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

 

The TARDIS came to a stop at what they thought were the usual co-ordinates by the back wall of the flats. But even on the viewscreen it didn't look right. The back wall wasn't there, neither were the maisonettes or the shops and dentist and GP surgery and the Citizen's Advice Bureau that made the Powell Estate into an attempt at a community. The high rise blocks stood alone amongst a cityscape of old pre-World-War-One terraced housing and dismal gaps where terraces had been demolished to make way for the new buildings that were yet to be built.

"It's that special variety of sods law again that only applies to the TARDIS when I have my future mother-in-law on board," The Doctor said with a grimace. "Any other time we get around the universe with no trouble at all."

Jackie looked at him and got ready to comment on the 'future mother-in-law' epithet then stopped. After all, it was true enough. One of these days she knew it would happen. She just hadn't made up her mind whether it was her worst nightmare or her dream come true.

No, that was a lie, she told herself. She knew. If The Doctor really did make a decision like that, if he really did ask Rose to marry him, she would be delighted. Rose loved him with an undying passion. And she knew he loved her. For that matter why HADN'T he asked her yet? If she didn't know him better she might have thought he was afraid of the commitment, that he was stringing Rose along and never meant to make good on his promise. But she really didn't believe that.

Not now, anyway.

She had come to know him so well in recent weeks. She knew he had saved her life. She wasn't entirely sure how he had done it and wasn't going to ask, but she had felt herself dying at the hands of that Andrews nutcase, and he had stood between her and oblivion, held onto her, pulled her back to life. There was a trust between them after that which went beyond those teasing words about 'future mother-in-law'.

It was weird though. She would never get over it. At Susan's in the past week, as she got over the shock of being kidnapped from her bed in the middle of the night, she worked it out. When Rose married The Doctor she would become a GREAT-Grandmother. And that made HER a GREAT-GREAT-Grandmother. Neither of them deserved that, she thought. It was impossible in any other family but The Doctor's.

Rose loved the idea implied in his teasing words to her mum. She knew just how much stood in the way of it being more than just talk, but she didn’t doubt him. She knew he wanted her as much as she wanted him and he would find a way.

"I'm sure she loves the thought of having you as a son-in-law just as much, anyway." Rose teased him.

"I'm the perfect son-in-law," he said with one of his most inscrutable grins. "Why should anyone have any complaints?" Then he turned back to examining the readings on his navigation console. "Ah! Now I know what's wrong. There is an error in the temporal input."

"Which means?" Jackie asked.

"He put the wrong date in." Rose laughed. The Doctor laughed too at being caught out trying to fob them off with clever sounding pseudo-science. It was a pretty feeble attempt anyway. He might as well have admitted his mistake in the first place. But there was a principle at stake. He couldn't just admit to being fallible.

"We are where we should be, but 34 years early. It's June, 1974."

"Wow," Jackie said. "I was eight years old. Can we go out and look around. There's loads that changed since then. Whole rows of the old terraced houses knocked down to build the maisonettes and the shops and loads of changes."

"Don't see any reason why not," The Doctor said. "That's what being a time traveller is all about, being able to see things as they used to be or will be. Just try not to get your eight year old self run over by a bus or anything, won't you."

Jackie looked back at him as she stepped out of the door with Rose. She wasn't sure if it was some kind of dark humour or serious advice about what to do in this situation. But then she forgot all about it. The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS behind them and the instant he left its protective field his face paled and he began to shake as if he was suffering some kind of fit. He grasped the door frame dizzily as both women ran to him and pulled him back inside the TARDIS.

They helped him to the sofa and he lay down. Rose sat by him and put her hand on his forehead. He was sweating and feverish. He was trembling still and his eyes seemed strangely out of focus.

"What's happening?" Jackie asked in a panic. "How did he get so ill so fast?"

"It's June 8th," he said.

"1974," Rose added. "Yes, you said. But what does that mean? A DATE can make you ill?"

"This date can," he said weakly. "It was the day I regenerated from my third to fourth body. I was suffering from radiation poisoning. My body was breaking down and I had to…."

"Oh my…." Rose grasped his hand tightly and pressed it to her lips. "No. Oh no. Don't…. You're not going to regenerate now…. here? Oh, no."

