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

Jackie came into the console room with a tray of coffee. She looked at Rose and The Doctor at the controls of the TARDIS and smiled. Even a Slitheen could look at the two of them and know they were a couple who had just announced their wedding date. They GLOWED. Of course, people DID glow green when they stood near the console. But this was a different sort of glow. An inner glow.

“Shut up, Jackie,” she told herself. “You’re thinking nonsense.”

“It was very interesting nonsense,” The Doctor told her with a grin.

“Oh, I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she protested, but she grinned too. It was her own fault for not remembering that he could read her mind.

Rose looked at them both.

“I hope that was PG rated nonsense, mum. He’s MINE.

Jackie tried to look cross at her then laughed again. She settled the discussion by giving out the coffee to her daughter and soon to be son-in-law. She turned and looked at the fourth member of the TARDIS crew this trip. He was sitting on the White House sofa staring at one of the coral shaped pillars with a sad expression on his face.

“Christopher…” Jackie held out the coffee cup to him. She had to repeat his name before he looked up and took the cup from her.

“Thank you,” he said and took a sip. Jackie looked around and saw what he had been looking at. There was a picture of the twins taped to the pillar. The console room had a lot of pictures around it. Over the years Rose and The Doctor had put those little domestic touches around. There were pictures of Susan and David and the children that The Doctor had put up, pictures of her that Rose had put up. And even that picture of the alternative universe wedding with herself and Pete, Rose and The Doctor all together.

“They’re terrific kids,” Jackie said.

“I haven’t really got to know them properly,” Christopher said. “They don’t seem to know what to make of me. I’m a stranger out of nowhere telling them I’m their grandfather. The little girl, Sukie… she is sweetness personified. But she doesn’t really know who I am. And the boys… they’re just POLITE.”

“They just need time. It is rather a big thing for them.” She looked around at The Doctor. “HE is thrilled to have you back.”

“Yes,” Christopher managed a smile. “But I hardly know him any more, either. He’s changed so much. I don’t just mean his face. We… we’re used to that where we come from. But he has changed… in ways I couldn’t explain to you because you only know him as he is now. You didn’t know him when he was my father…”

“He’s still your dad, and he loves you. He told me all about you last night. He talked more about you than he did about the wedding. You just need time.”

“Time!” he smiled wryly. “I’m a Time Lord. I’ve got plenty of that.”

“There you go then,” she said. “You’ll be all right.” She looked around and called to The Doctor.

“So when are we going to get to Susan’s? It doesn’t take this long usually.” She looked at Christopher again. “Listen to me. Talking about what’s ‘usually’ and I’m travelling in a wooden box through time and space. Your dad isn’t the only one who’s changed. Look at what he’s done to me.”

Christopher smiled again but he too looked at The Doctor. He wasn’t smiling now.

“It SHOULDN’T take this long,” he said. He gave the cup back to Jackie and thanked her for the coffee then begged her pardon before he stood up and went to the console.

Jackie sighed as she watched him. The last time any man was that polite to her, she thought, it was the driver of the car going to Pete’s funeral. It was his job to be polite and open the car door for her.

The Doctor’s son was a new and startling concept. But one she rather liked.

“What’s wrong?” Christopher asked. “We SHOULD have arrived by now.”

“We’re off course,” Rose said. “He doesn’t know why.”

“I DO know why,” The Doctor answered. “There’s some kind of energy signal interfering with the vortex. I just don’t know HOW or where it’s coming from.”

“See, doesn’t know why.”

“Well, can’t you correct the course and just get us home?” Christopher asked.

“Home?” The Doctor smiled at him warmly. “It’s nice that you call Susan’s place home.”

“She’s my daughter. She’s all I have… and where she is…”

“They have a saying on Earth… Home is where the heart is,” The Doctor said with a smile at Rose. “Even more true for those of us with two hearts.”

“I think one of my hearts still misses our real home though,” Christopher added. “Gallifrey…”

“Every day,” The Doctor agreed. “But we still have Earth. It’s in our blood, both of us. Your mother was an Earth child. And your grandmother. It may not be in your DNA, but it’s in your soul.” The Doctor reached and touched his son’s shoulder gently and then turned back to the console. He adjusted something on the drive console and then suddenly swore very loudly in both Low Gallifreyan and English.

