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

It was just a little before dawn and The Doctor was awake. He lay in his bed, beside his sleeping wife, aware of her warmth beside him. Usually he was comforted by her nearness as much as she was lying beside him. But this morning he felt restless and unsettled and even his love for her was not enough.

He turned and looked at her as the dawn brightened. He touched her face gently. She was as beautiful as the day he first met her, and in her sleep, she still looked as childlike and vulnerable. His instinct was to protect her. That was his natural role.

But that natural role had been reversed lately. She had been looking after him as he recovered from the most painful and near-fatal blow he had ever experienced without regenerating. And that was why he felt so unsettled, why he lay there so unhappily.

Being an invalid was the most difficult thing he had ever had to do. It was a bitter, miserable time and he longed for it to be over. He wanted to be active. He wanted to move at a speed beyond a walk, to make love to his wife, to…

To fly his own TARDIS wherever he wanted. On his own. Not as a passenger as he had been when Christopher piloted them all to the Eye of Orion.

He wanted to be himself in all the ways he defined himself. And he felt he couldn’t be. He was a prisoner of the people who loved him most, and whom he loved. Rose, Susan and Jackie between them cared for his every need. They smothered him with love. Christopher took on the role of patriarch of the family. Even his own children had gone to him lately when they needed anything. The boys, the twins and Tristie, when he was around, still seemed to think he was capable. They asked his advice. But they didn’t need him to DO anything. Just to sit there and be the fountain of wisdom.

One day, of course, when he was older, that would be his role. But not now. Not yet.

He got out of bed, pulling a robe around his body and sat at the window, looking at the sun rising over the dark line of cúl nut trees that he had planted as a unique feature of his new home when he married Rose. He had loved the house. He had been glad to put down roots and no longer be a wanderer in the fourth dimension.

At least not a full time one.

He never intended to give up the TARDIS, to be settled here forever. That would kill him more surely than having both hearts ripped to shreds. He just couldn’t live here without being able to get away when he wanted and explore somewhere new, have an adventure of some kind. He needed that, to remind him he was alive.

He looked around at Rose as she slept on, unaware that he was no longer by his side. His hearts still skipped a beat when he looked at her.


He was just not used to the singular.

He felt a twinge in the half-developed lump of muscle that was his new heart growing. It was taking longer than he had expected. The residual ion energy was retarding the growth process. He wasn’t fully fit yet. He couldn’t pretend otherwise to himself, even if he could hide his pain from Rose and the rest of his family most of the time.

But he didn’t think he needed to be confined here any longer. He COULD manage with one heart working. He COULD be almost as active as he used to be.

But his family, the people he loved, had said he couldn’t. He looked again at his wife. And as much as he loved her, as much as he would always love her, he felt at that moment that she was his prison guard, and his first instinct was to run from her.

“Rose,” he whispered. “I DO still love you. And the kids. But I have to do this.”

He dressed himself quickly and quietly and then went to the dresser. He opened a wide, shallow drawer where Rose kept her jewellery. There, among the small fortune in diamonds, silver and gold that he had given her over the years as gifts, was the first thing he had ever given her.


What that represented to her was far more valuable than diamonds. It meant that she was with him, for as long as she wanted to be with him.

And he wanted her to be with him. But he also wanted his freedom. He didn’t want to have to justify every little thing he did. He didn’t want to have to answer to anyone. Not even her.

He took the key and held it in his fist as he went to the bed and leaned over to kiss her cheek. She didn’t stir. He didn’t want her to stir. He went to the nursery and looked at his baby son, asleep in his cot. He kissed him, too, before slipping out through the door to the landing, down the stairs, and down the second flight that brought him to the basement room where his TARDIS was kept. He unlocked the door with Rose’s key and stepped inside.