"No," he said calmly despite obvious pain that was causing him to wince and tense his muscles every few minutes. "But… My being here…. In London…. My third body is dying at U.N.I.T. HQ on the other side of the Thames. And when I stepped out of the TARDIS, into this time, I not only absorbed some of the poison that is killing me, but also some of the energy that my body needs to complete the regeneration. If I go out there again - at least in the next few hours - I could kill myself retrospectively, by taking so much of it that I can't regenerate. It might already be too late."

"So you'd…. You wouldn't exist here…."

The Doctor looked at Jackie. It had often been said of her that she couldn't programme the timer on the video, but she had grasped the paradox of his present situation straight away.

"Oh my….."

Rose grasped his hand all the tighter. He existed. He had to. Or the last four years of her life didn't exist. What would happen? Would he disappear and they would be left here in the TARDIS or would they find themselves back in their own time never having known him? The second would be better, maybe. To be left here, without him, to lose him after loving him for so long, would be too terrible.

But if she hadn't known him, if he hadn't been there, she'd be dead. The Autons would have killed her in the basement of Henricks. And then they would have killed her mum and everyone she knew, the whole planet, under the influence of their master, the Nestene Consciousness. If the Doctor ceased to exist, they would, too. The whole world would be gone.

The whole world would have gone long before then, The Doctor knew. He had stood between Earth and a whole gamut of evil since that day. Without him, it would have been lost long before Rose was born. Jackie probably wouldn't even have made it to her 9th birthday. He had spent a lot of 1974 protecting Earth from trouble.

"What can we do?" Jackie asked as she, too, worked out the consequences and didn't like them at all. There had been times, when she was lonely and didn't know where Rose was, when she might have wished The Doctor had never come into their lives, but most of the time she was glad he had. Because he had made a difference to them all - a difference that she was slowly starting to appreciate. And to think that it could be over so easily saddened her

"You can't do anything," he said. "But I can't leave the protection of the TARDIS until…." He looked at his watch. "About five o'clock it'll be ok. My regeneration was finished by then."

"We can't just get out of here?" Rose asked.

"I've got to repair the damage," he said. "Need to connect mentally with my earlier lives and help them make the transition."

"Is that…. Is it dangerous? Will it hurt you?"

"It's what I've got to do," he said. "Stay by me, Rose." He gripped her hand and looked up into her eyes. She sat on the edge of the sofa by him. He didn't NEED her as such. Once he dropped down into the deepest level of subconscious meditation to make the mental connection he wouldn't even be aware of her presence, but it was comforting to know she would be there through it. Because the answers to both her questions were "yes", and it was easier to face knowing she was there, easier to find his way back if things did go wrong.

"I'll never leave you, Doctor," Rose promised him.

"Doctor," Jackie said. "Oh, I know this sounds terrible, but…. Is it ok if I go out? There's nothing I can do here. And… I don't have Rose's patience, or her… her courage. It scares me to see you doing that… thing…. Looking dead like that."

He smiled, despite still feeling weak and sick. "Jackie, yes, go out if it makes you feel better." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Jackie watched him look through several compartments that seemed to contain currency of different eras of Earth time and pulled out a bundle of pound notes from the post-decimalisation 1970s. "In case you need anything."

Jackie took the money. "Thanks," she said. "Please get better, won't you. We need you, Doctor."

She turned and went out of the door again. Rose watched her go and then turned back to The Doctor.

"You ARE going to be all right?"

"I wouldn't lie to you, Rose," he told her. "I don't know how to answer that question. But I have to do it." Rose nodded and bent her head and kissed him gently before resuming her position beside him, holding his hand. He closed his eyes and began his descent into deep trance.

Jackie was grateful for the money, an example of The Doctor's generosity towards those he cared for. But she didn't really need it. What she wanted to do here had nothing to do with that. Because she had also remembered the date, June 8th, 1974. It was a day etched on her memory almost as deeply as it was on his, and she would like to erase that memory.

Would The Doctor tell her not to do it? Would it make him angry that she was going to try? It wasn't as drastic as getting her eight year old self run over by a bus. Nobody was going to die. Nobody was going to live who should have died. They were just going to get less hurt than they were the first time around.

Rose felt his hand get progressively colder and she recognised the signs of a deep meditative level. She watched his skin take on a blue tinge and frost appear on his eyelids and lips, and she knew she couldn't let go of his hand now without breaking his fingers. But she never would. The one thing she could give him without limit was her love and her loyalty and this was the time for it.

"Oh, Doctor," she whispered to him. "I just wish I knew what was happening in your head right now."