“It’s bad?” Rose asked.

“It’s very bad. Something just passed us in the vortex. Something that had no business using the vortex. It's using our technology… but it's not Time Lord.”

“You’ve got copyright thieves then?”

“Worse than that.” Rose looked at his face. She knew by now when he was really worried. She saw the vein in his neck throb and his eyes turn steely grey, the pupil no more than a pin prick. And she knew if she touched him now he would be vibrating faintly just like the TARDIS itself. Adrenaline was coursing through him like petrol going into a racing car before the flag went up. He was ready for a fight with something.

She knew the signs and she knew there was no point in asking him not to dive into whatever was happening. She knew he would never let something like this go. He would NEVER do as Christopher suggested and simply make a course adjustment and get them home. It would be going against his very soul. And she knew him better than that.

The TARDIS came smoothly out of the vortex into orbit above Earth. But The Doctor was right. They were not alone.

“If I had a thermic torpedo right now…” he whispered to himself, not to anyone else. Rose was very surprised by that comment. Christopher was, too.

“Thermic torpedo?” he queried. “You mean if the TARDIS was armed you would blow that ship up, right now. Just like that?”

“In a heartsbeat,” he replied. “That ship… is death to every living thing it comes into contact with.”

“What is it?” Jackie was noted for being a little slow on the uptake. The Doctor often teased her gently about it. But even she had realised something was wrong. She came to the console and looked at the image on the viewscreen that had disturbed The Doctor. “Ugly looking thing. But what is it?”

“Cybership,” The Doctor whispered hoarsely. “Cybermen…”

“What?” Jackie looked at him. She thought about the unfamiliar word. “Cyber… men… Like… robots…”

“Yes,” Rose said. “I saw one once… head of one anyway. Doctor… you remember… in Van Staten’s bunker…”

“Remember what I said about it,” The Doctor said to her.

“Stuff of nightmares…” She did remember. She remembered everything he said. “But it was just a robot head. It looked kind of silly. Those handles for ears and the eyes and mouth just cut out from the metal.”

“They’re not robots,” The Doctor explained. “Cybermen…. They’re like Daleks. The skin is metal. But inside… they’ve got what used to be Human. They still have a Human brain in there, and flesh of a kind… They used to be Human once. But they replaced so much of their bodies with prosthetics that they were more metal than flesh, and they lost their souls. They lost what it is to be Human, to feel, to be individual, to love…”

“Oh my!” Even Jackie realised the horror of what he was saying.

“So what are they doing here? Why are they interested in Earth?” Christopher asked.

“Silly question that,” Rose said with a hollow laugh. “Every species in the universe makes a bee line for Earth when they want to cause trouble.”

“Because to continue their species, to make NEW Cybermen, they need Humans to turn into what they are,” The Doctor said. He turned and checked the data on the navigation console. “We were dragged out of the vortex in 2040,” he added. “The Human race is huge. Every continent is teeming with life. But you still have almost no contact with extra-terrestrials. And you have no defences against this.”

“So they’re going to kidnap Humans to make into….” Jackie was appalled. But The Doctor wasn’t finished yet.

“No,” he said. “We’re not talking about a few alien abductions on quiet roads in the middle of nowhere. They will be looking to make Earth their base, their homeworld and every Human being on it will either be killed or turned into a cyberman.”

“How can they do this anyway?” Rose asked. “Rassilon’s Envelope is supposed to stop aliens being able to invade Earth.”

“If they assimilated a Human colony where the people had the genetic marker,” The Doctor said slowly. “Their brains are Human… they would be able to find Earth. ANOTHER thing Rassilon forgot when he had that bright idea.”

Christopher looked on the point of taking his father to task for criticising the nearest thing Time Lords have to a god. But he could see this wasn’t the time or the place.

