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

The SangC’lune night was warm and balmy as ever. In the Great Hall the two Time Lord Gods were sleeping along with their Human companions. That is to say that Rose and Wyn were sleeping in the big bed while the two Time Lords lay on rugs on the floor beside them. The sleeping arrangements in the Great Hall never did quite suit their personal relationships.

Rose woke to an unusual sound for SangC’lune. The sound of thunder. She looked through the wide open door to see the beautiful double moons obscured by cloud and a lightning flash splitting the sky. Wyn stirred beside her and they both watched it from the bed for a while, then at once they had the same idea. They each wrapped a blanket around themselves and went out to the covered veranda. They watched as the rainstorm began to come down, cooling the still warm air and soaking the ground.

“I’ve never seen it rain here,” Rose said. “Though I suppose it must - for the crops to grow.”

“I like thunderstorms. They feel so dangerous and exciting, and they leave everything fresh and new afterwards.”

“It reminds me of The Doctor,” Rose murmured dreamily. “He’s dangerous and exciting, and…” she broke off and smiled. It was a strained metaphor, but it was right. He was like a thunderstorm in her life. He’d made everything fresh and new for her.

“You’re nuts about him,” Wyn said. “Everything reminds you of him. I bet this wooden floor reminds you of him.”

“Well yes,” Rose admitted. “Because we’ve sat here so many nights together.”

“You’ve got it bad,” Wyn laughed.

“I don’t ever want to be cured of it. Anyway, you care about him, too. You care about YOUR Doctor.”

“I care about yours, too. He’s terrific.”

“Which do you like best?” Rose asked her.

“I could never choose,” Wyn said. “They’re both wonderful. I’m glad I’ve been able to know them both.”

“What if he asked you to come back with us?”

“I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t leave MY Doctor on his own. He’d be so lonely. Don’t know what’ll happen after the year is up and I have to go back home. I hope he finds a new friend to travel with.”

“He always does,” Rose said. “Always finds somebody. Your Doctor.. Does he ever… Has he ever told you about me? I mean like why I’m not…”

“No,” Wyn said. “And I’m not going to ask him. I think it would be a bad idea to know. You shouldn’t worry about it. You’ve got your Doctor. And he’s nuts about you.”

“Yeah,” Rose smiled. In the lightning flash her diamond solitaire seemed to glow momentarily, reminding her just HOW nuts he was about her. “Yeah!”

The storm was right overhead now. They felt the thunder rattle the wooden struts that held up the veranda and the lightning crack immediately after. Then they screamed as it struck the building itself. The dark room was lit inside with electric blue light. It seemed to bounce off the walls before splitting into two spears of light that earthed themselves in the two sleeping men. Rose found herself screaming without any sound coming out as she ran towards them. She reached to touch The Doctor but Wyn grabbed her arm.

“No,” she said. “You’ll kill yourself. They’re both LIVE!”

They stared as both men were enveloped by the blue light. They glowed and crackled as if they were the source of the lightning. But they didn’t burn as bodies should when subjected to electrical charges. And Rose and Wyn both screamed when their four eyes snapped open and looked up at them.

Then it was over. The darkness in the room afterwards was nearly as startling as the light. Wyn ran and lit a lantern and warm, ordinary light cast a comforting glow. She looked around and stared in astonishment as Ten stood up and embraced Rose lovingly, kissing her on the lips.

“What…” she began, but Rose was expressing herself even more loudly. She squealed and backed away looking from Ten to Nine as he slowly picked himself up from the ground. The two Doctors looked at each other in shock and both uttered the same Low Gallifreyan swearword.


“Doctor!” Rose cried and ran to him, seeking the comfort of sandalwood scented leather and her lover’s kiss on her lips. He put his arms around her gently, but he did not kiss her. He was still looking at the other Doctor in shocked confusion.

“Rose,” he said slowly. “It hurts to say this. Because I never stopped loving you and it's good to hold you this way again. But… I’m not…”

“Rose,” Ten said to her. “I’M YOUR Doctor.”

“What!” she stepped back from the man she thought she knew. She looked at Ten. He had spoken with Ten’s voice, but in his brown eyes was something she recognised and in Nine’s grey eyes, something less familiar.

“We’ve been switched,” Ten said. “Our minds have been switched. Rose, I’m your fiancé. He’s….”

“Oh my God,” she murmured looking at them both. “No, it's not… It can’t be….”

It was as if, after all, her nightmare had come true. The man she loved was speaking to her through the face of a stranger she hardly knew. But worse, the one she loved was standing there, and telling her that he WASN’T her man.

