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

Rose woke with a start. What had woken her? She turned and saw The Doctor sitting up in the bed beside her. He had shouted in his sleep, as if in response to a nightmare. But he was awake now.

"Doctor?" she whispered. "What's wrong?" He turned his head and looked at her as she sat up and reached to touch him.

"I just had a vision," he said. "A very strong one. It told me…. That I have to prepare for my… my Rite of Progression. But it can't be that time yet. I thought…." He sprang from the bed and ran out of the room. Rose followed, pulling a silk robe over her nightdress and picking up The Doctor's dressing gown that he sometimes wore over his pyjamas, black with gold dragons facing each other across the chest.

"Here," she said bringing it to him as he stood by the console. "It's cold in the night when you turn the systems down." The console room was dimly lit as the whole TARDIS was, to give the sense of night-time even though they were in the vortex and there was no time. He looked at her, then took the gown and put it on.

"You want to explain what this is all about?" She asked him. "Rite of Progresssion… Something to do with Gallifrey, but Gallifrey doesn't exist. How can you be expected to…"

She stopped. In the dark shadows by the outer door a strange flickering glow began to expand and intensify. She automatically grabbed The Doctor's hand. He in turn put his arm around her shoulder and gripped it tightly as a figure began to solidify in the glow.

"Who are you?" he demanded. "And why are you on my ship?" He looked at the lifescan monitor on the console. It showed only two people aboard the TARDIS, himself and Rose. But it was picking up some kind of energy. "ARE you on my ship or is this a projection of some kind?"

"I am the one who was called Dracœfire - Dragon Fire," the figure said. As he stepped forward from the glow The Doctor saw that he was wearing a black robe with a large gold medallion around his neck - a medallion engraved with the symbol of the House of Lœngbærrow - two silvertrees with interwined branches.

"You're my…." In the family tree, he was Chrístõ Cuimhne, his suffix meaning Remembrance; his father was Chrístõ Mian, Ambition, his grandfather, whom he remembered very well, was Chrístõ Dé Lún - of the moon, a renowned astronomer. His great-grandfather, who was dead long before he was born, was Chrístõ Dracœfire, an explorer and adventurer, he was told, but he knew no stories or anecdotes to back that claim up.

"I am your ancestor," he said. "We have no need for exactness in that matter. Suffice to say my blood runs in your veins. By all accounts, you have lived up to that blood. You have wandered further and longer even than I have and faced even greater dangers."

"I have done what I believed necessary and been true to myself," The Doctor replied. "But…." He gave out a small groan. "It was you in my dream. You told me to prepare."

"Yes. I was able to reach into your sleeping mind and wake you. I have to say your reaction does not bode well. Fear of the dark, Chrístõ Cuimhne, is a weakness I would never have expected of a Lœngbærrow."

"I'm not afraid of the dark," he protested indignantly. "I was disturbed by the encroachment into my sub-conscious. Since when did we start doing that without seeking permission?"

"This is no time for niceties. You have to prepare yourself. There is little enough time."

"But I'm not…. It isn't time yet. I am not approaching the age of Progression."

"You are only days away from your thousandth year," Dracœfire told him.

"No, I'm not. My next birthday is 956," he said. "And that's only because I was stuck in Blackpool in the 1930s for three years. I have forty-four years before I must…"

"You have miscalculated."

"How can anyone miscalculate their own age?" Rose asked, feeling it was time to make an input into the conversation.

"He HAS!" Dracœfire said. "Son of Lœngbærrow don't you know your own age?

"956 give or take a day or two."

"You have not counted the years when you were in stasis aboard this ship after the Time War. Forty-four years."

"But those years don't count. I didn't age. My body was frozen. I wasn't even fully alive."

"The years COUNT. Your Rite of Progression will begin 60 hours from now. Prepare yourself. Be strong. Be cunning and brave and you will survive. Doubt yourself, quibble about DATES, refuse to accept the inevitable, and you will fail, and the House of Lœngbærrow will fail with you."

"I won't let you down," The Doctor said. "I won't let my ancestors down."

"That remains to be seen." Dracœfire told him. "You are the first half-blood of our line."

"I'll not be goaded over THAT by my own ancestors. My blood is as strong as yours. And you will see that on the Plain of Attrition. Be gone now. If I must prepare, then I will do so without your help."

"That much is true." Dracœfire nodded and he wasn't sure if there was a half-smile before he vanished into the mist once more. For a long moment The Doctor stood there without moving or speaking. When Rose put her hand on his arm he seemed unaware of her. Then he slowly turned and looked at her.

"Rose, my Rose," he said pulling her close. "I am sorry. I should have… you should have been ready for this."

"Ready for what?"

"The one thing that could come between us and the happiness we both dream of. If my life is forfeit in the Rite of Progression…"

"What IS it and… and if it's so important, and so dangerous, why didn't you tell me about it?"

"Because I thought I had forty-four years before I had to face it. By then - Rose, you'd be nearly seventy. We'd have had a good life together, children…. Everything we could have hoped for. And… if I failed… if I died…. Then at least we'd have had those forty-four years. You would have our children to take care of you, to comfort you, and my name would live on in them."

"It's really that much of a risk - you really could die?"

"I don't entirely know what to expect," he said. "There's a code of silence about what goes on. But we have our own urban legends - a Time Lord who failed, apparently in the subconscious plane he was in a sword fight, and his head fell off."


"If it's any consolation I don't believe that one. But yes, there is something about the Rite of Progression that is feared. It's not something any Time Lord ever approached casually, without apprehension. And I only have a few days to be ready for it. Usually the preparations begin a year before."

"Do I owe you 44 birthday presents?" Rose asked, trying to make light of it. But he did not even smile. Even in the scariest moment fighting the creepiest enemy he could dispel the tension with a wisecrack, but now he looked so serious he didn't even seem to be him.

"What do you have to do to prepare?" Rose asked him.

"I have to purify my body and soul," he said. "The Cloister Room. It will have to be there. It should be in the Panopticon, but the Panopticon is space dust." He looked at her. He looked at his watch. "Come back to bed. Let me lie by your side for a few hours more before I have to…"

He didn't need sleep. Rose did, though she was too worried at first to let herself sleep. What he DID need was to feel her beside him for a few more hours. Ahead of him were ritualistic preparations such as he had not done for centuries and beyond that an ordeal that could kill him. And in neither part of the Rite would he have the comfort of her presence, or her help in any way. For a few more hours he wanted to be able to hold her in his arms, feel the warmth of her body next to his. Purification of the body and soul was an important part of what was to follow, and there were those who would say that lying in the arms of a woman he was NOT joined to in Alliance of Unity was a bad start along that road. He rejected that. Although he had lain beside her for months now, he had never broken the principles of celibacy outside of marriage. Their love WAS pure, it was good. And he needed it. This could be the last chance he had to hold her. He needed it to give him a reason to go on with what was ahead of him.

