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

The Doctor sat at the table by the window in Susan’s drawing room polishing the great broadsword he had mysteriously acquired during his Rite of Progression. He didn’t quite understand how a sword that he thought was destroyed when Gallifrey died and which he had held only in an illusory world, had come back to reality with him, but it had.

The twins were fascinated by it. They sat next to him and looked at the elaborately wrought hilt with the symbols of Rassilon and of the Lœngbærrow family on it. And they were even more entranced when he held it against the light to reveal a simple family tree of father to son from the Time Lord called Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, the first owner of the sword, to the latest.

“That’s the symbol for my great-grandfather,” he said, pointing to an elaborate engraving of a fire-breathing dragon. Below that was a representation of the moon, while further up towards the hilt there were, among other things, a wolf and a heart and diamond intertwined.

“So there are symbols for each of your ancestors?” Chris asked.

“They’re your ancestors too,” he told the boys. “We’re all of the same blood.”

“Which of these is your symbol then?” Davie asked him.

“The memento mori flower. For remembrance,” he said.

“You get a flower?” Davie giggled. “All the others get exciting things?”

“Are you calling me a cissy?” The Doctor said in mock indignation. “How about I run you through with this VERY sharp sword and see who’s the cissy then?”

Davie laughed.

“Besides, remembering the kind of things I have to remember…” The Doctor said. “I’d like to see some of my ancestors try it.”

“What about the other symbols?” Chris asked, recognising a potential dark mood in his great-grandfather and wanting him to stay off it long enough to tell them about some of those heroic ancestors he had. Besides, the sword clearly did not recognise him as the last of the line. Below his memento mori was a circle with a triangle inside it and a five pointed star within that.

“Miracle – that one is my son’s symbol.”

“And the other two?”

“They’re yours,” he told them. “A bolt of lightning – light – Lúzio and a pillar representing steadfast Dánte. This sword knows that you are part of our blood. It knows that one day it will belong to the two of you.”

The boys both smiled as bright at the gleaming sword hearing that. It pleased them to know that they were so inexorably linked to their great-grandfather.

“It doesn’t matter that their surname is Campbell?” David asked, listening with interest to what The Doctor had been saying.

“No. They’re still of the blood.”

“We’re Lœngbærrow-Campbell,” Chris said. “That’s how we want to be named. For our father and our mother’s houses.”

“Funny,” David commented. “When I married your mother I thought her surname was Foreman!”

The Doctor smiled in remembrance of the small subterfuge he and Susan adopted to fit into Human society.

David reached out and took the sword. He looked at it admiringly. “In Scotland this would be called An Claidheamh Mòr – the Great Sword. The head of a clan would have something like this. I suppose that’s you, Doctor.”

“Until I’m ready to pass it on to my heir. We live long lives. We don’t wait for the death of the patriarch. Usually he will decide at some point to retire and let his son take over. My father did when I married Julia. I became the head of the family even though my father lived.”

“Which of us gets it then?” Davie asked. “I’m the oldest, but Chris is the one who is called Chrístõ after you.”

“You both are my heirs,” The Doctor said. “When the time comes there will be two Patriarchs in our family. I won’t have any division between you two. History and legend on countless worlds has stories of brothers turning on each other. The Bible that so many people on Earth follow begins with a twin killing his brother out of jealousy. That won’t happen here. Not in MY family. Besides, my son is next in line. He comes before you two. So there is plenty of time to work that out.”

“Grandfather….” When he said that everyone else in the room looked at each other uncomfortably. There had been an uneasiness about that one subject since they arrived. It was almost a taboo subject now because of the effect it had on the whole family.

“Grandfather, please don’t let’s do this again,” Susan pleaded. Yesterday had been bad enough. He had talked so angrily about the ‘cover-up’ surrounding her father’s death. She understood the implications, of course. But she could not understand why things that had been said and done five hundred years ago by men who were now dead should be such an issue. And he had been unable to understand WHY she couldn’t understand. He had been disappointed because she didn’t share his conviction that her father might be alive.

The odds just seemed too astronomical. To put so much hope into such a long shot seemed, to her, to be setting himself up for disappointment and grief. But it was clear when they talked that he meant to search the very limits of the universe to find his son. And she despaired of what such a fruitless quest might do to him.