The Doctor turned back to the console and pressed some more switches. The picture on the viewscreen dissolved and resolved itself again. The planet they were looking at was Earth. They could just about tell it was by the shape of what used to be continents. But it was changed completely. There were no oceans any more. There were just dry deserts where they once were. And the land masses had been covered in metal domes. A huge one covered what used to be Europe, from Scandinavia to the Iberian Peninsula, engulfing the British Isles completely.

“Where did that much metal come from?” Christopher asked.

“Earth has enormous mineral resources,” The Doctor said. “More than Humans actually realise. And if they did, it would do them no good. It would kill the planet getting it out. Humans care enough about their planet not to try. But Cybermen don’t.”

“And there are no Humans living there?”


“This isn’t real,” Jackie said. “It can’t be. I’ve been to the future with you. Earth is ok. It looks better then than it does in my time. There’s less pollution and no poverty and…”

“That’s a projection of Earth in 2211 if the Cybermen get their way,” The Doctor said very calmly and quietly and without emotion. Around him, though, there was shock as the implication of what he said hit them all.

“Susan….” Christopher murmured and all he had said before about home being with what remained of his family cruelly mocked him.

“The children…” Jackie added.

“No!” Rose protested. “No, it can’t be. No. They’re all alive and well. We only left them two days ago to come and get my mum so that we can all plan the wedding together… No. That’s NOT Earth. You’re mistaken.”

“I’m not,” he said, and now even his reserve was cracking. Rose put her hand over his and it was trembling. He turned to her and his eyes looked HAUNTED. “Daleks destroyed my homeworld… now Cybermen have come to take the rest. If history stands like this… if nothing is done to stop them… this is the future… Susan, David… the children… David would never have been born. His grandparents – great-grandparents – they would have been made into cybermen. There would have been nothing here for the Daleks to invade…. We would never have come here. Susan would never have married… she’d probably have gone back to Gallifrey when they lifted the banishment and died there instead…”

Rose pulled out her mobile phone and dialled Susan’s number. It gave back an ominous “number not recognised” message.

“I can’t even feel the children in my head,” The Doctor added in a dull, frozen voice. “It's as if they don’t exist any more.”

“But you said IF,” Rose reminded him. “IF history stays this way.”

“It can’t,” Christopher said. “My mother came from 24th century Earth… Humans weren’t wiped out in the 21st century or I wouldn’t exist either.”

“Time is flexible. When we left it was as it should be. But now it's changed. You exist because you’re outside of the timeline here in the TARDIS. But…”

That was the last straw for The Doctor. It was hard enough coping with the fact that his granddaughter and his great-grandchildren had been erased from history. But if this history was allowed to go on, everything he ever treasured in his life was erased, beginning with his wife, the mother of his son.

He hadn’t even started on the implications for the universe if Cybermen became the dominant race instead of Earth-Humans. He was still caught up in what it meant to him personally.

“No,” he said. “No. It won’t happen. Because I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to send them to hell where they belong whether I have a thermic torpedo or not.”

“You…” Rose said, aware of a subtle difference in what he said. “Not us?”

“Me,” he insisted. “I’m going to deal with this. I’m not going to risk any of you being hurt. You’re all I have left if I fail…”

“If you fail… what do WE have left?” Rose asked.

“The fast return switch set to 2011. You’ll have thirty years to convince the authorities on Earth to protect themselves… and if all else fails… you’ll have the TARDIS… You can escape… go… somewhere. SangC’lune or… Adano Ambrado… I was almost king of that place. They’ll give you sanctuary…” He pressed the dematerialisation switch and the TARDIS disappeared from space and a moment later reappeared inside what had to be a section of the cybership.

“Not as close to the engine rooms as I’d like. They have some kind of shielding that the TARDIS bounced off. I’ll have to fight my way there.”

The Doctor turned and disappeared from the console room and came back minutes later with something that shocked Rose to the core.

It was a gun.

It had to be a gun. It was too big and menacing looking to be anything else.

“What the bloody hell is that?” Jackie asked him.

“Anti-steel disintegrating ray,” The Doctor said. “Kills cybermen.”

“And you have that here in the TARDIS?” Rose looked at him as if she had never looked at him before.