When at last she was asleep he got up and went to make preparations. Not for the ritual, but for her, for while he was 'gone' and for after if the worst should happen. Then he came back to the bedroom and sat beside her until she woke in the morning.

And it WAS morning. She looked up at the overhead viewscreen at dawn on a planet she knew well. She sat up and looked out at the screen behind the bed which was like a big picture window onto whatever world they came to.


"The background psychic of this planet will help me," he told her. "And it's a safe place. You'll be all right here while I'm not… available."

"Ok." Rose didn't like the way he was talking, but there was nothing she could do about it. She decided to be practical. She got up and dressed herself. "I'll… I'll make breakfast. At least I can feed you first."

"No," he said, catching her arm. "I can't. Fasting is a part of the purification. I can't eat or drink anything from now until I begin the rite."

"What can I do for you?" she asked. "If not that?"

"Have faith in me. And wait patiently until it is over. And never forget that I love you." He held her one more time and kissed her but after that he told her to go to the library. It was a quiet place, he said, and she wouldn't be disturbed by his preparations.

She went to the library. On the table by the comfortable armchair The Doctor often sat in to read there was one of the big leather bound books with the seal of Rassilon on the front. She opened it and looked at the first page. It was written in that strange symbolic language of circles and swirls and spirals inside each other that The Doctor used to leave himself messages on post-it notes all over the TARDIS. When she first joined him she thought they were designs for some new part of the console but as the TARDIS's strange influences were absorbed into her brain she found herself able to read them as a language. Some of them had been important technical notes; others had been mundane things like 'she takes milk in her tea; buy enough for two.' That particular message was a puzzle in itself since it had been taped to the life support monitor BEFORE she came on board. But she had solved enough mysteries just by being able to read the message. She wasn't about to question that one.

This book - he must have put it there for her to find - explained about the Rite of Progression. She read about the purification of body and mind that had to occur first. The preparations began with bodily cleansing. The body had to be immersed in water of a temperature that made her blanch with shock. It was beyond that which any Human could possibly stand. Then the body must be immersed in water that was below freezing.

He was REALLY doing that?

The swimming pool served as his purification pool. He stripped his ordinary clothes and left them aside and let himself into the scalding water. His body could TAKE such a temperature, but it didn't make it any less of an unpleasant experience. He felt it stripping the dead skin and dirt from his body though. It WAS effective. So was the freezing water. He felt the shock to his hearts as the water suddenly dropped from one end of the scale to the other. He endured it as long as he could then he climbed out and dried himself and put on the simple black robe of pure cotton weave and walked barefoot to the Cloister Room.

He closed the door and walked down the steps. He looked at the place where the artificial sunlight from the great window cast the pattern of the seal of Rassilon on the floor. He stood in the middle of it for a moment then he knelt, straight backed, his hands laced together in front of him. He was not supposed to meditate at this point, just remain there, awake, with his mind clear of every thought and distraction, for 52 hours - two days in Gallifreyan time. It wasn't, in itself, part of the Rite, but it WAS a test of endurance in itself.

Rose turned the page. She found one of his post-it notes, this one written in plain English.

"If you are curious enough to come to the Cloister room, please do so quietly. And as tempted as you are, please don't try to speak to me, don't try to touch me. You must remain outside of the Shadow of the Seal."

"P.S. I love you."

She wanted to see him. It burned her up not being near him. But if she couldn't speak to him, couldn't touch him, then what was the point? She didn't want to distract him from what he had to do.

She looked at the picture in the book of a Time Lord kneeling in the centre of a great seal of Rassilon, his eyes open and lips pressed together in concentration. It was a line drawing but even so it almost looked like him. She touched the figure in the picture and whispered his name.

She sat in the big, comfy armchair for as long as she could. When restlessness got the better of her she went to the kitchen and tidied away the dishes from when they last ate. She went to the bedroom and made the bed. She went to the dojo and spent two active hours working out with the hologram opponents. That, at least, was something to do that took her mind off things. It HAD to. At the advanced level she had reached in her martial arts training you couldn't think about ANYTHING else.

She took a walk outside. It was a beautiful day on SangC'lune. She was glad he had brought them here. She walked down to the pyramids. It was kind of creepy among the black ones, the resting places of the essences of thousands of dead Time Lords. But the gleaming white one was ok. HIS pyramid. IF it went wrong, if he DIED, it would turn black. The thought was horrible. But it was white now. She stepped close to the pyramid. She wasn't sure what it was made of, some kind of crystal, or glass, but white like unblemished marble. She put her hand on it. It was cool. It seemed to vibrate slightly.

"My Doctor," she whispered.

It was not the only white one now, of course. She walked along the row, past the black pyramid of The Doctor's son, Chrístõ Miraglo as he was called in his Gallifreyan name. There was a gap in the generations, because Susan had never trained to be a Time Lord. She chose to live as a Human. There was no gap, though, between the pyramid of Chrístõ Miraglo and the two smaller pyramids at the end of the line of the House of Lœngbærrow. These belonged to Chris and Davie, The Doctor's great-grandchildren, who were close to becoming fully-fledged Time Lords in their own right.

If he died, he would not be able to complete that work either, she thought sadly.

"You HAVE to get through this, Doctor," she said to the empty air.

She went back to the TARDIS. She made herself a meal and ate it, though it tasted like ashes in her mouth and she couldn't stop thinking of him, unable to eat or drink, or do anything at all as he 'purified his body and soul' in preparation for this Rite that could kill him.

She went back to the library. She brought a book of her own, an ordinary novel, of the sort she used to read before her life became the most fantastic adventure story in it's own right. She lost herself in its pages for a while. Warm and comfortable in the chair she fell asleep for a few hours and woke wondering what time it was.

It was near sunset on SangC'lune. She remembered that the people had a ritual in the town centre and wondered what it would be like to go there, as an ordinary person, not as the Consort of the Living God. She had the feeling the people didn't know they were there. Perhaps it was only when their Living God stepped out of his TARDIS and onto their soil that they became aware of him. That was just as well, perhaps. If he couldn't have her with him, then he couldn't possibly have any of his devotees around.

