be in no doubt that he was her next of kin and the one to be informed of any change in her condition. "I'm here with Rose Tyler. Is she all right?" He stood up on legs that felt like water. This was it. They were either going to tell him the best or worst news. He held himself up calmly, at least on the outside. Inside he was a wreck.

"The operation was a success. You can see her now."

At those words he did what he had not done since he arrived in the hospital. He burst into tears. The medic looked at him and said nothing. The priest said nothing, either. The Doctor looked around at him.

"So WAS it your prayers?" he asked him. "Or the medical skills of the surgeons?"

But he didn't wait for the answer as ran to the recovery room to be at her side. Perhaps it was some divine intervention. Perhaps it was a miracle, his reward for the eternal struggle of his life. Perhaps it was science.

Perhaps he was still the only god he could believe in.