“Left over from a previous encounter with them.”

“But you hate guns. You won’t have them on board. You never use guns. I’ve seen you hold a gun maybe four times. And I’ve only seen you fire one ONCE.” She remembered him attacking the Arachnoids. She remembered the look in his eyes that time. A look that even scared Jack, a hardened combatant who was comfortable with, even relished, guns.

Because for a few red-hazed minutes he had seemed to ENJOY the killing.

He had that look now, as if when he got outside those doors he was going to kill mercilessly every cyberman that he saw.

“Yes, I am,” he said. “I am going to blast my way to the central core of this ship and blow it to pieces.”

“You’re going to kill them?” Christopher looked at him in astonishment. He, too, glanced nervously at the weapon in his father’s hands. He, too, shivered when he saw the look in his eyes.

“Cybermen are not life as we recognise it,” he said. “They used to be life. Now they’re just a murderous remnant of life. And killing it… it's an act of mercy for that remnant… like turning off the life support when life has no meaning… and it’s an act of mercy for the universe taking these evil things out of it.” He checked the weapon. It seemed to satisfy him that it would work. Then he turned to Rose. He reached out to her.

She backed away.

“Put that down first, if you want me to hug you,” she said. He looked at her and seemed puzzled by her remark but then he did as she asked. He put down the gun and reached out his arms. She let him hold her tightly. He needed the reassurance of her love, and even though his actions were strange she would not deny it to him. She let him kiss her and then he drew back. He picked up the gun again and he turned and went to the door.

“An hour,” he said, turning to them. “If I’m any longer than that it's probably too late.”

Then he was gone. Rose stood and stared at the door numbly. She glanced at the real time clock on the TARDIS console. It was no more than half an hour since they were on a short and happy trip from 2011 to 2211 with nothing to worry about but how Susan and Jackie were ever going to sew thousands of diamonds into a wedding dress in time for the big day.

And now she was left waiting while The Doctor was out there with a fearsome looking weapon trying to stop a deadly enemy from destroying their future.

“Coffee,” Jackie said brightly. “Or tea… whose for a nice cup of tea?”

Neither Rose nor Christopher answered her. Neither wanted coffee or tea. It was no more than half an hour since she last made them a cup. But neither stopped her going to the kitchen. If that helped her cope right now, they would both willingly drink a gallon of tea.

Rose turned to the environmental console. She typed on its keyboard and brought up the lifesigns monitor. Outside, beyond the TARDIS doors she saw the dark blue blip that was The Doctor moving along a corridor.

“You know how to do that?” Christopher asked in surprise. “The TARDIS lets you?”

“It knows me,” she said. “It knows I am a part of him… I’m not as good as he is with it. I can’t fix things underneath the console when they break down. But I DO know how to pilot it. He showed me. And the TARDIS lets me.”

“He showed me, too,” Christopher remembered. “When I was a boy… I remember… He was so proud when I landed the TARDIS safely. That was our old TARDIS of course. The console was more… scientific looking.”

“This IS your old TARDIS,” Rose told him. “It changed along with him. He said once it matched his mood when he regenerated last. That was right after the Time War. He was kind of messed up in his head.” She noticed that Christopher flinched when she mentioned the Time War. It was all still a shock to him. The Doctor really needed to talk to him about that, she thought.

Then again, he had trouble coming to terms with it, too.

They’d have to work that one out for themselves.

“Those are the cybermen?” Jackie, returning with the tea looked at the screen. They all watched it. They saw The Doctor’s dark blue blip, but also hundreds of very, very pale blue blips. The TARDIS seemed to have trouble recognising the remnant of life The Doctor said was in them. But once it did they saw hundreds of them in compartments all around the ship. Some of them were ahead of The Doctor. When he came near them she saw the pale blue blips wink out.

He was killing them.

Rose sat down on the command chair and watched the screen. It was like watching a pacman game. The Doctor’s dark blue lifesign was eating up the pale blue ones.