“Well,” Wyn said. “I love both of you.” And she came to Ten, who looked as if he was about to burst into tears, and hugged him. Then she went to Nine and hugged him, too. Rose looked at Ten and approached him tentatively. If he really WAS her Doctor, in his mind, his hearts, then her rejection of him must have hurt him so much. But she hadn’t meant it. She reached out to him, putting her arms around his slender shoulders that felt so different from those she was used to. She looked at his brown eyes. They were very beautiful eyes, even though they weren’t the ones she loved.


“Yes, Rose. Yes, it’s me.” He pulled her close to him and she reached and kissed him. It didn’t feel like his kiss. His mouth felt different. A different shape, and more cleanly shaven. She was used to the masculine roughness of The Doctor’s skin. The body pressed against her seemed wrong. And his voice couldn’t be more of a contrast to her Doctor’s husky Northern accent.

The kiss they shared helped him. He looked so much less hurt. But it did nothing for her. He didn’t feel like her lover in any way. And when they stopped kissing she couldn’t help looking longingly at the man who in all her senses WAS the one she loved.

“Go to him,” The Doctor whispered. “You won’t know until you do.” And though his brown eyes looked hurt again she turned and went to the man with the strong shoulders and the rough face, who spoke her name with the voice that made her shiver with excitement, and she kissed him. He closed his arms around her and held her tightly as he responded to her kiss. But again, when it was over, and she stepped back from him, it wasn’t what she either expected or wanted.

“Oh, God!” she said. “It feels as if…. As if neither of you are…” And she burst into tears and ran out of the hall, into the tail end of the thunderstorm that seemed now to be passing. She heard them both call her name as she ran, but she was too grief-stricken to respond.

“She’ll be ok,” Ten told Nine as he went to follow her. “Let her walk it off. She’ll be all right when she’s thought it over.”

“What are we supposed to do though?” Nine looked through the eyes of Ten, at his own body with Ten’s mind in it. It was doing HIS head in. He wasn’t surprised Rose was upset. He felt like crying himself.

Wyn looked at them both. She was still holding onto Ten in Nine’s body. Her surrogate big brother in the body of the man she had come to love as a surrogate dad. She reached out her hand to the other man who was the same two people in one. He came to her. Two grown men, both over six foot, and her five foot nothing, trying to hug them both, trying to comfort them.

There were footsteps on the veranda and they both turned hopefully. But it was not Rose. The storm had roused the people of the village and the elders came to see if all was well with their gods.

“You’ll have to talk to them,” Nine told Ten telepathically. “They know ME in that form. Not this.”

“This gets more confusing by the minute,” Ten complained in a Manchester accent. But he went to the elders and when they knelt before him he gently told them to rise. He assured them that all was well and told them to return to their homes and sleep peacefully. They bowed to him and did as he asked. He turned from the door. Wyn was quietly lighting more lanterns around the table where they dined. She poured three glasses of the cooled goats milk that they drank at bedtime and which there was still plenty of in an old fashioned terra cotta container. The two Doctors both came and sat and drank quietly, looking at each other, not knowing what to say.

“What caused it?” Wyn asked. “Do either of you know?”

“Not a clue,” Nine said.

“This doesn’t happen a lot with your people?”

“We are in a rather unique situation,” Ten told her. "The two of us in the same dimension together.”

“And we’re here on this planet. Where our essences are gathered together.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Not sure yet. You should try to sleep a bit more. Don’t worry.”

“How can I not worry?” Wyn asked them. “You two have your brains scrambled. And Rose is totally upset.”

“Our brains aren’t scrambled,” Nine said. “They’re just in the wrong heads. And for all we know it might sort itself out in a little while. Could just be a temporary thing. You go to sleep and in the morning it will all be fine.”

“Go to sleep little girl, and don’t worry. Mr Sunshine will make it all right.”

“If we’re lucky.”

“I hope so. This is confusing. I mean, it's kind of good for me. I like you both, and you’re both… But, I think Rose wants things back the way they should be.” She hugged them both and went to the bed. They watched her settle to sleep again. Of course they could have talked telepathically, but somehow waiting for her to fall asleep gave them both a respite from their own thoughts.

“Do you seriously think this could sort itself out?” Ten asked.

“No,” Nine replied. “I just told her that so she wouldn’t worry. We’ve got a real problem. Not sure we can reverse what happened at all. At least not without REALLY scrambling our brains.”

“I suppose we could just leave things as they are? I mean, external appearances aren’t so important. We’re still who we are inside.”

“Tell that to Rose. If I don’t get back into my own body, I think… I think I could lose her.”