She would be the first to admit that her grandfather was reckless and impulsive, and he lived too much for the thrill of the chase. But she had never before considered whether he was SANE.

The Doctor looked at her pleadingly. He didn’t want a row either. He had not even thought about it when he showed the boys his son’s symbol on the sword. He had actually begun to think of him as being alive somewhere. It was natural to mention him. And it hurt that everyone just shut him down when he did so.

“Susan, don’t… don’t dismiss the idea so easily. My son... your own father… he is… He IS alive.”

“He can’t be,” she said. “I know what you told me. The inquest, rips in the time continuum. Yes, I can see how that could happen. But that man was right. In all likelihood he would have died anyway. There is a lot more space, a lot more planets with unbreathable atmospheres than safe places. It would be too much to hope for.”

“But Julia said he was alive. She wouldn’t lie to me.”

“If it WAS Julia, and not something made to look like her to mess with your mind. Which in my opinion it HAS done.” There was hurt and anger in Susan’s voice as she spoke. “I think you WANT it to be true and you won’t look at it with reason and logic like you would any other time.”

“Yes, I WANT it to be true. Of course I do. Don’t you?”

“I have never thought about it.”

“He’s your father, Susan.”

“YOU are my father,” Susan told him. She came to his side and put her arms around his shoulders. He half-smiled and pulled her down on his knee and hugged her close. She loved the intimacy of that. It reminded her of when she WAS a little girl and she sat with him reading or telling stories. “You ARE my father, in all the ways that matter. I have loved you since I could REMEMBER loving anyone. You took care of me. You are the only father I have ever had.”

“I’m glad you feel that way, Susan,” The Doctor said. “But Christopher is your REAL father. And I want him to know you, and love you as I do.”

“If he WAS alive, he’d be a stranger to me.”

“My son…” he said again. “I must… I have to try. If he is alive, he needs me.”

“IF,” Susan repeated. “It's a bloody BIG if.” She stepped away from him. The intimacy between them had been lost again. She went back to her husband.

“Susan,” David touched her on the arm. “I don’t understand it. I’m running to keep up with what my own sons talk about lately. I certainly don’t understand this Rite of Progression. But I think he has to try. Surely you see that?”

“I see that he’s going to drive himself mad seeking something impossible. He’ll destroy himself with a pointless obsession.”

“Susan…” David began again but she turned to him and snapped angrily.

“I should have known you’d take his side. The Campbell’s are nearly as superior as the Lœngbærrows with their clan history. Sometimes I wish my name WAS Foreman!”

“Susan!” Both men said her name at once, both shocked by her outburst.

“Don’t gang up on me,” she snapped at them both. “I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a problem here. Rose does too.”

Rose looked at her and bit her lip. She DID agree with Susan, but she didn’t want to tell The Doctor that. She had promised to help him in his quest. He would be so devastated to find that she was doubtful, too.

“Mum,” Chris said, going to her and hugging her tightly. “Please don’t row with Granddad. We love you both.”

“Oh, Chris,” Susan sighed. “We neither of us love each other any the less for this. I’m worried about grandfather. I don’t want him to hurt himself.” She looked at him as she said that. He was as angry as she was.

“Don’t patronise me, Susan,” he said. “I’m NOT senile.”

“Then stop acting as if you are. This is madness. Why can’t you just accept that your son is dead. Everyone else has. For centuries. Even YOU accepted it. You did your grieving. Then you got on with your life. WHY bring it all up now?”

“You know why. I told you. We heard them… they said… Rose was with me. She can tell you. Rose…” The Doctor looked around. When had she left the room?

“I think she went out to the garden,” David said.

“You’re hurting HER, too,” Susan told The Doctor. “She doesn’t want to see you tear yourself up over this… this OBSESSION.”

“Rose understands,” The Doctor said. “Which is more than you do, Susan. I can’t believe you’re so against me trying to find the one person we BOTH miss in our lives.”

“How many ways do I have to say it?” Susan asked, exasperated. “I DON’T miss him. I miss YOU. The REAL you, underneath this insanity. I want YOU back.”

“I’m going to find Rose,” he said and stood up and walked out of the room. He heard Susan cry out in frustration behind him.

Rose wasn’t far away. She was sitting underneath the Cúl nut tree on the grass, eating one of the ripened nuts.