He seemed to be winning so far. The pale blue ones were being eaten up rapidly. It was almost hypnotic. It was almost possible to forget that the dark blip represented the man she loved and that he was in mortal danger from the pale blue blips that never seemed to grow significantly less no matter how many he killed. It felt unreal. It felt just like a game until she shook herself mentally and reminded herself of the mortal reality of it.

“It's just so not him, though,” she said after nobody had spoken at all for a long time. “He’s NOT like that. Even if these cybermen are evil and they’re not ‘life’ as such, he doesn’t do this sort of thing. He doesn’t think that way.”

“These cybermen…. He sounded like he came across them before. He knows what they can do.” Christopher watched the blips, too. He had never played Pacman. They didn’t play games like that on Gallifrey. For him there was no illusion that it was a game. For him it was real.

“He called them an old enemy,” Rose said. “But I’ve never seen a live one. Only a dead, lifeless head of one. I never even thought about them. We had so much trouble with Daleks and Slitheen and everything else I didn’t even think about cybermen. I assumed they were in the past.”

“They sound horrible.” Jackie shuddered as she thought of what he had told her. “The people who get made into these monsters… do they know what’s happened to them? Do they feel it?”

“Oh, I hope not,” Rose answered. “That would be terrible. Like a living nightmare.”

“All the people on Earth turned into them…” Jackie was thinking about it. Only thirty years after her own time. Most of the people she knew would be alive still. The children of the estate would be adults by then. Mickey and Linda’s child, the boys The Doctor liked to play football with. Everyone she knew turned into metal monsters.

“He has to do it. He has to. It can’t be like this.”

“I’m sure he WILL,” Rose added. “He’s never failed before. Never.”

But she had never taken that for granted. She had a lot of faith in The Doctor. She knew he was clever, resourceful, brave. But she knew he was not superman. For all his abilities he was mortal. He was flesh and blood.

And one day the sheer luck that got him by when cleverness, resourcefulness and courage weren’t enough, would run out.

“Please don’t let it be today,” she whispered. “Not today. Please let it not be today. If I must lose him, let it at least be after we’re married. Not now. Not when we are so close to our dream.”

“He’ll be all right,” Jackie told her, putting her arm around her daughter’s shoulders comfortingly. “He’s The Doctor. He can’t fail.”

“He’s got to the core,” Christopher said. “Look…”

They looked and they could see clearly that he was in the core, the source of the ship’s power. The dark blue blip was stationary now.

But the light blue ones weren’t. They were closing in on the power core.

“Why didn’t he take some kind of communicator?” Jackie asked. “We could warn him.”

“Christopher… can’t you reach him in your mind? Don’t you have telepathic skills like he does?”



“I’m really rusty at it,” he said. “I’ll try…” He put his hands either side of his head and closed his eyes. He was clearly concentrating hard. “The power core is interfering but…” He smiled slightly as he made contact. “Father…” he spoke quietly out loud. It had been a long time since he used his telepathic skills. It was easier to say the words out loud. “Father, watch out. They’re closing in.”

Faintly he heard his father reply. But it was too late. Christopher listened in as he tried to fight. Jackie and Rose watched in horror as dozens of Cybermen poured into the corridor outside the core. He took out a lot of them with his weapon and managed to clear a way through. They saw the dark blue blip moving rapidly as if he was running. But he was running into a trap. Christopher saw it and called out to him telepathically but it was too late. He was overpowered. They could only watch as the dark blue blip was flanked by light blue ones and taken away.

“No!” Rose cried. “No. We have to help him. We have to..”

“There’s nothing we can do,” Christopher said. “Look…”

They looked and saw more cybermen converging on the TARDIS. They looked up at the viewscreen and saw the metal heads with the jug handle ‘ears’ and holes for eyes and mouth. They would almost be funny if they were not so terrifying. If they were not firing energy weapons at the TARDIS.

“We’re trapped,” Rose said.

“They’re going to get in…” Jackie moaned.

“No they won’t. The Doctor says nothing can get into the TARDIS. Massed hordes of Ghengis Khan…”

“NO!” Christopher screamed suddenly. “No! Father…!”

“What’s happening?” Rose screamed back at him. “What’s happening to him?”