June 8th, 1974. Jackie stood at the corner of the street. It was exactly as she remembered. The street was empty. There had been nobody there to help, no matter how much she had screamed.

This time there would be.

The Doctor let his mind reach out, seeking the brain pattern he knew so well - his own. Seeking two versions of it, one dying, one about to live. He knew when he had reached his dying incarnation. It was a long time ago in his own personal timeline - nearly four hundred years. But he remembered only too well the pain of that regeneration. He remembered them all, for that matter. Dying repeatedly, each time painfully, was his own cross to bear all his life, the price of this near immortality that others thought of as a blessing. In his darkest, bitterest times, he considered it more of a curse upon him.

He felt the radiation sickness overwhelm him. His disembodied mind shuddered as if it was feeling every cell in his body breaking down and dying. He felt the pain of it. He felt the weakness and the inability to think straight.

That had to stop. Pull yourself together, he told himself. It's just psychosomatic. You've got to have the strength for THEM.

He did his best. He fought off the sick feeling and cleared his mind and approached his earlier self's consciousness again.

"Who are you?" he heard his dying self ask.

"I'm you," he said.

"No you're not. You don't look anything like me."

"I'm a future you. A later incarnation."

"From the future?"

"Where else would I be from?"

"That's dangerous. Very dangerous. What are you doing here?"

"I'm a Time Lord, remember. I travel in space and time. I didn't plan it, but I'm here, in London, today. And I know my presence has interfered with the natural progress of the regeneration. I'm trying to mend the damage I did."

"That was you? I thought it was the radiation creating anomalies."

"Why did it have to be radiation?" he said. "It's got to be the worst."

"Is there a good way to die?"

"In bed with the people I love by my side," he said. “That’s how I want to go.”

"Not our destiny, I think," his third self told him.

"I intend to change my destiny," he answered. "But we know what yours is."

"I've not got long left. But I need to hold on a little longer. We're not ready. That was your interference."

"I didn't do it deliberately. I was just planning to show my girl and her mum what London was like in 1974. But the moment I stepped out of the TARDIS I was hit by the regeneration wave. It's a good job they pulled me back in or I'd be regenerating too. And I promised Rose I wouldn't do that."

"Rose?"

"My girl." He pictured her in his disembodied mind. His other self seemed impressed.

"Pretty girl."

"Smart, too."

"You're in love with her."

"Yes."

"Is she in love with you?"

"Yes."

“Good luck.”

“Already got the luck! But… but still got a universe full of trouble as well.”

“Nothing new there, then.”

“Jo and Sarah are both doing ok,” he said. “Thought you might like to know that.”

“It’s good to know. They’re both wonderful women.”

“That they are,” he agreed. Making telepathic small talk was the best way he could find of keeping his dying incarnation alive just a little longer while the essence of his next life gathered strength and was ready to take over. It wouldn’t work for long. But every second more he could help him would make his next incarnation’s transition that less touch and go, that less traumatic.

“This is it,” his third self said when nothing either of them could do would stop it. “I’m dying.”

He felt the shock within his own body as his third incarnation went into a final spasm. The breakdown of his cells had reached critical point. This was where the extra minutes were needed, the energy he had absorbed that his dying body needed more. Now he needed to hold on to himself, keep himself alive long enough for the regeneration to complete.

It was strange. He had been there before, of course. But at the time, when he was dying, the pain and the fear overwhelmed everything else. He missed the moment when his body had physically died the first time. Now, looking at it as a third party, he saw it and he felt it. The dark stillness as his brain waves ceased. It lasted no more than ten, twenty seconds. Even humans have been revived in that much time after physical death, as long as the right things were done quickly. For him, for a Time Lord, it was even more crucial that the right things happened and that they happened quickly and in the right order.

And he had to make sure they did, because it was borrowed time that he was regenerating in, and HE had borrowed it. Now he had to give it back.

 

Jackie gasped with astonishment as she saw her younger self coming along the road. Eight years old, thin as a stick, dark hair in two plaits, looking like a scared rabbit, eyes darting from left to right as she ran. She always ran home from school. Because if they caught her….

And there would be nobody at home to care. Her mum would be out for hours when she got home in the evenings. Tea would be sandwiches in the fridge - meat paste or jam, depending on what day of the week it was, peanut butter on family allowance day, her favourite.