“Only good thing that came from your planet,” she said as he stood over her.

“I thought that was me,” he replied.

“I’m not so sure about that just at the moment.”

He knelt beside her and reached to hug her, but she pulled away. That in itself cut him deep. When had she ever refused his affection? Usually she craved it.

“I’ve upset Susan. I know that. And I’ll try to make amends to her. But… why is it bothering you?”

“You really don’t know?”

“I really don’t. I thought you were on my side. I thought you understood.”

“I am, and I do. If it really is about ‘sides’. I don’t think it is. Susan still loves you, no matter how stroppy you are with her. And it's more than you deserve. I DO believe you, and I PROMISED to help you. But there’s something else… something I only realised today.”

“What?” he asked.

“Ever since the Rite of Progression, you’ve talked over and over again about your son, about him not being dead, about finding him. Because Julia – if it was her – told you it was possible.”

“We’re going to have this conversation again? I’ve been through it already in there.”

“No, we’re having a variation on the theme,” she snapped at him. “I said I would support you. And I don’t mean to go back on that. But…”

“Where does ‘but’ come into this? Why does everyone I care about want to tear me apart? I thought you at least….”

“If you calmed down for five minutes – if you stopped being so bloody selfish, you would realise that we all care about you. Even Ten…”

“Even HE opposed me.”

“No, he didn’t. He told me to look after you. And not let this drive a wedge between us. But it has. He saw it coming. Because he KNOWS what you are like.”

“What am I like?” he asked bitterly.

“Like a dog with a bone,” she said with a hollow laugh. “Apparently you’ve ALWAYS been like that. Even your enemies know it.”

“Don’t quote those #@£$%& at me,” he snapped.

“‘Don’t let him drive himself mad trying to do the impossible.’ There’s a quote for you. From YOURSELF. And he was right. Look at you. You ARE going mad. You’re losing all sense of proportion. You’re forgetting what matters. You’re forgetting everything and everyone except this obsession. And….” She choked back a sob as she turned to the matter that was really gnawing at her. “And you’re cutting me out of your life altogether.”

“What do you mean?” he asked. “Rose… I never… you…”

“If by some amazing miracle he IS alive, then everything falls back into place. You have your son, Susan has the father she never knew. And I guess she can GET to know him easily enough. The twins have a grandfather. Though THEY never missed him either as long as they had YOU.” She paused and looked at him. “You don’t need me then. You don’t need the dream I thought we shared. You don’t need ME to give you an heir.”

“I never expected you to,” he said. “I was never…. I wanted…. I want… I want children with you to fulfil OUR destiny together. Christopher is my first born, alive or dead. Through Susan and her children my line is assured. It's not about that.”

“It feels as if it is. I feel as if I’m out of the loop. I feel as if…as if you don’t need me.”

“That’s not true. I’ve never needed anyone more.”

“Except Julia. That’s always the unspoken add-on to anything you say. You always mentally compare me to her.”

“I do not,” he said. Though it was not entirely true. He did, sometimes, compare them. He knew he shouldn’t. It was not fair to Rose, it was not fair to the memory of Julia. But sometimes he couldn’t help it.

“I love YOU,” he told her.

“Are you sure?”

“How can you even be asking me that? Rose… this is… This is me and you. We’ve been the one certain thing in the universe since… since almost the day we met. Even that bloody Dalek knew it. You waited all that time while I went through the Rite of Progression. Your love, your faith in me never wavered. And now... now you’re questioning if I love you.”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I am.”

“Then….” He stood up and looked at her with a cold, hard glint in his eyes. And when he spoke his voice was icy. “Then maybe we should think again about our relationship. Maybe you should give me my wife’s ring back.”

Rose looked at him. That last sentence especially was so cruel she would not have believed it of him. My Wife’s Ring. It was as if Julia WAS still his wife and she was just his fresh young mistress, the piece on the side.

“You can have it.” She stood up, pulling the ring from her finger and thrusting it into his hand. “It's just a ring. A token. Have it. Your reminder of your precious Julia. But it doesn’t mean we’re not engaged. YOU wrote the contract. The unbreakable contract. I may not have studied Gallifreyan law for fifty years but I read the contract. YOU can’t break our engagement. You gave me a get out clause in case I got tired of waiting for you. But YOU can’t break with me. And as far as I’m concerned we’re STILL an item. I have NOT stopped loving you.” She brushed past him. He stood there, still, under the tree. He was still standing there, the ring clutched in his hand, when she went into the house.