The ceremony was charming as ever. She stood near the edge of the village square, unnoticed by any of the people, and slipped away afterwards, walking in the bright moonlight. She came back to the TARDIS. It felt strangely empty. She remembered once a few years ago, when she was seventeen, her mum had been taken to hospital with appendicitis. Coming home from seeing her, coming into the familiar flat but quiet and empty was so odd. This was so like that time. But her mum's operation was routine, simple. They sent her home after a couple of days. This was much less certain.

There was another post-it note on the drive console of the TARDIS. It reminded her of the two co-ordinates she would need if she had to go away from here on her own. Susan's home, and her own home.

Susan, and the twins, and little Sukie. They all loved The Doctor as much as she did. And if he didn't get through this, SHE would have to break the news to them. She bit her lip and pushed the horrible feeling back down.

NO. It wouldn't be like that.

If it was. If that was what happened, she would take the TARDIS back to the 'free parking' at Powell street and she would live there in it, she decided. Near her mum, but living her own life in her TARDIS. She'd hop back now and then to see Susan and the children. She would like to see them. Maybe she'd even work out how to go to other places. She would make the TARDIS her home, be a sort of Time Lord herself.

A small compensation. What was the universe, the whole of creation, without him?

When did she become a person who NEEDED somebody else so badly for her own happiness? Even Mickey hadn't filled her life as completely as he did. And not being with Mickey had never left her feeling as empty as this did.

She made another meal and ate it. She took another walk under the stars. She came back to the TARDIS. She turned down the lights and went to bed.

She couldn't sleep. She lay for a long time looking up at the moons of SangC'lune, its unfamiliar constellations. She was too aware of how empty the bed was, how cold the sheets felt without his warmth beside her. HE WAS so much a part of her. She needed him.

Time had ceased to exist for The Doctor. He knew how much of it had passed, how much remained, instinctively. But he was in no way or sense marking its passing. He had cleared his mind of every thought. He thought nothing, he felt nothing. His eyes looked into the half-dark of the Cloister Room but saw nothing. And yet he was not in a trance, he was not asleep. He was doing nothing with perfect concentration. If he had allowed the thought to go through his head, he might have laughed at the memory of his tutors at the Prydonian Academy telling him he had no patience, no stamina and would never be able to get through the Purification before his Transcension.

Rose woke in the golden light of a perfect dawn on the planet of SangC'lune. For a brief moment she stretched and turned, reaching for her lover beside her, before the memory of all that had gone on the day before came back to her. She sighed and clutched the pillow from his side of the bed against her. She buried her face in it and thought she could detect a faint scent of him on it. It might have been her imagination. It probably was. But it was comforting.

Something else had the most intense connection to him. As she dressed, she saw his jacket across the back of a chair. She picked it up and hugged it. The smell of old leather. It was more redolent of him than if he had a distinctive aftershave. She slipped it on. It was way too big for her, but she loved the feel of it. It felt as if she was being hugged by him as she went through the same tasks as before, making food, making the bed, washing dishes. She took it off while she did her workout, of course. But when she dressed again it felt, again, a little less lonely than before.

She kept on finding the post-it notes. He had left them in the oddest of places. Most of them were love notes. They made her smile in a bitter-sweet way. She'd never been apart from him before for very long. They had never needed to write love letters to each other. It was nice, in a way, to see these messages to her, some in English, some in Gallifreyan Spirograph writing - she had christened it that because it was what it looked like - but all written by him to her, to tell her that he was still her man, even though he was, for the moment, inaccessible to her.

She took a walk in the fresh air. She came back and made another meal and sat in the big comfy chair in the library and read a book of Gallifreyan love poetry. She napped in the chair with the words of one of the poems swirling in her head. A poem written by a female Gallifreyan to the Time Lord she was marrying.

My hearts in you, my Lord
My hopes in you, my Lord,
My love for you, my Lord,
Lord of my hearts.

If he thinks I'll ever call him 'Lord'… she thought as she slipped into a soft dream that drove away the dull ache of missing him for a little while.

Again she walked to the village for the Daygone ceremony and slipped away when it was over and walked back under the stars. She ate a meal that still tasted of nothing, showered and went to bed.

She couldn't sleep. And tonight the moons seemed too bright. It made her feel irritable. The room was at a perfect ambient temperature, but she WISHED the viewscreen was a real window she could open and let in air.

She got up out of the bed. She put HIS dressing gown around her, the one with the gold dragons on it. Again it gave her comfort to be wrapped up in something that was his.

He had made it clear that she shouldn't go to the Cloister Room. But he knew she would and had told her what to do if she did. She came in quietly. There was something about that room that made quietness almost mandatory anyway. It was so much like a cathedral, a place where you were on your best behaviour.

She walked quietly down the stairs and stopped at the edge of the pool of light forming that shape of that familiar Seal. She looked at him as he knelt there, his eyes open but unblinking, his face passive, lips pressed together in concentration. He was awake, she felt sure of that. But he showed no sign that he knew she was there. She knelt facing him, in the way he had taught her long ago as the formal way to kneel in martial arts.

"I'm not talking to you," she said. "Because you said I can't, ok. I'm just talking because I'm a daft Human and you know we never shut up. So ok, you're in this preparation thing. And I'm not allowed to be a part of it. But I'm not so stupid as you think. You taught me how to do the Shaolin meditation. Remember that bloke, Da Mo, who sat in a cave for nine years meditating. Bet none of your Time Lords ever managed THAT long. So anyway, I'm going to do it with you, ok. I don't know how long I can manage. Maybe a couple of hours. But I'm here, with you. Whether you want me here or not."

And she stretched out her arms and then relaxed her muscles and cleared her mind as he had patiently taught her in the dojo. She wasn't very good at it. She was no good at clearing her mind and thinking of nothing. She had lived her whole life in noise and bustle and gossip and chitchat. It was HARD thinking of nothing at all. But she had a go at it. And she managed something close to it. She closed her eyes, because she couldn't do the unblinking thing without her eyes hurting. She cleared her mind of as many thoughts as possible. She concentrated on one thing at least. That fraction of a poem she seemed to have unconsciously memorised. It became her mantra as she repeated it in her head and it did the trick for her.


Fifty-two hours of preparing his body and soul to enter the Rite of Progression. Two Gallifreyan days. He shifted stiffly from the position he had held for all that time and sat in the cross-legged, straight-backed position the Gallifreyan monks of Mount Loeng taught him.

"Rose," he called out softly and he smiled as he saw her lying there on the floor, asleep. He knew she had managed three hours of Shaolin meditation. He smiled remembering her reference to Da Mo. Yes, nine years was impressive. Three hours was impressive for somebody who had only been training for a few years. He felt grateful for her dedication to him.