“He said… he told me… He said… Oh…. No… no…”

Christopher grasped Rose’s hand. Jackie grasped her other hand. The three of them watched in horror as the dark blue blip that was The Doctor turned slowly into a pale blue one. Christopher groaned out loud as he felt his last fragmented words.

“He said… he loves you… and he’s sorry…” Christopher gasped.

“No!” Rose’s grief overwhelmed everything. Christopher reached to hold her. He hardly knew her. She hardly knew him. But they both loved The Doctor and they both felt sick in their hearts as they pictured only too graphically in their minds what had happened to him.

He was dead.

Worse than dead. He was one of those remnants of life. He had been turned into a Cyberman.

Rose recalled seeing him ‘die’ before. The time in the church when the reapers attacked and he sacrificed himself to save everyone else. She had hurt so much then, believing he was gone forever. But that was before she had come to love him as deeply as she did now. Now the thought of him dead seared her soul and left her broken.

“Rose…” She barely heard her mother’s voice or felt her arms around her. Her mum and The Doctor’s son both held her tightly. Both held in their own feelings as she let out hers. “Rose, sweetheart, I am so sorry. I’m so sorry. For every mean and horrible thing I ever said about him. I wish… Oh!” Jackie dissolved into tears too.

Christopher held his tears in. He had long ago learnt to do that anyway. Tears marked him out as a half-blood and he tried not to show his feelings. But right now he had to be strong for these two women who needed him. For Rose, who his father had loved so much, for her mother, who he hardly knew but who had spoken so kindly and warmly to him and made him feel he wanted to know her better.

He was still holding them both tightly when the TARDIS shook violently. He glanced at the viewscreen and saw the cybership disintegrating around them as an explosion ripped through it. He wedged his body against the console and held onto the women until the shaking stopped and an eerie silence came upon the TARDIS, broken only by Rose and Jackie still sobbing inconsolably.

They looked up at the viewscreen and saw the starfield turning slowly until they could see Earth, bright and beautiful and cyberman free.

“He did it,” Rose whispered hoarsely. “He blew the ship up. He defeated them.”

But at what cost.

Rose turned slowly and looked at the console. She looked at Jackie who seemed unable to speak. She looked at Christopher. He looked as if he would fall down in a minute.

Rose’s mobile rang. She grasped it up and pressed the button to accept the call before she realised who it was from.

“Susan!” She cried. “Oh, my God! Susan…. I….” She gulped in air and tried to steady her voice. “No, he’s not here right now. We… we have a problem here but we’ll… we’ll sort it out. We’ll be home soon. I promise you. Give my love to the kids. Give… give them his love too.”

She ended the call.

“You have to tell her the truth,” Jackie said.

“I’ll tell her,” Christopher said. “I’m… I’m her father. It’s my job.”

“NO!” Rose said determinedly. “No. I won’t let it end like this. I won’t. It can’t.” Tears of grief were still rolling down her face as she began to programme the time circuit feverishly. But the grief was changing into a grim determination not to let things stand as they were. “No. It can’t happen this way. I won’t let it. He looked into my future and he said it would be all right. He said we WOULD be married. He said…”

“Rose…” Christopher told her. “Timelines are unpredictable. Especially when you’ve travelled in the vortex. That future depended on so many other things….”

“It depends on me not taking this lying down, not letting it happen, not accepting it. He saved everyone else. But… now I have to save HIM.”

“Rose,” Jackie said to her gently. “He’s dead. He… he was dead even before the ship exploded. Worse than dead. They made him into one of those….”

“I’m going to get him back,” she said.

“Rose… NO.” Christopher turned to her as he realised what she was doing. “No, you can’t. You can’t do that.”

“Who says I can’t?”

“It’s…. the Laws of Time…. you can’t interfere with causality. You can’t do that.”

“I’m already DOING it,” she answered. “Do you want to STOP me?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t WANT to. But I should… I should stop you.”

“Your father….”