“Rose?” Susan looked at her as she walked into the drawing room. She looked as if she was walking in a trance. The whole family seemed stunned by the way everything had changed in a few minutes of angry words. The children sat in a row on the sofa looking dumbstruck, Sukie between the two boys, all three of them watching the adults and wondering when the atmosphere in the house might get back to normal again.

It didn’t. It got worse.

Rose and Susan both screamed as they heard the unmistakeable sound of the TARDIS dematerialising. They ran to the carport but by the time they got there it was empty.

“He’s gone!” Rose whispered, feeling as if her world had just caved in.

“He can’t,” Susan said. “He can’t just…. He can’t leave you here.”

But it seemed as if he had. They walked slowly back into the house. David reached out to hold Susan, and he grasped Rose’s hand, too, and tried to comfort her. He tried to tell them both that The Doctor was just in a huff, just sulking. When he came to his senses he would be back.

Rose wasn’t so sure. She looked at her hand. She had worn the ring long enough for it to leave a mark on her finger where it had been. She couldn’t believe he had done that. She couldn’t believe he was REALLY gone. But he was.

Then the boys and Sukie all started to cry inconsolably. And at the same moment Rose’s mobile rang. She looked at it. The call was from the TARDIS.


“There is one way I can break the contract. Goodbye, Rose.”

The call ended and when she tried ringback the number was blocked. He had cut her off.

“He said….” Chris gulped. “He said we were his heirs. And not to forget it.”

“His heirs!” Susan laughed bitterly. “Anyone would think we still lived on Gallifrey and owned miles of land and houses and a mountain and gold mines….. What is his inheritance apart from a sword and a whole heap of grief?”

“He’s never coming back,” Rose said. “I can never get home.”

“You… you can stay with us,” Susan said at once. “That’s not a problem. The children love you as much as they love….him.” She cried. They all cried. Except for David who tried to hold his family together and not blame The Doctor for the grief he had caused them all. There was an irony. Nine out of ten rows between himself and Susan in recent years had been her defending The Doctor against HIS accusations about the disruption he brought to their lives. But this time it was Susan cursing the day he came back to her.

And Rose? What could he do for her? Could The Doctor REALLY have abandoned her here? Was he REALLY that thoughtless? He clung to the hope that this WAS just a big snit and when he was over it he would come back, apologising to them all, hugging Susan and the kids, taking Rose somewhere romantic to make up for whatever was said between the two of them.

After three or four days, though, even David was not so sure. They had made Rose as comfortable as they could in their guest bedroom. She stayed in there most of the time. Susan brought her food. Sometimes she ate it. There was an eerie silence about the house. The children hardly talked. All three held conversations in their heads. Susan could feel the resonances of their telepathy. But they didn’t say anything to their parents. David had a feeling that they blamed the adults for the upset. And they were right, of course. Everyone had let their feelings get on top of each other.


The doorbell rang insistently and at the same time somebody hammered at the door. David reached it first.

“David…” A woman in a military style uniform nearly fell in through the door as he opened it. After a moment he placed her as Hellina Arturo. One of The Doctor’s friends. They had met once at The Doctor’s Christmas party.

“Where’s Rose?” she asked desperately. “Please tell me she’s here. If she isn’t… then I don’t know what…”

“She’s here,” David said. “But… what… Oh, my God… what’s happened? What has HE done now?”

“Rose….” Hellina yelled, not hearing his questions. She ran through the house calling her.

“Hellina… what are you…” Rose came down the stairs, puzzled. Hellina was the last person she expected to see. “What are you doing here?”

“What are YOU doing here?” she returned. “When HE is dying.”

“What?” Rose’s pale face drained further.

“You have to come, Rose. You are the only chance we have to help him.”

“I….” Rose stared at Hellina and didn’t know what to say.

“Jack’s with him. He sent me to find you. He would have come, but he said he daren’t leave his side. But Jack isn’t the one he needs. You are.”

“But…” Rose looked at Susan and the children who stood by the drawing room door clinging to each other as they took in this latest development.