But whatever the sandwiches were, they would so often taste like ashes because she was too upset, because she was crying, because she was in too much pain from being kicked and hit. And by the time her mum was home, she was too tired to do anything but eat her own tea and sit by the TV until she fell asleep. Jackie did her homework and watched the TV with her until bedtime.

Only in the dark, in her own mind, did she ever feel free. She wasn't scared of the dark. She was scared of the light. In the dark, in the warmth under the bedcovers, she could dream her dreams. She dreamt of the nice house in the suburbs they would live in when the man came along who would make everything right. The man who would marry her mum and take them both away from the council estate she hated, from the school where she was picked on every day because she didn't have a dad.

WHY? Jackie thought, with adult logic, did not having a dad matter so much on a council estate? She wasn't the only one. There were dozens of unmarried mothers, divorced mothers.

Because of a lie.

A lie told by Claire Menzies, pretty Claire, with the blonde hair, who everyone thought was so nice. But she wasn't. She was the nastiest girl in the school. She lied. And one morning playtime when they were first years in the infant school she told her friends, and they told everyone else, that Jackie's father had died in jail.

It wasn't true. He had died in the army, in Berlin. Her mum was already divorced from him. It was a far off incident which hardly seemed to cause a ripple in their lives. But the lie got about. And for a fortnight she had put up with the humiliation of people asking, or more often just guessing between themselves, what her dad had done to get put in prison. The two favourites were theft and murder. And the rumour went about that Jackie Prentiss would either steal from you or murder you. And even those she thought WERE her friends started to play with the other kids and she stood alone at playtime watching the games and wanting to be a part of them, but knowing she never could.

After a few weeks another new rumour had started, about somebody else, but the damage had been done. Nobody wanted to be friends with Jackie Prentiss. Long after they had forgotten why, nobody wanted to be friends with her. Anyone who was got kicked by Claire Menzies' friends until they stopped talking to her. And three years later Jackie still didn't have any friends.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the kids who couldn't remember why they didn't like her bullied her on the way home from school. At least if they could catch her. Maybe three days out of five, if she didn't get out of class before anyone else, if she was held back or held up, they would be waiting at the corner. It wasn't fair. She was nearly home. She could see the flats from where they regularly beat her up. So close to home, but not nearly close enough to stop them getting her every time.

Regeneration was more painful than death. Death at least had a kind of peace at the end of it. But Regeneration was a painful, difficult process and no matter how many people were witnesses to it, it was something he had to do alone every time.

Not this time. This time he was there to do what he could to help, to hold the door open and make it easier for his fourth incarnation to make that painful transition. That was what he had to do now. And it hurt them both. The raw energy that transformed every cell of his dead body into the living man burned like fire inside him. He screamed in his head and wondered if he might have screamed for real if he was not under the deepest level of trance. He absorbed the pain, he held that door.

And through the pain, he felt his fourth incarnation slide into place, becoming whole, becoming living flesh, the new body solidifying from those cells that had been so drastically re-arranged, his brain beginning to function, the memories of the three incarnations that went before pouring into the new mind.

"Don't let me pick up any of YOUR memories," he heard his fourth self say to him. "Nobody needs to know too much about his future, least of all US."

"A man is the sum of his memories," The Doctor said. "A Time Lord doubly so."

"Very clever. I'll remember that," his fourth self replied.

"Yes, you will."

They both groaned as a spasm overtook them. The energy that suffused the body and allowed the regeneration to happen still coursed through the new body. It grounded itself in these painful spasms. If it didn't the new body's brain would fry and the regeneration would fail.

"You came close to messing this up," his fourth self chided him. "You should have been more careful. The date should have given you a big clue."

"Lost count. The Days I Died. Too many of them to keep track of."

"What do you mean too many? How many times have you… No, never mind. Don't tell me. Better I don't know."

“Doing it all over again is no picnic,” he said. “It really hurts. I can feel it all through my body.”

“Your body is frozen in meditation. It's all in your mind. MINE is really going through this.”

“Feels real enough,” He groaned as another wave of energy surged through them both. All in the mind! It was not. He could feel it just as strongly as his other self. He was drawing the pain off from him. And the least he could do was show a little gratitude.

“I am grateful. You ARE helping. Being there for me… Regeneration is a lonely ordeal. I’m glad you are here, even if it DOES break all the rules.”

“%£&#*& the rules,” The Doctor said. “I wish one of you had been there when it was my turn. I was such a basket case at the time. Didn’t even know if I was going to get there. Wasn’t sure I wanted to. Bit of company would have helped.”