“I didn’t think Rose was only interested in what we look like.”

“I’m not going into that,” Nine snapped irritably. “She DOES love me for more than looks. But she’s not sure at all about you. That’s why me… in your body… Look, we’ve got to do something. And…. By the way, we need to find Rose. She’s been gone too long for her just to be thinking things over.”

“She’ll be ok,” Ten said.

“She’s out there in nothing but a nightie, in the rain. I should have gone after her before. YOU stopped me.” Nine stood up and turned away. Ten sighed and followed. He was only a few seconds behind him but by the time he had reached the veranda Nine was gone.

DID she really love him? The doubt was in his mind. Was it really only about appearances? Because if it was, could she REALLY ever have loved him? He wasn’t a Human. He was a Time Lord. Who he was couldn’t be defined by appearance. It was in his DNA, in his thoughts and in his feelings. It wasn’t about the shell he occupied. The body she loved, that she knew as The Doctor, was just a shell. He wasn’t REALLY forty-five years old, six foot one with black hair, slate-grey eyes and a Manchester accent. That was the particular shell he had taken on in that incarnation.

And when she looked at THIS shell, she was repulsed. His thoughts and feelings, all he was, how he felt about her, meant nothing to her. It was all about how he looked.

That hurt. It hurt deeply. It felt as if he had been betrayed by the one person in the universe he thought would never betray him.

But he still kept looking for her. Because even if her feelings for him were changed, HE still loved her with both his hearts and all of his soul and he needed her back.

The sonic screwdriver was not a good DNA tracer, especially on a planet with so much background psychic power as this one. But it DID get a lock on her. There were, after all, only two Humans on the planet. Wyn, sleeping back at the Great Hall, and Rose, somewhere out there, maybe hurt, maybe lost, maybe dying of exposure in totally inadequate clothes.

She wasn’t quite that desperate yet, but she WAS lost. Rose looked around and came to that conclusion. She was, officially, lost. In the dark, on a strange planet, in a silk nightdress.

When she’d run out of the Hall in tears it had felt refreshing, walking in the cool rain. Even though her nightie had been wet through in minutes, she walked on, not caring. The rain cooled her body and her mind. Her bare feet in the soft, wet grass of the plain beyond the village felt nice. And even the darkness felt like a sort of blanket over her. She didn’t care where she was or where she was going.

She had also, in the back of her mind, expected that he was going to follow her, catch up with her, hold her in his arms and make it all feel better the way he always did. She knew it was the stuff of a bad romantic novel, making up in a rainstorm in the middle of nowhere. It should have been in period costume, she reflected. One of those low cut but impossibly tight dresses that the heroines always wore in TV adaptations of 18th century novels. He would come for her on a horse. He’d pick her up and hold her in front of him, safe in his arms, all the way home, promising never to let her out of his sight again.

Nice dream, nice romance. Works for Jane Austen.

Didn’t work for her. Because he didn’t come for her.

And if he DID, WHICH one of him? Eighteenth century romantic heroines never had this trouble. They might be in love with two men at once, but they were at least two different men. And they were both inside their own heads.

For so long, that face had haunted her nightmares. The man her Doctor had become in the other timeline. And it haunted her because she knew for sure that in that timeline neither of them had loved each other as much as she and HER Doctor loved each other. She knew if he regenerated into ‘Ten’ it would be the end for them.

Yes, having met him several times now, she realised he was not a BAD person. How could he be? He WAS The Doctor. But he wasn’t the Doctor she LOVED. He wasn’t HER Doctor.

Except at the moment, he WAS! Everything she loved about her man was inside that body. So she had to love him.

But she wasn’t sure she did.

Which meant what? That it was all about looks? About physical attraction?

No, she told herself firmly. It wasn’t that. And the reason she knew was that, when she kissed the physical form of the man she loved, knowing it was a different mind inside his head, she didn’t love him.

She couldn’t love either of them.

That HURT.

“Hey,” Nine heard his other self talking to him in his head. “Slow down a bit. I’m trying to catch you up. This body is older than your one, you know.”

“That’s nonsense. Our bodies are just bodies. The apparent age has nothing to do with it.”

“Yeah, ok. You got me there. But slow down.”

“I’m trying to find Rose. She’s out here somewhere. I’m not waiting for you. If you loved her as much as you should you wouldn’t BE behind. You’d have gone out with me to find her.”

“If we loved her as we should we wouldn’t have let her run out on her own in the dark.” Nine conceded the point. “She’ll be all right. Lighten up. You’re WAY too intense about everything, you know. Keep on going like this and you’ll burn yourself out.”