“Go,” she said. There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. “Even if… if you only get the chance to say goodbye… You have to go. You have to be there.” Susan reached and hugged her once. “Tell him from me, I love him, no matter what.”

“I will,” Rose told her. “I promise.” She turned and walked to the door. Hellina took her arm and guided her to the bottom of the garden where a cloaked shuttlecraft was waiting. She helped her into the passenger seat and fastened the safety belt. She felt like she was sleepwalking.

“Where are we going?” she asked as the craft took off vertically and then accelerated into the air. “Where is he?”

“The Scorpius, in orbit. We found the TARDIS dead in space, no power, no nothing, just an automatic emergency signal. And he was… We found him inside.” Hellina was a cool-headed woman. She had seen it all and stayed calm. But what she saw when Jack used a key he had not used in years to open the TARDIS doors had horrified her. “Rose… HE TRIED TO KILL HIMSELF.”

“Oh no!” Her heart had been racing with anxiety, but now it felt like lead. She drew breath sharply and tried to will her heart and lungs to keep working. “I did that to him?”

“I don’t know,” Hellina said. “What did you do to him? What happened exactly? The last time I saw you two he was about as happy as I’ve ever seen him.”

Rose told Hellina what had happened.

“Oh, Rose!” she groaned. “I don’t know about this thing with his son. For the record, I agree with you and Susan. It sounds kind of nutty. But I think you probably should let him try. As for whether he loves you. He’s a Time Lord. They don’t have any emotional halfways. When it comes to love they’re either totally frigid or head over heels. And HE is head over heels in love with you.”

Rose tried to reply but the words would not come to her. She turned and looked out of the window, holding back her tears. They were in space. She might have wondered, if she was not so deathly worried, why this craft was not playing havoc with Earth’s early warning systems. Not to mention, as Hellina banked it around, the Scorpius, the huge mothership of the 22nd Space Corps.

She said nothing as Hellina flew into the shuttle bay and parked the craft. They both jumped out quickly and ran through long corridors and up a turbo lift to the medical centre. She felt as if she was racing against time.

“This will be a bit of a shock,” Hellina said to Rose as they headed for a door with ‘private’ and ‘silence’ flashing alternately on a screen above it. Rose steeled herself to expect just about anything.

And what she had imagined was nothing to what she saw.

It WAS The Doctor. The undamaged part of his face was just about recognisable. He was lying on the bed, naked, because it was impossible to put any kind of clothing on a body as badly damaged as he was. His left side – from head to foot - was covered in a kind of plastic material through which Rose saw first degree burns that were only very slowly mending. Even the unburnt part of his body was covered in bruises and his arms and legs looked as if they had been broken in more than one place. He had tubes attached to his nose and mouth and drips in his arm as well as sensors monitoring both of his hearts. Only those monitors indicated that he WAS alive.

Jack was sitting on a chair by his side, holding his hand. The thing that scared Rose more than anything was that Jack was crying. He seemed unaware of either of them as he reached and touched the undamaged side of The Doctor’s face, stroking his cheek tenderly, trying not to look at the horrible burns that destroyed the other half. Trying not to look at a blind looking eye that stared out of a socket that had no eyelid left to close over it. As she watched, she saw him bend over and actually kiss him on the side of his mouth and whisper something to him that was meant only for him.

“Jack’s been like that since we found him,” Hellina sighed. “Totally cut up about him. I never saw him cry before.”

“Me neither,” Rose said. She’d seen The Doctor cry. But Jack – it was unthinkable.

“I never knew….” Hellina went on. “I thought they were just friends. I never knew The Doctor meant THAT much to him.”

“Neither did I,” Rose knew they never HAD been lovers. Despite a lot of shameless flirting between them, The Doctor had always been HER man. And Jack understood that. HE was perfectly happy with Hellina. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have hidden feelings for The Doctor.

Only right now they weren’t hidden.

“Why isn’t his regenerative process working?” Rose asked as she stared at The Doctor’s injuries. She wasn’t sure how long he had been like that, but she knew he shouldn’t be. If his injuries were too much for him to mend as she had seen him do often, then at least he ought to be going into a full body regeneration. The thing she dreaded most. But at least he would be alive.

“It IS,” Hellina said. “If you’d seen him when we found him… He was… I thought he WAS dead. Jack insisted he was alive. Wouldn’t give up on him. His body is trying to mend. It's slowly doing it. But he’s resisting, fighting it somehow. As if he doesn’t want to mend.”