It was in low power mode, but the lights came on as he stepped inside. He ran the few steps to the console and touched it with both hands. It felt good to be able to do that, to feel the power of his time and space machine beneath his fingers, to be IN CONTROL. Yes, he freely admitted that he was a control freak. Taking orders from other people had never been for him. Neither did having to consider other people’s needs and wants and factor them into his decisions. Ever since he decided he WAS in love with Rose he had been doing that. Even before they were married he had changed his ways. He had begun to put down roots. He anchored himself and his TARDIS to the flats where Rose’s mum lived, where she needed to go back every so often, and to Susan’s home a few miles and two hundred years away. He had adjusted his own body clock to accept twenty-four hours in a day, not twenty-six. He had even started to eat meals like a human did, at regular times, and to sleep at night, in a bed, rather than sitting or kneeling or lying on a meditation mat with his body in a renewing trance.

He had changed so much, and he had done so willingly. And he told himself he was still the man he used to be. Even with a wife and children he was still a Prince of the Universe, still The Doctor, the one who could still strike fear into the central processing systems of those who see the universe as no more than a resource to be plundered.

“Where shall we go?” he whispered to the console, and he was sure the time rotor changed colour just slightly. He was sure there was a whispered reply. Maybe it was his imagination. Maybe just wishful thinking.

“Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere injustice. Somewhere else the tea’s getting cold.”

“Take me somewhere that I’m needed,” he said as he touched the navigation console and felt in the soles of his feet the TARDIS start upon a projected course to who knows what strange, exotic, and troubled place.

He was rather surprised when that place turned out to be the Powell Estate. The TARDIS had parked itself by the bins, where it always did in the days when Jackie lived there still and he and Rose used to visit her. He remembered when one of the local kids had painted a yellow square on the ground and the words ‘Free Parking for Aliens’. In recent times, it had been Christopher who had made use of the ‘free parking’ to visit Jackie. Since their Alliance, it had not been needed.

But this was before then, he noted. LONG before. The local date was April 27th, 1990.

Rose’s fourth birthday.

“I’m needed HERE?” he asked himself. He was very much glad to BE there, but he was almost certain there was somewhere in the universe where he was needed more.

He looked at the viewscreen and smiled widely, then he disappeared into the TARDIS interior to look for something he hadn’t used in a long time. It looked to the casual eye like a medal for taking part in some sports event or other. In fact, it was a piece of Time Lord technology. It was a personal perception filter that essentially made him invisible, or at least unnoticeable. It was vaguely related to the chameleon technology that made the TARDIS incongruous in whatever location it materialised in – theoretically, anyway.

He put the medal down on the console to give it a quick ‘top up’. It was centuries since he used it. He wanted to be sure it would work. He smiled as he thought of the ways Earth fiction had explained such principles over the years. Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak wasn’t in it. Too cumbersome and liable to slip, leaving very visible and incongruous bits of the body exposed. The cloaking devices used by the enemies of the Human race on Star Trek – all very well as long as nobody bumped into the ship. The closest anyone ever came to the BEST and most reliable form of invisibility was the Somebody Else’s Problem Field which played on the fact that the human brain was good at ignoring what it didn’t want to deal with. When he hung the medal around his neck and tucked it inside his jumper he became something that humans weren’t interested in seeing, so they wouldn’t see him. Their eyes would just slide off him and look elsewhere.

If it didn’t work, a man in a scruffy leather jacket lurking about a child’s birthday party was going to attract the sort of attention he didn’t want.

It was a sunny, early spring day and the party was in the courtyard below the flats. A table was set with the kind of food that four year olds like best, jelly and biscuits, ice cream and birthday cake. The birthday girl was at the top of the table in a pretty dress and a little plastic tiara on her head. A big pink button badge with ‘four today’ completed the ensemble. A dozen girls and boys of the same age sat watching as her birthday presents were brought for her to open.

Most of them were cheap, bright looking things: a plastic doll dressed in a frilly dress, a big fluffy rabbit, a box of crayons and a colouring book. There were no brand-named toys, none of the ‘must have’ big name crazes of the year. Just lots of colourful packaging with the best Jackie could buy for her.