“What do you know about it?”

“Quite a bit. This is my mind, but it's YOUR brain. I can feel all your hang-ups and anxieties. You worry all the time about whether Rose loves you enough. That’s why you got engaged, so that you could hold onto her. But there’s no need. She couldn’t love you more if she duplicated herself.”

“You think?”

“Yes.” He paused. “And there’s another thing. Christopher.”

“What about him?” Despite his anxiety for Rose, he stopped walking momentarily. “What does my son have to do with anything.”

“OUR son,” Ten corrected him. “You’ve been thinking about him since yesterday. Almost non-stop. Thinking about whether there was anything in what you were told in the Rite of Progression. Whether he really could be alive.”

“Julia said he was.”

“It WAS an illusion. Most of it conjured up in your own head. Wishful thinking. That’s all.”

“No, it was more than that. And I’m going to try to find out what happened, and if he is alive, I’m going to find him.”

“He’s dead, let it go. We mourned him years ago. We moved on.”

“No. He was my son. How could I have moved on from him? You’re memories ARE scrambled. Don’t you remember wanting to die from missing him so much? Don’t you remember lying awake so many nights, hurting so much, deep in your soul, because the most precious thing in your life was gone. Your heir, your reason for being, blown to atoms.”

“Yes, I remember. But it was 500 years ago. And I remember putting it behind us and making the best of it for Susan’s sake. I loved being her granddad, her DAD in all the ways that counted. My little girl. We had such good times together.”

“Yes,” Nine said. “But… you don’t even care about her any more. I found her again. You didn’t. You let Susan go, you let Rose go, and you want to let our son go.”

“We’re not gods. We can’t raise the dead. And if he is alive, then like Susan, he has his own life to lead somewhere. What can I do but confuse and upset him? No, the past is the past. Even for Time Lords. Let it be.”

“No, I won’t,” Nine insisted. “Never. We really ARE two different people. I never… I don’t give up. I’m not giving up now. I’m going to find Rose. I’m going to get my head back, and then… then I don’t care what the hell you do, but I’m going to find my son.”

“Yes, we are different,” Ten said. “But I wonder how different? Couple of years back, I was offered the greatest gift possible. A chance to remake the universe. To have our people alive again, all the Time Lords, my son, my wife, to have them alive and never get old.”

“How long did you think about it before you said no?”

“I let him think he had me for a few minutes. But I never even gave it a microsecond. It was wrong. No matter how I wish for a miracle like that, the price was too high.”

“What was the deal? Sell your soul?”

“The souls of every sentient being in the universe. For the price of my own soul… it might have been worth it. But…

“You made the right decision. I’d have done the same. Maybe we’re not so different after all. But I’m still going to find my son. I don’t care what you, or anyone, thinks.”

Ten sighed and quickened his pace. He was worried. Not about Rose. He knew they’d find her. And he knew she would sort out her feelings. He wasn’t even worried about whose head he was in. Nine was wrong. They WERE the same person. They COULD exist like this if there was no other choice. He could take Wyn and carry on as before. Nine had Rose and Susan and her children, and everything to live for here. And they would realise that it didn’t matter what he looked like.

But he WAS worried about Nine’s new obsession with what seemed utterly impossible. When he first told him about it, his hearts had felt hopeful. He had almost decided he would try to find out. But the more he thought about it, the more he knew it WAS just a hopeful dream. Nine’s mind had wanted Julia to tell him that their son wasn’t dead.

He understood that. For a long time after the explosion he had felt that way. He had wanted somebody to come along and say it was a mistake. That Christopher wasn’t in the car, that he was alive after all.

But nobody did, and after a while his hearts stopped quickening every time he saw somebody with a similar build, or who wore the same kind of coat. And he went on with his life.

And he didn’t want his hearts ripped open again by it now.

But Nine – He DID want it. He wouldn’t let himself be consoled. His angst was his driving force. It pushed him and he never let it stop pushing him.

And that was ok when he was fighting the forces of evil like the Daleks. His pent up anger at what they had done to him gave him the impetus to fight back.

But this was a hiding to nowhere. And how long would it take before he realised that? And how much would he have destroyed before then? This really WAS the Sisyphean task, and it would eat at his soul.

Ten sighed and followed Nine through the dark. At least he could help him find Rose. Maybe ROSE could talk some sense into him.

He hoped so.

Nine heard her scream. He wasn’t sure if he heard it for real, or subconsciously, but he knew she had screamed. She WAS hurt. He ran, then stopped, realising he wasn’t even sure he was running in the right direction.