“He wants to die?” Rose couldn’t move. She wanted to go to his side, but somehow she couldn’t. She felt numb and immobile.

“Go to him, Rose. You are the one he needs.”

She went to Jack’s side but she still felt too frozen to do anything but stare at the wrecked body of the man she loved. “What did that to him?”

Jack looked up with relief when he saw Rose. He put out one hand to her. She squeezed it gratefully as she repeated her question.

“As far as we know,” Jack told her, still tenderly stroking and touching The Doctor’s face. “He opened the TARDIS doors in space, then tried to drive it into a black hole. I looked at the TARDIS databanks. Its flight path is insane. He must have tried several times before the TARDIS fought back. It seemed to have ricocheted away, closed its own doors and then headed back towards Earth. He was in stasis when we found him. I think the TARDIS actually did it to keep him alive. Hell of a ship, that. It cares as much about him as we do. But like us it couldn’t do more than stop him from dying. It can’t make him live. Can’t make him WANT to live.”

“The black hole… where was it?” Rose looked at Jack. Something passed between them that was almost telepathic.

“You guessed it. Right where his home used to be. He was trying to follow his people into oblivion.”

“‘You are my only reason not to step out there and join my ancestors!’” He had said that only a few days ago, Rose remembered.

Then they had argued so bitterly and he no longer had even THAT reason.

She stepped closer to the bed. “He’s not in stasis now?”

“No,” Hellina said from the door. “As far as our medical people can tell he’s in a kind of self-induced coma. We can’t bring him out of it. We figured the only person who could was you.”

“I tried,” Jack said. “But I’m not the one he loves. I’m not the one he wants.”

“Oh!” Rose finally found it in her to touch him. She reached out to take his hand in hers. His arm raised limply but he was holding something tightly in his fist.

“He won’t open that hand,” Jack said standing up and going to his own girlfriend’s side. Hellina put her arm around his waist protectively. “We tried.”

Rose stroked the back of his hand gently. At first there was no reaction. But then, she thought she felt just a tiny change. His hand felt a little warmer, and when she tried it slowly opened. What she found made her cry fresh tears. It was the ring. She heard Jack swear quietly behind her.

“He held it all this time.” Rose took it and slipped it back onto her finger. She kissed HIS fingers one by one. “I love you, you crazy alien. You must have known that. If I didn’t love you to the end of the universe I wouldn’t have been so mad at you. Why didn’t you just sulk for a bit while everyone calmed down? Why did you have to do something so crazy?” She held his hand tightly. She clutched his arm to her chest, pressing his hand against her heart. “Feel me, next to you. My heart beats for you, my love, My Doctor. You can’t die. You promised me we would be together forever. You promised we would be married. And that’s what I want more than anything in the universe. Doctor… Please come back to me from wherever you’ve put yourself.”

The Doctor wasn’t exactly sure WHERE he had put himself. He knew he wasn’t dead, and he mentally kicked himself for messing even THAT up. If he was dead, there ought to have been more peace. He could still feel all of the pain, the physical pain of the terrible injuries he had inflicted on himself in the attempt to end his life, AND the mental anguish that had made him want to do it. He wanted to be rid of the pain, rid of himself. He wanted oblivion.

This was as near to oblivion as he ever thought oblivion was. There was nothing. He didn’t actually seem to HAVE a body, even though he WAS feeling the pain of physical injuries to it. He seemed to be nothing but a disembodied mass of pain receptors and tortured thoughts, floating, if that was the right word, in darkness. He couldn’t see or hear or smell or taste anything. All he could do was feel.

That wasn’t fair. The FEELINGS were what he wanted to escape from.

“How many times have I told you about that foolish complaint?” In what passed for his mind he heard his father’s voice. “Life is NOT fair.”

“You’re telling me that? I’ve had enough of it.”

“No.” His father’s voice had a hardness to it. A hardness he used on him as a child when he did the wrong thing. His father had never laid a hand upon him in punishment for childish wrong-doings. That voice had been enough to freeze his hearts and make him repent his actions – or seeing as he WAS a child – to repent being caught and vow to be more careful the next time.