The one big present, the one that did cost a bit, was brought out last. It was pretty obvious what it was, even covered up in wrapping paper. Young Rose’s eyes lit up as she unwrapped the little pink bicycle with a basket on the handlebars. It was a real two-wheeled bicycle with stabilisers. Her first bicycle. She was almost too excited to wait until after she had blown out the candles on her birthday cake to have a go. Finally, Jackie helped her sit on the saddle and unsteadily she pedalled the bicycle, held upright by her mum. The Doctor smiled as he watched her. He had taught both Sukie and Vicki to ride a bicycle in much the same way. They didn’t HAVE bicycles on Gallifrey so he had never shared that kind of intimate moment with Christopher. But he looked forward to it being one of the rites of passage in Peter’s life in a few years’ time.

After a while Rose was happy to get off the bicycle and play games with her friends as the party went on. Jackie watched them and The Doctor watched her. He found he could read her thoughts easily enough. This was a much younger Jackie than the one who was going to marry his son, but the family connection was there in potentia and it let him touch her mind long enough to see that she was sad because Rose’s father wasn’t there to teach her to ride a bicycle.

“Where’d she get the money for that then?” asked one of the parents who stood on the edge of the courtyard watching the party. And The Doctor was shocked to hear the reply from the other woman. He was heartily glad Jackie was out of earshot, since he was certain this woman who had such a low opinion of her was meant to be a friend. He hadn’t heard anything THAT nasty spoken behind somebody’s back since he left Gallifreyan high society.

He looked at Jackie and focussed his mind on hers again. He noted how she HAD paid for the present for Rose. Not declaring to the DSS that she had worked in a part time cleaning job for three weeks in order to buy that birthday present WAS dishonest. But then again, a welfare system that forced a widow to do that to give her child a little happiness was dishonest, too, in his opinion. If that was the worst that could be laid against Jackie as she struggled to bring up her little girl alone, then she wasn’t doing such a bad job of it.

After the party had wound down and everyone had gone home, Rose played on her bicycle again. Jackie watched her. The Doctor stood close to the TARDIS and watched, wishing he could be a part of that sweet family moment. But it wasn’t his time to be a part of their lives yet.

He would have happily watched them all evening, but he knew he had to get on. He walked back into the TARDIS. Jackie and Rose were too busy to notice the unusual noise and the brief draught of air when it dematerialised.

“I wasn’t EXACTLY needed there,” he said to the console. “But… I wonder….”

Rose had often talked about her childhood, growing up on the Powell Estate with her mum often finding it hard to make ends meet, but somehow managing. She had mentioned that her mum was an inveterate competition entrant. Anything she saw in the glossy magazines she would fill in the questions on the coupon and send off. Mostly they were forgotten about, but sometimes she won things. Some of Rose’s best birthday and Christmas presents were those lucky wins. So were the holidays they could never have had otherwise.

“Mum was unlucky in love,” Rose said once. “But really lucky at competitions.”

Or maybe she wasn’t? The Doctor thought about it and then set the TARDIS to move forward in time, a little more than four years, to the summer when Rose was eight. While he travelled that relatively short distance he was busy at the computer console. He found the holiday camp in North Wales where she fondly remembered spending a fortnight that year. It was the place where she had learnt to swim. He booked and paid for the fortnight, he booked and paid for the rail tickets to get them there. He arranged for both to be posted to her along with a generous cheque for spending money. Then he stepped out of the TARDIS, wearing his perception filter medal and watched as the taxi arrived to take Jackie and Rose on their first real holiday.

“What next?” he said to himself. Then he cast his mind back over the various treats and surprises Rose remembered from her childhood and he arranged them all.

Even the red bicycle at Christmas when she was twelve. He had joked once, a long time ago, that he had been the one who got her that bicycle. He had seen the memory of it in her mind when she mentioned Father Christmas to him. That bicycle arrived out of the blue just when she thought there wasn’t going to be anything special that Christmas, because her mum had been out of work since September and they were only just making ends meet. It had always made her think of Father Christmas, because it had been the sort of miracle that made you believe in him even when you were twelve.

The Doctor sent the bicycle.

There were other things that he had seen in her memories from time to time, things that weren’t quite so pleasant as surprise Christmas presents.

She was sixteen. It was a school dance. They had dressed it up and called it a ‘Prom’ like they did in American high schools. But really it was just a disco in the assembly hall.