Yes, he was. And he at least knew where he was. They were heading towards the old ruined temple on the rise just above the pyramid valley. It used to be the focus of some of the more complicated Time Lord rituals when there were more of them to come and hold rituals. He wasn’t sure what sort. SangC’lune was spoken of in rather hushed tones. Only the most mystic of his people had been here. He was never really into group rituals and all that. He did the meditations and the purification rites by himself. They were useful. Cathartic. They helped clear his mind and body of the weariness of living. But his philosophy was purely practical, purely scientific. He didn’t believe there was anything that science couldn’t explain. Even the ghosts of SangC’lune. They weren’t ghosts, of course. They were the remnants of Time Lord lives, existing on a different, but scientifically credible plain.

But now he was the only Time Lord and he had inherited it all. The ritual, the mysticism, SangC’lune and its concentration of all of those things.

Ten found the temple first, even though he had never been there before. He was sure Rose was here somewhere. He felt it instinctively. Nine’s body, even with his thoughts in it, was so in tune to her he could FEEL her.

But he couldn’t see her.

“Rose!” he called. “Are you there?”

“Help!” He heard her voice and was relieved even though she sounded weak and hurt and frightened. She was alive. He called again and waited for her to reply. He located the sound.

“Be careful,” he heard her call. “You’ll fall in as well.”

“Fall in where?” he asked.

He fell in.

There was an old cave system under the ruined temple. Where the flagstones were broken there was a drop right down into it.

“Nothing broken,” The Doctor said as he picked himself up. “Nine will be happy. He seems fond of this body.”

“My ankle is broken,” Rose said. He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and saw in its dim light her tear-streaked face as she fought the pain. He adjusted it to the setting for tissue repair and bent to examine her ankle.

“Not broken,” he said. “Just sprained.”

“You sure?”

“Susan is my granddaughter,” he said. “I learnt to recognise sprained ankles long ago. She could fall over on the flattest surface. She’d have been the one to accidentally find the hole into the cave by falling into it, too. Well done for continuing the tradition. She’d be proud of you.”

He was teasing her, trying to make her feel less scared.

“Doctor,” Rose said as he applied the sonic screwdriver to her ankle and the pain gently eased away. “It isn’t you is it… Not MY Doctor?”

“I’m who you want me to be, Rose,” he said taking off the leather jacket and putting it around her. She snuggled into it as if it was a part of him. “I always loved you. I only made one mistake. I never told you. I never said the words. He did.”

“That’s the difference? Between how it turned out for us and for you and…” Rose looked at him. “Even if you never said it, we shouldn’t have needed words. Why am I not with you? I couldn’t have stopped loving you that much unless….” Something occurred to her. “Oh my God! Did I... Did I die?”

“Rose…” Through Nine’s expressive grey eyes Ten’s pain was clear. She wondered if she had hit the nail on the head. But he wouldn’t confirm it. “Rose, don’t do that. I’ll never forget what we were to each other. But it's over for me. I’m happy that you and him – that one of us got it right. But it would do you no good to wonder, and even less to know the truth. Love your Doctor in your world. Get married. Have babies, be the mother of the new generation of Time Lords. That’s what we BOTH want.”

“Which one do I do that with? Which one do I love?”

“Rose, you shouldn’t have to ask.”

“I am asking. This is too confusing. I look at his body, and talk to you. I look at your body and talk to him. Which one of you is the man I love.”

“HE is, Rose. And if we can’t get our bodies back, if we ARE stuck like this, don’t let this mess you two up. HE is the one, Rose. Everything in his hearts, his head, his soul, is the man you love. He is in THAT body. He loves you. He asked you to marry him. You love him. The body… well, it's a better looking body anyway. Younger, fitter. You get the best of both worlds.”

“I don’t think so,” Rose said, touching his cheek gently. “If we’re talking about looks, he’s not better looking than you. He’s different. Not better.” She reached and kissed the same cheek. “You’re a very sweet man. You could so easily use the fact that you’re in his body to take advantage of me. But you didn’t. You told me I should be with him. That’s so sweet and nice. And… and… What’s the word….”

“A bloody idiot,” he said. “That’s me entirely. A bloody idiot.”

“I agree!” They both looked up to see Nine in Ten’s body looking down at them. “You fell, didn’t you,” he said to his other self accusingly. He himself swung down athletically and landed easily on his feet. “Trust you to fall down.”

“Trust you to come down here without knowing if we could get back up,” Ten retorted.