“No,” he said again. “My son, I always stood by you, I defended you when they called you a criminal. I was forced to disinherit you. That hurt me so much, I can’t begin to tell you. But I never turned away from you in my hearts. I never stopped calling you MY son. I never felt you had disappointed me. But if you do this…. Suicide! I thought the good name of our House mattered to you. Would you taint it with such ignominy? You of all of us?”

“I don’t care. I just want to die. I am dying. I know I am. Not as quickly as I intended. Not as painlessly as I would have chosen. But I’m dying. And I’m glad.”

“You DO care,” his father insisted. “If not for yourself, for them. If you kill yourself the House of Lœngbærrow dies with you. Your son, Susan, your great grandchildren, NONE of them can inherit the title from you. There will BE no more Lords of Gallifrey. You will disinherit them. You will destroy their destiny.”

“Father…. Do you believe my son is alive still? How can it be? I’ve thought about it, and all I can think is that they are right. Susan and Rose. I am going mad. I am tilting at windmills, hoping against hope.”

“He’s not dead. He is a lost soul.”

“Julia said that, too. But I don’t understand.”

“You will. If you go back and try to work it out. But if you die, more than your own soul will be destroyed. Their future, our past, will be undone by the one selfish act of your life.”

“How do I go back?” he asked. I don’t think I can. It’s too late.”

“Follow your hearts, my son.” His father’s voice seemed distant now. And as it faded he knew he was alone again. But it was different now. For one impossible second, he thought he felt a kiss on his mouth, even though he was outside of his body.

There was something else there now. Something that called to him. It was there on the edge of his hearing. The sound of a heartbeat. A single heartbeat, but one that seemed in tune with his own double beat.

He reached towards it.

“Oh my…” Hellina whispered as she stood with Jack and watched and hoped. He saw it too. Beneath the protective shield The Doctor’s burns were starting to heal at the accelerated rate they KNEW he ought to heal, with his Time Lord DNA capable of mending such wounds. Rose saw it too and reached to take the plastic shield from his face. She touched his restored features tenderly.

He was in there somewhere. Something HAD come back from the oblivion he had sought. His body DID seem to have a soul within it. But he was still a long way from her.

“Take these things off of him,” Rose demanded, indicating the tubes that were breathing for him. Hellina came forward and removed them from his nose and mouth. Rose gave a relieved sob as she saw his chest expand and contract as he took an unaided breath. “You’re in there,” she said. “I know you are. Come back to me, please. I love you.” She clung to his hand and stroked his face gently. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t mean to say those things to you. And I know you didn’t mean the hard things you said to me. And I forgive you. Please… please forgive me. Please come back to me. It can’t be too late.”

She almost screamed when he squeezed her hand. It was the first voluntary movement he had made. He changed his hold and seemed to be feeling for something. His fingers sought out the ring she had put onto her finger. When he found it he put her hand to his lips and kissed it. He opened his eyes and looked up at her and tried to speak but his throat was so dry from having the breathing tube in it for so long. Instead he put his hand out and touched her forehead and she felt him inside her head.

“I shouldn’t have said those things. I love you, my Rose.”

“I shouldn’t have said what I said, either,” Rose said out loud as she poured a glass of water and held it to his dry lips. “And I know you love me. But did you have to hurt yourself so much to prove it? I never, never imagined you would try to kill yourself.”

“I’m a stupid git,” he told her.

“Yes, you are. But I love you, anyway.”

“I messed myself up a lot this time. Who found me?”


“Jack?” He struggled to sit up partly and saw Jack Harkness hovering by the door, relief evident in his face. “Jack, did you kiss me?” His voice was cracked and hoarse and it was an effort, but he was able to speak at last.

“Are you well enough to beat me up if I say yes?” he asked.

“I thought it was my father. He talked me back from the edge. Told me to stop being a selfish git – though not quite in those words. Then somebody kissed me. Not you, Rose. I felt your kisses later.”

“It WAS Jack,” Rose told him. “He cares a lot for you. And he’s not the only one.”

“I’m still a one-woman-man,” he told Jack.

“So am I,” Jack replied. “But only because you wouldn’t have me. You can’t stop me loving you.”

“Not even if I beat you up?”

“You’re not beating anyone up,” Rose insisted. “Lie down. You need rest still. Time Lord or not, you put yourself through hell. You’re going to stay quiet for a while and I’m going to be right here to make sure you do.”