He called to her again and she stirred and sat up.

"Is it over?" she asked.

"No," he told her. It's only beginning. Now I have to enter the deepest level of meditation. The level where my body freezes - you've seen it before."

"Yes," she said. "It's scary."

"It's perfectly normal for a Time Lord. Don't worry."

"I'm still not allowed to touch you?"

"No. But I would like you to stay with me while I begin."

"How long will it take?"

"No way of telling. Days probably. I have to ask you to be patient still."

"This IS scary, Doctor. I wish…"

"I love you, Rose. Never forget that." He paused and looked at her and he knew there was no good excuse not to get on with it. "I'm ready." He unfolded his body and lay down, his arms by his side, his head and his feet touching the edges of the circle of the Seal.

She watched him drop down through those levels of deep meditation, his hearts and lungs slowing, his brain activity almost ceasing, his body temperature plummeting until his lips and eyelashes were frosted. Now, she knew, he would not even know she was there. There was no point in her being there. But she stayed for a little while anyway.

He shivered. It was cold there on the edge of the Plain of Attrition. He looked into the far distance, to the black hills at the end of the plain of black sand. He knew that at least part of the task before him was to REACH those hills. What he would find when he got there, he wasn't sure. Another task? Or the end of his struggle? Or perhaps death because he failed to take something into account.

"Are you ready?" he glanced to his side and saw his great-grandfather, Chrístõ Dracœfire, standing beside him.

"So what are you? The official starter?"

"Flippancy will not get you far here."

"It's done me ok all my life," he said. "Don't see why this should be any different." He looked at his ancestor. "You lived to nearly 4,000. You must have gotten through this. I suppose you wouldn't tell me anything about it, though?" There was a silence. "No, thought not."

"It would do no good. Every experience is different."

"Ok, I'll be off then," he said and stepped forward onto the black sand.

As soon as his feet touched the sand he felt the pain. It was not sand. It was glass, and it cut his feet as he walked upon it. Of course his body repaired small cuts almost immediately, but they were instantly opened again. He tried to block the pain, but he found he couldn't do that. No Time Lord tricks were going to work. He wouldn't be able to time fold or anything like that either, he figured.

His feet burned with pain. The rest of him shivered with cold. A wind blew constantly and a cotton robe was inadequate clothing. Again, he didn't usually worry about cold. His body could withstand all extremes of temperature. But as he walked he felt this cold and he hated it as much as he hated the ground glass that cut his feet to ribbons with every step.

He turned and looked around. He seemed to have come a long way, and yet when he looked ahead the mountains seemed as far away as ever. But that was the way with mountains. They loomed in the distance for hours. He remembered travelling across the Red Desert of the north continent of Gallifrey on a hover-bike and the mountains that marked the end of the desert never seemed to get larger until he was almost upon them.

Rose sighed and stood up. She looked at him as he lay there unresponsive. She whispered "I love you," and turned away. She began the same daily routine she had filled the past days with. She was getting used to it now.

After her lunch she decided to take a walk outside. She had just stepped away from the TARDIS when she heard a noise that startled her. It was the sound of another TARDIS materialising. She turned and watched as an identical blue police public call box appeared next to her own. A few moments later the door opened and Wyn stepped out. Rose ran to her and hugged her.

"You look great," she said. "You've lost loads of weight."

"The Doctor has been teaching me loads of martial arts stuff. It keeps me fit."

"You call him The Doctor?"

"Yes. He's MY Doctor. We get on great. He's really nice, you know."

"Course he is," Rose said. "He's The DOCTOR. One of him anyway. Is he… is he ok?"

"He's…." Wyn shrugged and looked as if she might cry. "He's doing this thing that he says might kill him."

"The Rite of Progression?" Rose realised the obvious. They were the same person. They had lived the same amount of time, even if in different bodies. Ten was having to go through the same thing.

"Yes. He told me about it. I've never seen him so serious. He's a great laugh usually. Fun to be with. Even when he's fighting horrible things he laughs about it, makes jokes, makes the monsters look stupid because they take trying to kill him seriously and he makes defeating them a big joke. But when this happened, he was SO serious. He told me he might not make it. I told him not to go, but he says he has to."

"Yeah, apparently even though their whole society is gone, they still have to go through with this test."

"Rose," Wyn said, very seriously. "He really isn't sure if he'll make it. That's why he brought me here. To be with you. Because he said if he doesn't make it, and YOUR Doctor does, he can take care of me, and if they both don't make it, you know how to fly the TARDIS and you can get me home."

"And if MY Doctor doesn't make it and yours does…."

"I don't know. But he gave me this to give to you." She gave Rose an envelope. It had her name on it in Gallifreyan and English. She turned and went into her own TARDIS. Wyn followed and went to the kitchen she knew well enough to make coffee. When she got back she saw Rose sitting there on the sofa with TWO identical envelopes. She was crying.

"What's wrong?" she asked. Rose took the cup and drank the coffee but between sobs.

"YOUR Doctor and mine - both gave me instructions on how…. How to dispose of their bodies if…"

"He didn't think I could do that?"

"He didn't want to burden you. He…" She picked up the letter from Ten. "Wyn is like a kid sister to me, I love her just like that. And you don't ask a kid sister to arrange for your funeral. Rose, you're the only one I can trust with that duty. For the sake of all that ever was between us, do that for me." She picked up the other letter. "MY Doctor was a lot 'mushier' about it."

"Your Doctor is a romantic." Wyn said.

"He's a soppy article."

"He loves you like mad."

"Yeah. Funny how they're the same man, but so different. I love MY Doctor. Wouldn't change him for the world. Don't want him to change. But in a million years the words "He's a great laugh" and "Fun to be with" don't describe him."

"He IS like a big brother to me," Wyn said. "Only one I like and want to be with, not like my REAL brothers."

"He's everything I ever wanted," Rose said. "And I didn't even know I wanted it." She looked at the letters in her hand. She made a decision. "These instructions. I'm not going to follow them, because NEITHER of them are going to die." She tore the letters and their envelopes to pieces.

Wyn nodded. She would have done the same.


The creature rose up in front of him like a wall of pulsating flesh. There was a head somewhere there, a body, and maybe some of those thicker protuberances in the lower part of the body were legs. But mostly it was tentacles, feelers, whatever.

And teeth.

In the middle of what he thought was the head a gaping hole opened and it was all teeth, thousands of them, all sharp, all capable of ripping his flesh apart in an instant.