Nine ignored what was, in fact, a very valid point and turned to Rose. She looked at him tentatively, biting her lip as if she was searching for words to say to him. “Rose… I…”

They hugged and kissed. And it was nice, but both still felt it wasn’t there. Rose remembered what Ten had told her, in the familiar voice she loved and trusted and believed implicitly. But when Nine put those unfamiliar arms around her, when he kissed her with those different lips, as hard as she tried to tell herself that the man she loved was in there, it didn’t work.

She loved both of them. But she couldn’t love one of them so completely as she wanted to love him.

“This is no bloody good,” Nine said. “We CAN’T live like this. It’ll destroy all three of us. We’ve got to find a way to get our minds back in our own bodies.”

“We’ve got to get out of here first,” Rose reminded them. She looked up at the small hole above them. There was no way back up there. She had a vague vision of them standing on each other’s shoulders trying to reach, and dismissed it as the sort of thing that didn’t even work in Scooby Doo. “I think this cave leads somewhere. We’d better see…” She stood up and walked towards a dark tunnel entrance.

“Hang on then,” Nine said to her. “Don’t go off and sprain something again.”

“I’m NOT Susan,” she retorted.

“No,” he laughed. “You’re not.”

“More like Julia,” Ten said as they both caught up with her and the light from two sonic screwdrivers lit the way. “She was always game for anything, and agile.”

“That was the gymnastics,” Nine said. “And the ballet. Funny Susan never took after her. She was always the spitting image of her.”

“Did either of you ever think,” Rose said, putting in her tuppence worth on their reminiscences. “That Susan’s sprained ankles were her looking for attention from you.”

Nine and Ten looked at her and looked at each other.

“Why would Susan feel she needed my attention?” Nine asked. “She always had it. Couldn’t have given her more.”

“I don’t know,” Ten said. “Maybe we did spend a bit too much time being the scientist and the explorer, especially when she was older. That’s why…”

“The last time she sprained her ankle…”

“Earth, 2164….”

“It wasn’t me that came to her aid. It was…”


“Two brains with the same memories, you should have figured it out faster than THAT,” Rose said, smugly.

“Mrs Sigmund Freud,” Ten joked, to cover the fact that she was right and they had missed something so obvious for more than 500 years.

“In his dreams!” Rose said. They both laughed and for a moment as she looked at them it felt ok. They WERE both HER Doctor. She wondered if it was possible for them ALL to be together. Both Doctors, herself and Wyn, sorting out the universe together.

But she was supposed to marry one of them. And she still didn’t know if it was the one who looked like the man she loved or the one who WAS the man she loved.

“Wow, what’s THAT?” Ten exclaimed as the tunnel widened out into something they never expected.

“It’s beautiful,” Rose breathed as she looked at the great cavern, bigger than anything she had ever seen. She remembered a school trip to Cheddar and the caves there. And they were something. But THIS was something else. They were looking down on something as BIG as a cathedral. Only she had never been at the top of a cathedral, looking down. The roof which was as high again above them was supported by stalagmite/stalactite pillars that looked almost too slender and delicate for the job at their thinnest point but wide as centuries old tree trunks at their base and top.

Steps led down to the bottom.


“This isn’t completely natural,” Nine said as he reached out to take her hand. “I think this was used for Time Lord rituals. The ones they didn’t invite the locals to participate in.”

“Er…” Rose looked at him. “What sort of rituals are they?” She had visions of the sort of lurid semi-pagan, semi-erotic rites that appeared in the sort of books she went through a phase of reading when she was about fifteen. The sort where nubile young maidens got married to the devil on his altar.

“Does that REALLY sound like the sort of thing Time Lords would be up to?” Nine laughed as he caught the tail end of her thoughts. “I think you’ll find it isn’t even THAT exciting for the average Pagan or Satanist. It's certainly not US!”

“Ok, so what sort of rituals,” Rose insisted. “And don’t get all Time Lordy on me and say I’m not permitted to know on pain of death or any of that. Because otherwise I’ll assume it DOES involve sex.”

“The sort where there’s a risk involved,” Ten said. “The Rite of Transference, for example. That’s where…”

“Where a Time Lord’s lives are transferred to another body,” Rose said. “Yeah, seen that one. Didn’t work. The guy died.”

“Seen it?” Ten looked at Nine who just shrugged and said it was a long story.

And it was. Although, Rose thought, he could have told it in the time it took them to reach the bottom of those stairs. Especially since HE didn’t get out of breath.

“Well, even if you don’t sacrifice virgins on it, that’s a heck of an altar,” Rose said as she looked at the great stone table in the centre of the cavern. Now she was down on the ground and looked up at the roof it looked nearly circular. “How does it fit? I’ve never seen a mountain this size on SangC’lune?”