When he said it, though, he knew. He felt his memory changing. The painful half-memory he had of his own Regeneration, his birth into this body, hadn’t been so lonely an operation after all. He had felt a presence there, encouraging him to pull through the hardest part, the part where it would have been so easy to give up and let the new body collapse and be no more.

“Thanks,” he said quietly.

“Just so you didn’t have to be alone.” His other self sighed, though not unhappily. “I’m not alone. My friends are there, scared witless by what they’re seeing, but they’re there.”

“I know,” The Doctor said. “I can see them there. Sarah Jane and the Brigadier. They’re both worried sick about me.”

“Worried about ME.”

“I am you. Going to be anyway.”

“Stop thinking about things I haven’t done yet. It's DANGEROUS. Who on Earth is Leela?”

“You’ll find out.”

“I dare say I will, his fourth incarnation said. “But these thoughts of yours are getting too strong now. I can’t risk reading any more of them. You should get out of this now. The artron energy is stabilising within me now. I’m going to be all right.”

“You sure?”

"Of course I'm sure. I'm The Doctor. I know about these things. You've done what you had to do. Time to get back to those who care about you."

"You look after those who care about you. Sarah Jane is going to love the new you when she gets over the shock. Treat her well."

"I will."

A feeling passed between them. Something like brotherly affection - not quite, because they weren't brothers. They were the same soul. And then he felt himself pushed gently away. His work WAS done. He could go back now, to Rose.

Bullies are really just cowards. That's what people told her. But when she was being kicked and punched by them it didn't feel like it. It felt like they had all the power, all the strength, and she was the coward who could do nothing to defend herself.

But hitting somebody with iron bars. That was cowardly. What made them up the ante this time she wasn't sure. But this day, a day she remembered with tears even thirty-five years later, was the worst.

It wasn't a school-day. It was Saturday and she was just going to the park to play on the swings. And it was about to happen. She saw them coming around the corner, blocking the path. She saw her eight year old self try to dodge past them, but they moved whichever way she did. She saw her already start to cry before they even began hitting her.

She saw the biggest of the bullies raise the iron bar and start to swing it.

"NO!" she cried as she grabbed the bar and wrenched it from the girl's hand. "Josephine Brady, you'd better thank me. You were about to do something that would get you put into a detention home for a year. And WHY?"

"Because she's a pigwig," Josephine answered, and Jackie remembered that stupid nickname which was just about the way her hair was done. "And she smells. And she's dirty."

"No she isn't," Jackie said. "That's a lie. Claire Menzies told you it and you repeated it because you like to pick on people. And you're not going to do it any more. Because if you DO I'll hurt you."

"You can't touch me," Josephine said. "I'm a kid and you're an adult and you're not allowed."

"Want to bet? Do you see any policemen around here? Do you know where I live to send the police to arrest me?"

Josephine looked nervous. The logic of her words was getting through to her.

"But I know where you live, Josephine. I know where to find you. And if you touch Jackie again I will find you and hurt you the way you hurt her."

She didn't mean it. She knew she would never hit a child, even an obnoxious one like Josephine Brady. But she didn't know that.

Josephine looked around for her friends who would help her. They weren't there. Jackie, and young Jackie, both looked in surprise as Josephine suddenly threw up all over her shoes. She wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and looked at both the younger and the older Jackie, both staring at her, and began to cry.

"It's TRUE. Bullies ARE cowards," Jackie thought. She pulled a travel packet of wet-wipes from her coat pocket and gave the girl one to wipe her face with while she bent and cleaned her shoes. Josephine stood there numbly while she tended to her.

"Jackie, will you be telling everyone in school on Monday that Josephine is a cry baby who gets sick when she's scared?" She saw her eight year old self thinking about that and hoped she would make the right decision.

"No," she said shaking her head. "Because I'm not a tell tale."

"Well, aren't you lucky, Josephine," Jackie said. "But Jackie, if she tries to bully you again you CAN tell everyone. That's the rule. You're allowed." She turned back to Josephine. "You're going to be Jackie's friend from now on and make sure nobody bullies her. Aren't you?"

"Yes," Josephine said in a quiet voice.

"Good. So, now we're all friends, let's go buy some sweets. Because Jackie's got loads of money here that I have to give her and she can buy sweets for her friends." And she held out the bundle of money to her younger self who looked at it in astonishment. She hadn't counted it, but she guessed there was about twenty pounds, and that was a fortune for an eight year old girl in 1974, when 20p pocket money a week was the best her mum could do.