He reached for his sword. It was in his hand before he realised that, up until then he wasn't carrying a sword. He looked at it and his hearts lurched. It was the Sword of Lœngbærrow, an elaborately adorned broadsword, a family heirloom that was kept in pride of place in the house on Gallifrey where he was born. He had never held it. He had no reason to. Past members of the family had used it in battle, used it in ceremony, but he had no cause to.

And he had not seen it since he was last on Gallifrey, a few days before the planet died. It was not one of the treasures he had carried with him on the TARDIS.

He didn't question it further. He had a weapon to kill this tooth-laden monster with. He raised it and swung it expertly, slicing off half a dozen tentacles in one go. Its blood spurted from the wounds, covering him from head to foot, but he kept on going, hacking and slicing and ducking and evading as the mouth reached for him. The gore-drenched ground was slippery and his hands on the sword felt slick with blood as he kept on fighting, pushing closer so that he could strike at the body of the creature. A thick tentacle snaked around his waist and tried to crush him but he cut through it and turned the sword upwards as he stabbed at the underside of the head, pushing the steel straight through the mouth and into the underside of the brain. A screech of agony came from the creature as he pulled the sword out and thrust it in again, deeper this time. He stepped back quickly as the great mass of flesh began to fall. He felt the vibration as it hit the ground. But it was dead. He had killed it.

"So now I have to keep on walking covered from head to toe in blood and bile and brain tissue?" he said. "Fantastic!"

He walked on. The smell of the creature's blood drying on his face, in his hair, on his clothes, sickened him. He hated feeling dirty. He hated the smell of blood. It was a primeval thing so distant from his sophisticated culture, but the smell of it always seemed to serve as a reminder that sophisticated culture was really only a step away from the primeval. How easily, after all, had he become a killing machine when faced with a creature with more arms and teeth than he had.

Survival. Survival of the fittest. That's what it was all about. Plain of Attrition - attrition meant wearing down. If he was not fully prepared and determined to survive, it would wear him down and kill him. And if it killed him here, he would die in reality too.


Cooking for them both was nicer than cooking for herself. For a short while Rose and Wyn managed to forget their situation. They spent a few hours in the dojo, where Rose was pleasantly surprised to see how well Wyn was coming along.

"The Doctor said he might take me to Songshan, the monastery where they teach the Shaolin Way," Wyn told her when they were showered and dressed again and drinking coffee in the console room.

"We went there a while ago," Rose said. "They live such simple lives. They are so focussed. I couldn't do that."

"Not sure I could either. Isn't it weird to think all the things we take for granted, cars, TV, computers, they have no use for."

"I haven't watched TV for years," Rose said. "I could. The TARDIS could tune in to anything I wanted to see, but there doesn't seem any point to it. Life with The Doctor is more interesting than anything on TV."

Talking about him reminded her of the missing piece of their lives just now. She felt the need to check on him. Wyn felt the same. They both went down to the Cloister Room and watched for a few minutes as he lay within his circle, still and quiet. They turned and went away quietly, through the TARDIS and out to the other TARDIS. The exact same corridors brought them to an identical Cloister Room where Wyn's Doctor lay in exactly the same way.

"How would we know?" Wyn asked when they were back in the console room. "If either one of them was dead, how could we tell the difference?"

"I would know," Rose said. "I think… I think you would too. Even if we didn't…" She looked around. "The TARDIS would know."

"Would it feel the way we would?"

"Yes." Rose was certain of that. "I don't quite know HOW the TARDIS can FEEL. But it does. And it loves him as much as we do. And it WOULD feel it. But it won't happen. We're all going to be ok."


He was exhausted. His arms ached from wielding the sword against however many creatures of nightmare had risen up in front of him. His legs ached from walking mile upon mile for what had to be days now.

Or was it only hours? There was no way of marking the time. There was no sun or moon. The sky was a sort of opaque dark grey which let in enough light to see the plain, but it was not possible to make out the position of the sun above it and it never darkened as it would at night.

Which made sense. This was not a real place. It existed only in his subconscious. It was not created by his own imagination, though. It was some kind of race memory, something shared by all of his people, passed down through the generations, and surfacing when the time came.

And it was REAL enough. He felt real pain, real exhaustion, real hunger and thirst such as he had never felt. And those things worried him, because as a Time Lord he was used to not feeling them. Pain he ought to be able to block, exhaustion - he had strength and stamina beyond most Humanoid races. Enough to withstand this relatively short period of endurance. Hunger and thirst hardly ever afflicted him. His body required only the minimum of both.

He felt Human. It was a shock, because he had never thought about what it must be like to be Human, to have limitations, to be dependent on the regular intake of food and water to function effectively.

Of course he WAS half-Human.

Part Human. Was it EVEN half?

His EYES were Human. He had a Human retinal pattern.

His stomach wasn't Human. Nor were his hearts and his lungs and his…

His bladder?

"Sod that," he said to himself. "I'm a Time Lord. I can handle physical deprivation. I'm NOT exhausted. I'm not hungry, and I certainly don't need to pee in the middle of the bloody desert."

Saying it helped. It really did. The sword in his hand felt less like it was pulling his arm out of the socket and his legs were less lead-like. He wasn't longing for food or water, or anything else.

The pain remained. That was real enough. But he had the strength to withstand it. He looked at the mountains ahead. They seemed just as far away as ever. He looked back and he seemed not to have travelled any further than he had hours ago.

His hearts sank. It would never be over. He would be walking like this, his feet bleeding and blistered, forever. He was already dead and this was Hell for him. To be alone, treading an endless path to nowhere.

Just as his LIFE had always been. Alone and endless.


No. No. No. That was the Plain of Attrition again. It couldn't get him with things from the pits of hell. It couldn't do it with physical endurance. So now it was trying to get him with mental torture. Despair. Feelings of inadequacy, feelings of futility.

No. He wasn't having that. His life wasn't pointless. It wasn't going nowhere. He had a purpose in life. He had a reason to keep going.

To free the universe of oppression?

Yeah. That's right. That's me. The saviour of the universe. The champion of the oppressed. Want to argue about it?

Sisyphus pushing his rock uphill, Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

If we're going to do literary allusions from Earth, I prefer the second one, he told whatever inner demon was taunting him. The Man of La Mancha. Cool musical, too. What's that song? Could have been written for me.

He smiled and looked up at the dull, horrible sky, at the mountains that refused to get any closer, and may not be the end of the road ANYWAY. Nobody had ever actually said they were. And he started to sing. His voice held the tune, but he supposed nobody would care whether it did or not.