“I think there’s a bit of Dimensional Relativity going on in here,” Nine said. “Like inside the pyramids. After all this IS a Time Lord dominion.”

“If only we’d had time,” Ten said. “We could have evacuated some of our families here. They didn’t all have to die.”

“Now who’s dwelling on the past,” Nine replied to him. “What’s done is certainly done as far as THAT is concerned.” He was examining the ‘altar’. It wasn’t that in the sense Rose meant, of course. They didn’t worship Rassilon as a God. But some of their rituals did require a focal point. He traced his hand around the Seal of Rassilon on the front, and the swirling Gallifreyan text that surrounded it.

“That’s a memory crystal,” Ten said, looking at the object that sat in the middle of the altar. “The last people to use this place were performing a mind transference.”

“The Rite of Mori,” Nine murmured thoughtfully. “Coincidence or what?”

“What?” Rose asked.

“Well, for one,” Ten said with a grin. “What are the odds that Scooby Girl would fall down the one hole on the entire planet that leads here?”

“Slightly higher than if it was Susan,” Nine laughed. “You could always rely on her to accidentally stumble over the solution to our problems.”

“Oi,” Rose said. “Just remember if we’re playing cartoon characters, I’m Daphne, the pretty one. You can decide between yourselves which one is the dog. But it sure isn’t me. And what do you mean, the solution to your problems?”

“The Rite of Mori.”

“Mori means death,” Rose said.

“Yes,” Nine explained. “Sometimes, when he is close to death, a Time Lord might choose to pass on his memories to a willing volunteer, a young Time Lord with his lives left to live. Usually it was done for a man who had achieved a lot, whose knowledge might be useful to the next generation - great scientists or political thinkers, that class of thing. It used to happen a lot more than it has in recent years. Got a bit frowned upon. Trouble was, a lot of the recipients developed mental problems. Schizophrenia. - living with two identities.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling right now,” Ten said.

“Which is why….”

“NO!” Rose shrieked. “If one of you has to die to do it… NO!”

“Rose,” Nine told her gently. “That’s not what I had in mind. We can use the crystal to facilitate getting our own memories back into our own bodies.”

“And it’s safe?” She looked at them both. They were BOTH perfectly capable of lying to her in order to protect her from something that would hurt her. They were BOTH concealing the truth about what happened to her in Ten’s world, after all. But if this COULD kill one or both of them, she wanted to know the risk.

“It involves us depositing the sum total of who we ARE in that crystal and putting it back into the right head,” Ten told her. “Safe? If I had a choice I’d rather stick my head in the jaws of a Drasheg. But we don’t have a choice. If we don’t sort this out, he’s right. We’re both going to go nuts, and probably take you with us. We have to…”

“Ok,” she said. “But… both of you, come here… In case…” She reached and hugged Ten first, then Nine. “When I hold you again, I want to hold THAT body,” she said. “So get it right, please.”

“We’ll do our best,” he promised. Then he told her to stand back. “I don’t want to end up in YOUR body by mistake,” he said. He looked at his other self. “I think I’ve had enough three day rituals for now,” he said. “Let’s cut to the chase.”

“Yeah,” Ten said. “Let’s do it.” And Rose watched as they both reached to touch the crystal. It began to glow almost as soon as their fingers closed on it. The glow was the same kind of blue that the lightning seemed to have taken on when the mind-switch happened. It must be going right.

“Doctor!” Rose screamed as she saw Nine’s body suddenly collapse. So many times in the years she had known him he had caught her before she fell. Now she caught him and held him in her arms. He felt dead weight, limp and unresponsive. She lifted his eyelids and his eyes were blank and unseeing. She looked up at the other Doctor, the body of Ten with Nine’s mind still inside.

“He’s all right,” he told her. “His mind is in the Crystal. Let him down gently. He’ll be all right. But I need…. I need you to catch me the same way. I know you don’t care about this body the same way…”

“Oh you soppy article,” she said. “It was NEVER about how you look. I just want the RIGHT you in the right body.” She laid Nine down on the floor carefully then waited until she saw the same vacant look in Ten’s eyes. She could call him that now. Nine was no longer occupying his brain. As she knelt between the two shells of the two men she cared about deeply, she watched the crystal glow and pulsate. And then two streams of blue light emitted from it and enveloped the two bodies just as she had seen happen before. She held her breath as she waited for it to dissipate and for them to open their eyes.

“Rose!” The Doctor stood up quickly, pulling his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aiming it at Ten as he, more slowly, got up from the ground. “Rose, come to me, now.”