It was the night that Rose first ‘went’ with a boy, a night she would regret afterwards. It was a memory that troubled her even after six happy years of marriage to him. She regretted not waiting until it could be a nicer experience, a truly romantic moment, not a fumble in the dark in the cloakroom with a sixth form boy who then went off afterwards and danced with three other girls and talked about her with his friends, while she walked home in the rain, crying.

It would have been easy. All he had to do was take off the perception filter and call out with authority, like a teacher. He would run off. She would have time to think about it and say no.

“I CAN’T!” he said to himself as he stood in the corridor and watched her walk past, the boy holding her around the waist. She looked scared. The only reason she was doing this was because all the other girls said they had done it. She felt the odd one out.

But most of them were lying and she was going to be so embarrassed, so sick of the things people were saying about her, so ashamed that she had been so naïve and stupid, that she would change her mind about staying on at school and doing her A Levels. She would leave and get a series of dead end jobs, culminating in the one at Henricks department store where he found her that evening in March 2005.

If he stopped this from happening, he would change her life. For the better. She would get her A levels and go to university, rise above the council estate she grew up on and be anything she wanted to be.

Except she wouldn’t. Because if she didn’t meet him in Henricks, then he would not have worked out where the Nestene was hiding in time to stop it from putting its horrible plan into action. He hadn’t a clue that night. It was her wonderful Human brilliance that had helped him save the world. Without it, he would probably have died, along with humanity.

For the sake of the world, he had to let her make the worst mistake she ever made in her young life. His every instinct was to stop her. He longed to take her in his arms and tell her that HE was the man she should have waited for, that HE was the hero she had dreamt of finding all her young life. But it was too soon. At sixteen she wasn’t yet that fantastic young woman he fell in love with. She was a little girl who still had a lot more growing up to do. Some of it all in this one night.

The boy came strolling out of the cloakroom. He looked pleased with himself. The Doctor resisted the urge to beat him to a bloody pulp as he knew he could and satisfied himself with putting out one long leg and tripping him up. The boy picked himself up and looked around nervously, at an empty corridor. He thought a voice had spoken by his ear - a whispered voice that said, “I’ll be watching you, sunshine!” But there was nobody there. He shook himself and walked on back to the hall. A few minutes later Rose emerged from the darkened room. Her clothes were ruffled and her make up was ruined by the hot, angry tears that rolled down her face.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I am so sorry.”

She didn’t hear him. She turned and walked away. She had no coat and it was raining. Her party dress made of satin and bits of lace was soaked through in minutes. Her hair came out of what was left of the pins and hung lank and sodden. Her tears mingled with the rain as she walked through the streets, back towards the estate.

He followed her. He knew she DID get home safely. But he wanted to be sure, all the same. She was nearly home, right by the bins, right by the TARDIS, though she took no notice of that, when somebody called her name and ran to her.

“Rose!” Mickey Smith, the boy next door – well, the boy in the flat below, anyway – put his hand on her shoulder and stopped her. “Rose, what happened? Why are you crying? You’re soaking wet!”

Good old Mickey! The Doctor thought. Stating the obvious as usual.

Rose didn’t say anything. She just cried even harder. Mickey hugged her. Mickey who had always been around. He was four years older than her. Too old to be a boyfriend to her. He was twenty. She was sixteen. But he WAS a friend. Good old reliable Mickey.

“You’d better come with me,” he said. “Get you dried off. If your mum sees you like this she’ll go ballistic.”

“Good old Mickey,” The Doctor thought again with a smile through his own tears. Mickey wouldn’t hurt her in a million years. Not deliberately, anyway. He would take care of her tonight, when she needed him. Later, when the time was right, he would be her boyfriend. She would contemplate life with him. Living together in his flat, marriage, children. Maybe, if they could afford it, a house. Ordinary, reliable life with reliable Mickey who would never let her down.

That dream would keep her safe until she was ready to be HIS. He felt guilty about Mickey. In a small part of his soul he always did. But he was also VERY grateful to him for being there for her when she needed somebody, when it was too soon for that somebody to be HIM.