"To dream the impossible dream - To fight the unbeatable foe - To bear with unbearable sorrow - And to run where - the brave dare not go. To right the unrightable wrong - And to love pure and chaste from afar - To try when your arms are too weary - To reach the unreachable star….."

The unbeatable foe! That would have to be the Daleks. If he met one of THOSE on this plain he would grind it into the sand beneath his feet with his bare hands. He meant it. He'd had enough of being messed with.

Another day was over. Rose was starting to lose count of them. How long had they been here now? Five or was it six days? And they all seemed much the same. She filled them somehow with food, walks, workouts in the dojo. She and Wyn had both gone to the Daygone rituals each night and found some comfort in the presence of other people. But mostly the days were quiet and lonely. They both spent long hours in quiet vigil beside the men - the two versions of the same man - who meant such a lot to them both. Rose brought a pillow and blanket to the Cloister Room and slept there at night. Wyn had done the same in her own TARDIS. Her relationship with HER Doctor was a different kind, but her deep affection for him was unquestioned.

If she hadn't miscounted, it was day seven. Another beautiful day. She and Wyn went for a walk. It wasn't the same without The Doctor. She loved to be here with him. And not just because of the way they were treated by the locals, or the fact that he technically owned the planet.

They came down to the pyramids. Wyn hadn't seen them before. She explained about them as they made their way between the black rows to the white pyramid that belonged to The Doctor.

"Where MY Doctor came from - in his reality before he got stuck in ours - YOUR Doctor would be in there?" Wyn said.

"Yes," Rose answered, not liking the thought at all. "He told me he'd make the rest of them miserable for eternity. I wonder if he…." But even the thought of him as a ghostly hellraiser didn't make the thought of him as a ghost any easier to bear. She shut that thought out.

"Can you get inside and talk to them?" Wyn asked.

"He can," Rose said. "I can't."

"Have you ever tried?"

"No. I don't think he'd want me to."

"Do YOU want to?"

"Yes. Right now, I do. I want to talk to him… even an earlier version of him. I…." She put her hand in her coat pocket and pulled out her TARDIS key. The last time she had brought a key near here it had burnt a hole in her pocket. But that was before she had become his fiancée, before she had learnt to fly the TARDIS. He often said she was symbiotic with him. The TARDIS believed it. Could the Pyramid?

She put the key against the middle star of the constellation of Kasterborous on the door. Nothing happened. Nothing bad, nothing good either.

"The Doctor uses the TARDIS key," she said. "I thought it might…"

"Maybe…." Wyn began then stopped. "No, that's daft."


"Well, maybe it needs to be something more personal. I mean… like… the TARDIS key is personal to The Doctor because the TARDIS is his… his home and a friend in a funny kind of way. But it's not AS special to you."

Rose thought about it. And then the answer occurred to her. She took her pendant from around her neck and held it in her left hand, the hand with a Gallifreyan diamond ring on it. She pressed it against the same place. There was an audible click and the door opened.


The river was the most unlikely thing to find in the middle of a desert. Even a strange one like this. It was wide, and it was fast, and he would bet it was deep, too. With undercurrents. He looked up and downriver and just knew that nobody had EVER thought of building a bridge over it. He looked across it to the hills, still only a little closer than they were hours ago. And he knew he was going to have to swim for it.

He looked at the sword in his hand. It would be a serious impediment if he tried to swim with it. But he wasn't going to leave it behind.

He judged the distance to the opposite bank. He raised the sword and tested the weight of it and then drew his arm back and threw it. He wouldn't win any points for style, but he got the speed and the trajectory and the sword landed point down in the sand and remained upright, a finger pointing to the sky against the backdrop of nothingness.

He took a deep breath, closed off his lungs and dived into the water. The cold and the current caught him at once. He surfaced, taking a breath, and realised he was already a long way downriver from the point where he dived in. There was no point in trying to fight his way upstream against the current. He could walk back once he reached the other side. His objective right now was to get across. He struck out strongly, his Time Lord stamina, his superior musculature, standing him in good stead.

But for every metre he made across the river it swept him at least ten downriver, and it was tiring trying to fight against it. He swallowed a lot of water. At least he wouldn't have to worry about being thirsty, he reflected grimly. He hadn't expected to risk drowning in a desert, though.

By the time he had scrambled up the opposite bank and looked upriver he couldn't even see the sword. He walked back nearly a mile by his own reckoning before he reached it. By that time he was nearly dry again. And at least he was no longer covered in blood. But he ached all over and he didn't think he'd ever get the ringing sound of the river out of his ears. And he was STILL freezing cold.

Need another song, he said with a grin as he pulled his sword from the sand and turned towards the hills again.

"When you walk, through a storm, hold your head up high….."


Rose stepped across the threshold. Wyn followed her quickly. They were both alarmed when the door shut behind them. They looked around. The pyramid was far bigger on the inside than the out, which surprised neither of them. The walls glittered with hundreds of mirrors that reflected light all around.

"Hello?" Rose called out nervously and her voice echoed around the pyramid becoming louder and louder.

"Who are you?" a voice demanded and she looked in amazement as a man stepped out from one of the mirrors as if it was a door. Around them seven others stepped out. Rose recognised some of them, and she knew there was no reason to fear them. Even so, she and Wyn moved closer to each other and they both stepped back as the eight approached.

"I'm Rose," she said. "I'm…"

"She's the one our current incarnation is infatuated with," the slightly overweight one with blonde curly hair said. "We get flashes of his thoughts about her all the time."

"Excuse me?" Rose replied indignantly as she put her pendant back over her head and raised her hand. The strange light reflected off the diamond. "Infatuation? I don't think so. What DO YOU CALL THIS?" They all looked and they all clearly understood. The oldest one stepped closer and took her hand in his. She was surprised. She had thought they were ghosts, images without substance. "I know you. You're Susan's grandfather. She has pictures of you."

"Susan," the old man's eyes seemed misty as he was reminded of what was long past for him. "You know Susan?"

"We're great friends," she said. "And I adore her kids."

"I'm glad." He sighed. "That ring…"

"Yes," she said. "I know. It was your wife's before it was mine. So was the pendant. I know. I think it's sweet of him. To want me to have the same ring, to show that he loves me as much as he loved her."

"That's all very well," another of the incarnations said. "And we're all glad that ONE of us got his love life sorted out at last." Rose turned to look at the one who had spoken.

"YOU were Sarah's Doctor. Her second one at least." She looked at the silvery-white haired man who stood next to him. "YOU were hers, too. And Jo's." She turned and beckoned to Wyn. "Wyn, come and say hello. She…she is Jo's daughter. Wyn…. This man is the Doctor your mum knew."