The eight year old Jackie looked at her hesitantly, wanting the money but aware of the 'rules'.

"I know you aren't supposed to take things from strangers. But I'm not a stranger. I'm a special friend, who knows all about you. This is a special present for you." She held out the money.

Her younger self reached out to take it. As their hands touched they both felt a strange kind of tingle, and Jackie KNEW that it was all right now. She remembered this day when she met a strange woman who stopped the bullies. She remembered buying loads of sweets with one of the pound notes and having a lovely time for weeks and weeks being able to buy what she wanted. She remembered that the sweets had helped start off her own playground clique that had begun the end of the domination of Claire Menzies' blonde autocracy. She remembered that Josephine had stayed her friend and they used to go to each other's houses after school, and eat the meat paste or jam or peanut butter sandwiches their mums had left. Both worked at the same factory at the same shift that paid no attention to the fact that they had children.

And she never knew where the woman came from who had helped her. And though she had often thought that she knew her, and almost understood what it was about, she never QUITE figured it out.

Rose knew The Doctor was coming back out of the trance. He began to warm up first, then she felt his hearts begin to beat again and his hand tightened on hers as his muscles began to work again. Then he blinked and opened his eyes. For a moment he seemed puzzled as he looked at her. Then his smile widened and his eyes seemed to twinkle at a joke he didn't seem to want to share with her yet.

"Are you all right?" she asked him. "You look better, anyway. What about your other you? The one who belongs in this time?"

"He's ok. Wish he'd have taken some fashion tips from me. That stuff he wore for a couple of centuries was embarrassing. But speaking of fashion tips." He grinned even wider. "Is your mum back yet?"

"No. But I'm sure she's ok."

"Yeah, I'm sure she is, but…"

The TARDIS door opened as he sat up, Rose still holding onto his hand as if afraid to let go of it. Jackie slipped inside and closed the door. The Doctor looked at her, then at Rose again. And his brow furrowed as if he was trying to work something out. Yet he was smiling, too, as if the puzzle was actually amusing him.

"Jackie? What did you do out there?"

"Nothing," she said as she stepped nearer to the sofa. But she didn't look at him when she said it and her whole body language told him that she was lying.

"Jackie…"

"Nothing that could change history. Just…"

"Jackie… what did you do?"

"Mum!" Rose turned to her in a panic. "Mum, ANYTHING you do can change history. Anything. You can cause a wound in time that can destroy the universe."

"I think this time it's not as drastic as that," The Doctor said calmly. "But look at each other. I don't think it's dawned on either of you, yet."

Rose looked and when she realised what it was she felt so stupid. How COULD she have missed it?

"Mum… Your hair…. It's brown."

"So is yours."

"What happened to us?" Rose asked The Doctor. "Why are we like this?"

"Ask your mum," he said. He was smiling. Even though he knew something serious had gone on, the repercussions were so benign he couldn't help being amused by it.

"I started dying my hair blonde when I was about 15," Jackie said. "Because I thought men were nicer to blondes. The way they all flocked around Claire Menzies. And it worked. Pete thought I was gorgeous." She stopped and stared into space as a new memory supplanted the old one.

"No. I NEVER did that. Because I knew Claire Menzies was just an empty headed flirt who thought she was it because she was so much prettier than everyone else. But she wasn't. And Pete thought I was gorgeous anyway."

"I dyed my hair because mum did," Rose said. Then she felt the memories in her head change.

"No I didn't. I never did anything as dumb as that…"

"So what did you DO, Jackie? The Doctor said again, and this time she told him.

"Mum!" Rose was appalled. "You're not allowed to DO things like that. Doctor, you told me… Tell her she CAN'T."

"It's a bit late now. She's already done it."

"I just stopped Josephine Brady breaking both my legs and putting me in hospital in agony for two months. That's all."

"And showed your eight year old self that she didn't need to be scared, didn't need to run home in fear every night, and that blondes don't necessarily have more fun." The Doctor stood up and stepped towards her. He smiled at her as he reached to hug her gently.

"Please, promise you won't do that again, though. The consequences of messing with causality aren't always so subtle as this." Rose came to him and he put his arm around her, too. He looked at them. They both looked so different. But they were still his women, both of them, his future wife, and future mother-in-law. His future. The destiny he had promised his third self he was going to have.

On the whole, he thought they all got off quite lightly.