But there WAS one more time when even Mickey couldn’t help.

“This is the one, isn’t it?” he asked the console as the TARDIS materialised in the same place but another two years on a little less than a year before he and Rose were destined to meet.

Rose and Jackie had been shopping. They got out of a taxi laden down with bags with the logo of a clothes shop on them. It was a cheaper one than where Rose worked, but still the sort of place where you would go to buy something special.

“I’m meeting Raymond in the Lamb and Flag,” Jackie was saying as The Doctor slipped into step behind them. “Then we’re going somewhere special, he said. A surprise. I think… I really DO think he’s going to propose.”

“Mum!” Rose protested. “You’ve only known him three weeks. And… besides… I don’t like him. He gives me the creeps.”

Jackie’s smile faded and she sighed.

“Rose, please don’t do this. I know some of the men I’ve dated haven’t been that great. I know Tony and Jim were both disasters…”

“Mum! Tony nicked your money to go down the betting shop. And Jim was more than a disaster. He tried to get into my bedroom. I had to put the dresser up against the door.”

“I know that,” Jackie said. “I’m SORRY. I messed up. I thought he liked me. I didn’t realise he was just trying to get a chance with you.”

“Raymond gives me the creeps in the same way. I think he’s another.”

“No, he’s way better. He’s a professional. He’s got a job in the city.”

“That doesn’t stop him being a creepy perv. And anyway, if he’s such a big man in the city, why is he interested in you?”

Perhaps that had come out wrong, The Doctor thought as he watched Jackie turn and slap her daughter angrily. But the same thought had occurred to him. Not that Jackie didn’t deserve to meet a nice man with some kind of prospects. But he sounded too good to be true and he trusted Rose’s instincts. If she thought there was something wrong with him there probably was.

Jackie was angry and crying. Rose was, too. The Doctor followed close behind them and neither noticed anything strange when he slipped into the flat behind them. Rose went to her room, slamming the door behind her. Jackie took her bags to the bedroom and then went to the bathroom. He heard the sound of the bath running. Jackie was occupied. Rose, as he knew well enough, could sulk for England. She wasn’t likely to emerge from her room for a while.

He went through to the kitchen. The pinboard behind the door was as cluttered and haphazard as Jackie’s mind. It epitomised her. Between an out of date note from Rose about being home late because her and Mickey were going up the West End and a reminder to pick up some more milk was a post it note that said “Raymond” and gave a phone number.

It was a mobile number. No landline. It was slim evidence, but it WAS another point against Raymond. Why would he not give her his landline?

In case his wife picked up the phone was a rather obvious answer. And if that was the case it was bad enough. But there could be even more sinister reasons.

Whatever the truth of it, he wanted to talk to Raymond!

He took the post it note and put it in his pocket.

He knew he should have just walked out now. But when he saw Rose’s bedroom door he wanted so much to look inside. He wanted to see her.

He turned the handle very slowly, quietly and opened the door even more slowly until he could slip inside. She was still crying softly and didn’t notice anything, not even when he stepped closer, holding his breath so that nothing gave away his presence.

“Don’t be sad, Rose,” he wanted to say. “I’ll make it right for you. As I always do. Just wait a little longer and I’ll be there for you. I’ll be there to make it right forever. All this will just be a bad memory.”

He leaned close and kissed the top of her head just briefly, momentarily, his lips merely brushing against her. She was too upset to notice. He stood back and tip-toed out of the room, closing it quietly and then opened the front door just as stealthily. The snap of the yale lock as it sprang into place was unlikely to be heard by either of the women.

He walked back to the TARDIS and called Raymond’s phone number on the console trimphone. It rang three times before it was answered by a deep male voice.

“I want to talk to you about Jackie,” The Doctor said. “Don’t argue. Meet me under the old railway bridge in half an hour. If you don’t turn up I’ll find you and make you sorry.”