Wyn came forward shyly and he smiled warmly at her. Rose meanwhile looked at the other incarnations. She turned to the youngest looking one, even younger than hers, or Wyn's. "You knew Nyssa, didn't you. I don't even know how I knew that. I seem to be picking up resonances. You were very fond of her" She turned to the one she knew as Seven. She actually went up to him and hugged him.

"You won't remember, I don't think, but we met in a paradox once and you were really sweet. Ace thinks of you all the time."

"I'm glad to know that," Seven said. "But, my dear, you shouldn't be in here you know. I'm not even sure how you did it. And where IS your Doctor?"

"He's…. undergoing the Rite of Progression," she said. And they all looked at her, suddenly very alert and serious. The one that Wyn was talking to gripped her shoulder tightly. The oldest one spoke again.

"How long has he been gone?" he asked.

"Seven days," Rose said. "Seven SangC'lune days anyway. I think they are a bit shorter than Earth days - it seems to get dark quicker here. And that means they're a lot shorter than your Gallifreyan days."

"He's taught her well," said the one she knew as his last incarnation before her Doctor. The instinct that told her that was becoming stronger every minute she was there.

"Very well, indeed," said the one who stood between the first and the third. He looked like a man who laughed a lot, and was kind and caring, and she felt sad when she realised this was the one the Time Lords had executed as punishment for disobeying their laws. "But my dear, what did you think would be achieved by coming here?"

"I wanted," she said, and it seemed silly now. "I wanted to talk to you…. because… you're all a part of him. All that he is, you made him. The man I love. All of you ARE a part of him. So I have to love all of you, too. I can't talk to him, I can't touch him while he's doing this thing. And I just wanted to talk to him."

"They're not him," Wyn said. "They're nice blokes, but they're not."

"Yes, they are," Rose insisted. "He remembers all that they ever said or did. He remembers their deaths. He remembers the people they loved and cared for."

"But they don't know us," Wyn said. "They only know the past. They don't know the present or the future. In this reality MY Doctor doesn't even exist."

"We do know you," the last one said. "In a way we do. We feel what he feels. We've known for a long while how he feels for you."

"Can you… do you know what he's feeling now?" Rose asked. "Is he in pain? Is he frightened?"

"He's singing," the First Doctor said.

"Singing?" Rose and Wyn looked at each other. "Well, that means he's ok then?"

"He's been through a lot," Seven said. "I can feel he's had a lot of pain, tiredness. The Rite of Progression is not a walk in the park. Sometimes those attempting it die, you know."

"YES!" Wyn shouted. "WE know that."

"He told us what to do if…" Rose began. "But I don't believe it. I think he… I know he will be all right."

"But you still came to us for assurance of that?" The Eighth incarnation spoke. "I wish we could do that, but none of us can see the future. I think…. I strongly feel it's going to be ok. He only has one more test. If he can get through that one, he WILL be all right."

"It's nearly over?" Rose's heart felt lighter than it had for days. "How soon? No. I guess you can't say. But this wasn't a waste of time. It HAS helped to come here. I'm glad to have met all of you. I wish I could get to know you all better. But…"

"You DO know us all," Seven told her. "You said it yourself. We're ALL part of the man you love. Now, you go on back to him. When the Rite is over, all will be well. Don't ask him too many questions about it. We're not supposed to talk about what happens. I don't for the life of me know why. Our ancestors were big on ritual and mysticism. And we got stuck with the legacy of it. But that's how it is." He hugged her then. They all came up to her and hugged her. The Third Doctor hugged Wyn, too, and told her to say hello to her mother from him. Then they all slowly disappeared and they heard the door opening behind them.

"Lets get back," Rose said.


"You'll ne…ver… e…ver wa...lk a…lone…" he sang loudly and as he finished singing the words seemed to hang on the still air for a few seconds.

"You NEVER have," a voice said next to him and he turned in shock to see the one person he never expected to find in a place like this.


"Yes, Chrístõ."

"Nobody calls me that any more. I'm The Doctor. Just The Doctor."

"No 'just' about it. You're the greatest Time Lord that ever lived."

"I'm the last Time Lord," he said. "The rest all died." He paused and looked at her as he continued to walk. She kept up with him easily. "Are you real, Julia? If so, why are you here? What is the point of you being here? The rest of the things - the creatures, the pressure on my resolve, the river - they all put me to the test. But in what way are YOU a test?"

"I'm not," she said. "You're walking on the edge between life and death. If you fail the last test, you die, Chrístõ. Your life is forfeit. We are already dead, so we're able to make contact with you."

"WE?" He looked around and his hearts flipped as he saw his parents standing beside his late wife.

"It's good to see you, my son," his father said. "Though this is not the way I should have wished. You DO have a danger ahead still. And we're here to give you our love. And to tell you…"

"….to tell you not to be in a hurry to join us in death, my child," his mother's soft voice told him. "Use your wits. Don't make the wrong decisions."

"I will do my best, as I have always done," he said. "What can be so difficult ahead? After the things I've faced. I don't mean here, but for centuries as I have roamed the universe. What can be more terrifying than a Dalek fleet?"

"Many things," his father said. "But…"

"Why isn't my son with you?" he asked suddenly. "If my nearest, dearest loved ones who are dead are here to give me moral support, why isn't he one of them? Would he abandon me?"

"Our son is not among the dead," Julia said.

"What! He…. He must be."

"He isn't," Julia insisted. "I would know. He is my son."

"He's my son, too. And I saw the wreckage of the car…. The bomb that killed him."

"Chrístõ," Julia said. "If he WERE dead, he would BE here."

"No. It's impossible"

"He is a lost soul, Chrístõ. But you could find him."

"This is all part of it," he said. "This is trying to mess with my head and break me. By touching on the one thing that still cuts to my soul. You… I miss you, but you died at the end of your natural life. I have no regrets, nothing to be bitter about. But my son was murdered. And I've never REALLY put that behind me. I've never got past wanting to hold him one last time. And THEY know that."

"There is no THEY, Chrístõ," his father told him. "The Plain of Attrition DOES absorb some of your brain patterns. That's how it is formed. But there is no agenda to hurt you."

"Chrístõ, would I lie to you?" Julia asked him.

"You never have. The REAL you never did. But I have met illusions before. I don't know if it is you or not."

"I am as real as I can be. Believe in me. And remember this when you return to the one who loves you now."

"How do you know about…."