“Did I destroy the TARDIS?” he asked as he lay down again. “It felt as if I had.”

“I don’t know.” She looked around at Jack and Hellina. “Did he?”

“It’s got some blown fuses, I think,” Jack said. “But it's intact. When you’re ready we’re gonna give you a lift home to London, TARDIS and all. You can fix it there.”

“I’ve still got to face Susan,” he said. “Oh $*$%£.”

“Go to sleep,” Rose insisted. “Rest a while. When you wake, I’ll take you home. This nightmare is over.” She bent and kissed his lips. They felt dry and strange but he responded to her kiss as he slipped into ordinary, peaceful sleep.

“He’s ok,” Rose said when she knew he WAS asleep. She stood up and went to Jack and hugged him. “You saved his life. Thank you.”

“I think you did that,” Jack replied. “It was a near thing though. Do us all a favour in future. Don’t stop loving him. The universe can’t take the hammering it gets when his hearts are broken.”

“I’ve never stopped loving him. I just didn’t quite understand him.”


He slept for several hours. When he woke, he was anxious to go home. Jack was happy to take him in his shuttlecraft. He didn’t bring up his intimate moment with The Doctor again. Neither did The Doctor, though there was a look in his eye that told of an understanding between them. That was good enough for Jack. Besides, he had Hellina, and had no regrets about that, and The Doctor and Rose were already making up for whatever had gone so seismically wrong between them. He grinned as he saw them in the passenger seat of the shuttle, arms wrapped about each other, and The Doctor clearly proving how useful a respiratory bypass system was for really long, lingering kisses. By the time they touched down back in Susan’s garden again all was forgiven.

"Hey, you two lovebirds, we're home," Jack called to them. As they stepped out of the shuttle they saw the TARDIS transmatted to the carport. "I have to get back," he said to them. "But… look... I just want to say… I'm glad this came out ok. It was looking bad for a while. And I love you both. I owe you my life several times over and you're the best friends I have. And I hope this is the last time you fall out over anything." And he hugged both of them and got back into his shuttle. They didn't see him go because at that point they were both overwhelmed by three children who were so delighted to see them it felt like more than three for a while. Susan reached them a moment later. The Doctor gently moved all the children from him and faced her. The expression on her face was impossible to gauge.

"Susan…" he began. "I…"

She slapped him, hard. He reeled back dizzily.

"That's for what you put all of us through," she said. "For the children, for me, David, Rose… for all we've been through…."

"Susan…" he said again. "I'm sorry."

"Do you know how scared I was? You daft, crazy idiot." But that seemed to exhaust her anger. She reached out and hugged and kissed him instead. "Grandfather, you scared us all. We thought you…"

"I AM an idiot," he admitted. "Your grandfather is an idiot. It's a wonder you're such a terrific woman with my genes messing you up."

"I don't care that you're an idiot," she said. "As long as you're a live idiot. Don't you ever do that again."

"I won't. But… Rose, Susan, you both have to understand that I'm still going to try to find my son. I understand what she said now. I think I know how it is possible."

"What who said?" Rose asked. She and Susan exchanged looks.

"Julia," he said as they reached the carport. He touched the door of his TARDIS. "She wouldn't let me die. Rose, you and Jack pulled me out of the blackness. The medical team on the Scorpius fixed me up. But it was the TARDIS who really saved me, you know."

"I can believe that. But… what about Julia?"

"She said that our son was a lost soul."

“And?” Susan looked at him and for a moment wondered if he really WAS all right. When she replayed the last few things he had said, his distraction from one thing to the other and back again, she was reminded of when she was travelling with him as a teenager. Quite often she had wondered as he became older and frailer in body and mind if he was becoming senile. Regeneration seemed to have solved that problem but now she was wondering again. He looked like a young man. But he wasn’t. He was 1,000 years old and he had been through experiences that would break lesser men. And she wasn’t at all sure.

“A lost soul.” Rose’s eyes widened as the words fell into place. “Oh! Ohhh!”

“Can’t do anything about it until I fix the TARDIS,” he said. “You’ll have to put up with looking after your senile old grandfather for a week or two.” He paused and smiled at her perplexed expression. “It’ll give me time to train you in how to keep your private thoughts from being so easily read.”