“My father took a risk… he knew…”

“The Laws of Time were written by dead men,” Rose snapped. “I’m going to get The Doctor back. I won’t let him die. You can help me or you can stand there telling me I can’t do it. But I’m doing it. He always said the TARDIS would be mine if anything happened to him. Well… now something HAS happened and it's mine, and I’m deciding what to do.”

“Rose…” Christopher began again.

“No,” Jackie intervened. “If there’s something that can be done… then let’s do it. I don’t care about laws either. But I do care about Rose and about The Doctor. I care about my daughter being happy. I’ve been through twenty years of hell because I couldn’t turn the clock back and have Pete back. If this time we CAN do that, then DO it.”

“It might work,” Christopher conceded. “But we have to be VERY accurate in our timing.” He moved alongside her and took the navigation console as she operated the drive. “Jackie… watch the lifesigns monitor, please.”

“Watch for what?” she asked.

“Just watch it,” he told her. “Tell us what you see.”

“Nothing,” she said. “We’re just in space….” Then she stared at the monitor. They weren’t in space any more. They were back on the cybership. They had moved back in time and they had moved from the airlock where they had originally landed to the corridor that The Doctor had to run down to reach them after he broke free of the cybermen who had surrounded him. Jackie stared in amazement as she saw the scene replayed on the monitor. The Doctor surrounded by cybermen, blasting his way through and then running for his life. She looked up at the viewscreen and saw him careening down the corridor. She saw his surprised expression when he saw the TARDIS in his path. Rose reached for the door mechanism. Christopher put his hand over hers and stayed it until the last moment. The door opened just long enough for The Doctor to dash inside then it closed behind him. They felt the vibration as a blast of cyberfire hit the door, but they couldn’t penetrate the TARDIS.

“Doctor!” Rose ran to him and enveloped him in her arms, kissing him frantically. He responded to her kisses before drawing back and touching her tear streaked face, his finger tracing around her puffed and reddened eyes.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Why are you so upset? It was tricky there for a minute and I would have been a gonner if it wasn’t for you moving the TARDIS into place…” He looked around. He saw Jackie’s face, also tear-streaked and at Christopher. He hadn’t been crying but there was something in his expression that was disturbing.

The disintegration of the cybership around them was a distraction for a while. In the aftermath, though, The Doctor insisted on being told the truth. When he learnt what they had done he was angry at first. Jackie was left out of his tirade, because he knew she couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with it, but Rose and Christopher were both subjected to a rush of words about how dangerous it was to interfere with causality.

“You KNOW what happens,” The Doctor told Rose. “You saw it last time… with your dad… you know what happens when you alter what should have been…”

“But it ISN’T what should have been,” Rose protested. “You read my timeline the other day and said we were going to get married and have loads of kids and live happily till we die of old age. The CYBERMEN came through the vortex and changed reality. Reality was all over the place. We put it BACK right by coming and getting you out of there.”

“We had to do something,” Jackie said. “They didn’t just kill you. They made you into one of them… you couldn’t…. you didn’t want that…”

“Conversion to cyberman…” The Doctor thought about it. On the edge of his memory he almost felt as if he could remember it happening, before they turned time back and changed things. The thought repulsed him. He would rather die fully by the most excruciating way possible than live as a cyberman even for ten seconds.

“It was a stupid thing to do…” he said. “But…” He reached and took Rose’s mobile from her. He pressed the recall button. “Susan, my dear,” he said brightly. “Yes, I know, we had a bit of a crisis. But it’s ok now. Everyone is alive and well and hungry, so I hope you have tea on.”

“I’m glad to be alive,” he said. “And I’m impressed. That was a neat bit of piloting. I taught you both well. And you’re right… this timeline had been disturbed already by the cybermen so coming back for me put it RIGHT again. But next time…” He took a deep breath. “Next time…”

“Father,” Christopher told him. “You said you were retiring. Marry Rose, have babies. Don’t let there BE a next time.”

“I second that,” Jackie said. “This was too scary for me.”

“Me too,” Rose added as she went to the console and programmed their return to Susan’s house before going and wrapping her arms around her man.

“Jackie,” Christopher said very quietly. “I think we could all use that tea now.”