"I can see into your soul. I feel how much you love her. And that's all right. I loved you all of my life. You never looked at another woman. Even when I was old and frail and you still looked young and handsome and could easily have found somebody else, you were faithful to me. And now you're faithful to her. And I bless you both."

"Julia, ARE you real? Can I hold you?"

"Chrístõ, my Lord," she whispered and he stepped closer, and he DID hold her. She felt real. He kissed her and remembered loving her.

"We must go," she said. "You must face the last test. I pray this will soon be over for you."

And then they were gone. In the blink of an eye he was alone again. He turned and was startled to find himself facing, not endless miles of desert he thought he still had to traverse, but a sheer black cliff. The mountains he had seen all through at a distance were suddenly right in front of him. But he had no illusions that his ordeal was over.

"Face your accusers, Doctor!" The deep voice boomed out and echoed around the cliff-face like a gunshot. "Face your doom if you cannot give account of yourself."

"WHAT accusers?" he replied. "What doom?"

"You let me die," a voice said and he turned and looked at a face he had not seen for so many centuries, that he barely knew even then. Her name was Katarina and she had briefly travelled with him in his first incarnation not long after Susan had left him.

"I didn't let you die. I could do nothing to prevent it. There is a difference. And I don't believe you blame me at all. This is another damn trick."

"You COULD have saved me." He turned again and looked at the open, honest face of the boy, Adric, who had sacrificed his own life to save countless others, including him.

"Only by handcuffing you to me and dragging you away," he replied. "I could not stop those things happening. This is unfair."

"Your mistake cost me MY life," another voice said. And this time he had to concede she was right as he looked at the sad, sweet face of Gwyneth the Welsh maid whose death WAS the result of an error of judgement he made.

"Yes, that I admit. And your death is etched on my soul. What can I tell you? I made a mistake. YOU suffered for it. I am sorrier for that than anyone can imagine."

"WE ALL died when you might have saved us!" He had to put his hands over his ears as the cries of thousands echoed and re-echoed. He turned and turned again and looked at the ghosts that surrounded him. Some he recognised, some he did not. All, he knew, had died at the hands of enemies he had fought.

"This is not on," he protested. "NO, I could NOT have saved any of you. If I could, I would have. I have never turned my back on anyone."

"Innocent blood stains your soul, Doctor!"

"NO. IT DOES NOT!" he protested. "I have NEVER knowingly, deliberately, harmed any innocent life."

"WHO appointed you as judge of innocence or guilt?"

"YOU did!" he answered. "You ALL did. When you sent out your cries for help, and I came to your aid. YOU asked me to judge who was right, who was wrong, to champion the right, to fight the wrong. YOU ALL made me do that. And I did everything I could, asking no reward for success, expecting only ignominious death if I failed. So DON'T accuse me. Don't use these people to tear my soul apart. I am NOT GUILTY of anything except that one mistake which I have admitted freely that cost the life of that poor child. NOTHING else can be laid against me. So end this charade NOW!"

The faces vanished. And before him the cliff seemed to open up and a blinding light shone through the gaping space, casting a long, sharply defined shadow behind him.

"You walk in darkness, Doctor. Your shadow stretches across the Plain, testament of your guilt. Death and destruction are left in your wake."

"Yeah, yeah, and Death is my constant companion. I heard that before. Clive the conspiracy man went on like that, too. It's claptrap. It's rubbish."

"You walk in the darkness."

"I walk in the twilight between light and dark. I'd choose the light if I could. I serve the light. But I can't walk in it, because the darkness would follow me into it."

"Nevertheless, the shadow of death lies in your wake."

"More clever sounding rhetoric. THIS is what you want to hold against me? THIS is what you would take my life for if my answers are not satisfactory?" There was no answer. "Well, I am not having it. I've played the game. I've taken all that you could throw at me. You have used every dirty, underhanded trick and I have seen through them all. This is over!" He turned around, his back to the light and facing the Plain. "My shadow is not behind me, it is in front. It goes before me, not behind. I bring the LIGHT to the darkness. I CHOOSE the light."

And he stepped backwards into the light.


Rose and Wyn walked up the low hill to where the TARDISes were both parked. They felt better for their visit to the pyramid. Though they would neither of them be completely happy until….

Rose gave a cry of delight as she saw the door of the TARDIS open. The Doctor stepped out and stood leaning against the corner of the box with his arms folded. He was dressed in his normal black pants and lambswool jumper but not his jacket, because SHE was wearing it. She ran to him. He unfolded his arms to receive her enthusiastic embrace, her desperate, longing kisses.

"I missed you," she said. "I missed you so much."

"I missed you, too. I'm sorry for having to put you through it."

"That's ok. Now you're back, everything is JUST fine." Then she remembered. She turned to look at the other TARDIS. Wyn approached it hesitantly. Rose's heart sank. "Oh please let him be ok too…. don't let…."

The door opened just as Wyn reached it. HER Doctor smiled broadly as he stepped out and she flung her arms around his neck.

Rose and The Doctor stepped forward. The two girls looked at each other and ran to hug each other in mutual relief that it was all over. The two Doctors looked at each other and reached at first to shake hands, then they, too, realised the enormity of the situation and hugged each other.

"You ready to go, Wyn?" Ten asked presently.

"No," she said. "I want to see you up there in the village as the GOD of these people, like Rose was telling me."

"TWO Gods." Rose smiled. "THAT will be a treat for them."

"They feed us well," her Doctor said. "And don't tell me you're not hungry."

"Well, I'll be anyone's deity for a free meal," he said. "I'm up for it."

They walked along together, Rose and her Doctor arm in arm, inseparable; Wyn holding HER Doctor's hand as if she never meant to let it go again. None of them talked much at first. Then both Doctors tried to say something at once. Ten conceded.

"I just wanted to ask you if…"

"We're not supposed to talk about it," Ten warned.

"Nuts to that. We're not supposed to talk to other Time Lords. Wyn and Rose are NOT Time Lords and I don't think there's a law against me talking to myself!"


"Did anyone…. Tell you anything about…."

"About what?"

"She said he wasn't dead."

"Who said who wasn't dead?"

Nine told him telepathically. He didn't seem able to say it out loud.

"Is that possible?"

"I intend to find out."

"Do you always make this much sense when you talk to yourself?" Rose asked both of them.

"Yes," they both said, and offered no further explanations. Ahead of them they saw the elders of SangC'lune approaching. They stepped forward together to greet them. Rose and Wyn looked at each other and without any telepathy necessary both had the same exasperated thought.

"Time Lords! Can't live with them, can't live without them!"