“Is it you?” she asked.

“It’s me,” he said. “But I’m not sure who he is. There was… there was already somebody in the crystal. Another mind. Another Time Lord.”

“WHAT!” Rose ran to the protective arm he held out to her and looked at the man who, not so long ago, had held and kissed her and told her he loved her. “Who?”

“My dear boy, you don’t hold a sonic screwdriver like that!” Ten’s voice seemed to have a different cadence to it has he spoke. A different accent entirely. Rose was instantly reminded of her old school headmaster, a Cambridge graduate in charge of a north London comprehensive school. Not a bad headmaster, by any means, but somehow as out of place there as this voice was coming from the cheeky, smiling cockney she knew as Ten.

“I hold it how I please,” The Doctor replied. “Who the hell are you?”

“Don’t you know me?” he asked. “Look at my brain pattern. I think you do. I taught you everything you know about temporal engineering.”

“Azmael!” The Doctor whispered in a voice that seemed oddly choked. “My friend, my teacher.” He lowered the sonic screwdriver and took hold of Rose’s hand in a more relaxed way. “Yes, it is you. Rose, meet Azmael. He was one of the few teachers at the Prydonian Academy who didn’t think it a waste of time teaching a half-blood. He…” The Doctor laughed. “He passed me on my TARDIS piloting proficiency exam. It's down to him that I ever had the chance to explore space and time.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr… professor… er…” Rose stumbled over the correct address for a disembodied university professor.

“Pleased to meet you, young lady,” Azmael said. “But…”

“But this is wrong,” The Doctor said. “You died, about two hundred years ago. I was there when you died. You forced yourself into a thirteenth regeneration in order to kill a malevolent force that had taken over your body.”

“Do any of you guys ever stay put?” Rose asked. But she looked at The Doctor and realised her comment was flippant. “Oh, my, you mean he committed suicide?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said, his voice sounding choked. “Yes, he did. And I have rarely seen a good man die so bravely. But how….”

“How did I get trapped in a crystal on SangC’lune?” He sighed. “When my body died, the malevolent entity died. But my mind…. SangC’lune pulled me in like a magnet, as it should. But my pyramid already had its full compliment of 13 and had sealed itself. This would be incarnation number 14. It had nowhere to go. So it came here.”

“Did you do this to them?” Rose asked. “The mindflip…. The switch…”

“No, that was a bit of freak weather and the fact that the two of you together IS in itself an anomaly,” Azmael said. “But it has at least given me the chance to tell somebody, to ask them to help me.”

“You can’t have that body,” Rose said. “It belongs to Ten. You can’t leave HIM in there.”

“I don’t intend to,” Azmael said. “I lived thirteen good lives. I was ready to die. I sought the peace of the grave. Instead I have had two centuries of half life, aware of my existence but unable to do anything but think long, slow thoughts. I should be dead. Son of Lœngbærrow…. You have very firm ideas about killing, and especially about euthanasia. They do you credit. But you know what you have to do for me.”

“I do,” The Doctor said. He stepped forward and hugged him. “Goodbye old friend.”

He took a pace back as the body of Ten, controlled by Azmael, touched the crystal again. He reached and held his body as it went limp and kept on holding it as a blue light again radiated out and enveloped the empty shell.

“Is it him this time?” Rose asked as Ten’s eyes opened and he stood up on his own two feet, grasping The Doctor’s shoulders for support.

“It’s him,” The Doctor said. “I can feel him. You’re yourself, aren’t you.”

“Yes, I am,” he said. “But… he took his ESSENCE, his personality, but he’s left me most of his memories. All the technical genius he had. WOW. I didn’t know you could make a TARDIS do THAT!” Ten smiled joyfully. “Remind me to tell you later. Before we go our separate ways. It’ll be really useful to you, as well.”

“I will,” The Doctor said. “But first…” He picked up the crystal and raised it high over his head. “Goodbye, my old, dear friend,” he said again. “We’ll BOTH remember you.” And he smashed it down on the floor. Rose and Ten both jumped out of the way as it broke into a million tiny pieces. The Doctor bent and picked up the largest piece. It was dead now. The molecular structure destroyed. He pocketed the piece though, a sort of souvenir, a memento mori, of his friend and teacher. Ten already had a precious living memento in his own mind. He envied him. Azmael WAS a brilliant man. It was a very precious gift he had given him.

“You have Rose,” Ten told him telepathically. “I’ve got Azmael’s legacy. I think we’re both lucky men.”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed. “Come on, it's almost dawn. We promised Wyn it would be all right in the morning.”