There was a certain amount of bluster and ‘how did you get this number’ and then Raymond said he would be there. The Doctor put the phone down. If Raymond tried to ring back he would get no joy. The number that would have shown up on his mobile connected to a phone in a dentist’s surgery on Beta Delta III and the cost of making such a call would wipe out his credit two seconds after it was answered.

He walked down to the old railway bridge and waited. He was still wearing the perception filter and nobody saw him except an old derelict who was so drunk he could probably see pink elephants, let alone a man who was Somebody Else’s Problem. The Doctor gave him considerably more money than he asked for and he wandered off towards a burger van parked on the other side of the flattened area that was still waiting to be redeveloped into a retail park and office space.

A man who just HAD to be Raymond turned up on time, looking around furtively. The Doctor stepped behind him before slipping off the perception filter medal and slipping it in his pocket.

“So, what’s your game?” he demanded. “What do you want with Jackie? Because I’m damn sure you don’t intend to propose to her.”

“Who are you?” Raymond demanded.

“I’m Jackie’s guardian angel. I’m here to stop her getting hurt. So, like I said, what’s your game?” He reached out and put his hand against Raymond’s forehead, forcing himself into his mind.

He was startled by what he saw there. He had expected to be dealing with another one like ‘Jim’ who was dating Jackie but really wanted to get into Rose’s bedroom at night. Nasty enough, but at least HUMAN in the loose sense of the word.

Which was more than he could say for Raymond. The mind he saw was a very long way from home and uncomfortable in a Human skin. He couldn’t get anything more from him because the mind shut him out with the suddenness of a security door crashing down.

Raymond snarled, revealing sharp teeth that had no business being in a human mouth and moved faster than The Doctor expected. He found himself on the wrong end of the kind of move that lands wrestlers on the canvas being counted out. He felt his spine jar painfully and it was a second or two before he reacted, pushing his opponent away and jumping to his feet. Raymond lunged towards him, snarling again and he parried his attack with a defensive Gung Fu move. Before he could turn it into an offensive, though, he felt Raymond’s teeth sink into his arm, even through his leather jacket and jumper. He felt the pain of being bitten and something else, besides.


Whatever species Raymond was, he had poison glands in his mouth. His body fought against the venom but it slowed him down. As he fought he was breathing much harder than usual and he felt his one heart beating faster.

In short, he had lost the natural advantages of a Time Lord and had only the ordinary strength of a Human to fight against something that wasn’t Human.

But he still had the skills he had learnt many centuries ago. Even with one heart, his lungs bursting and his body trying to expel a muscle weakening venom, he was still a Master of Shaolin Gung Fu and Malvorian Sun Ko Du and either of those martial arts was enough to give him the edge as long as his weakened body didn’t break down completely.

At least the fight was not attracting any attention. He didn’t need that. But he really wished he could end this quickly. He was NOT having the best of it.

“What IS this about?” he demanded as a Sun Ko Du kick sent his opponent flying. “WHY are you trying to get to Jackie?”

“To get to the daughter. The one who knows the Time Lord.”

“She doesn’t know any Time Lord,” The Doctor answered.

“Not YET. But soon. And then she will change the course of his life. She will be the mother of his children. The mother of the one who will be the force for change, the Peacemaker who will end the war between my people and our enemy and force my government to accept them as equals….”

“Oh, sweet mother of chaos!” The Doctor swore. “They made that film before she was born. The enemy from the future come to kill the mother of the future leader. Whoever you represent must be INSANE if they think they can pull that stunt.”

“I represent no-one. The movement was crushed. I alone escaped to come here and prevent our downfall.”

“Then nobody is going to miss you,” The Doctor answered as he pulled back his arm, his hand becoming an instrument of death as he prepared to perform a move he learnt from the peaceful Shaolin monks of Henang Province. Despite their pacifist leanings they taught him to deal instant death. For the sake of his wife, his mother-in-law, his son, and for the sake of this planet, for the very reasons he had worked out before, he prepared to deal that death blow, knowing it was the first time in a very long time that he had killed in cold blood.

It should have been an instant death, a merciful one, even so. Against a Human being it would have been. But the creature disguised as a man called Raymond wasn’t Human. It took him several long, agonising minutes to die.

“I’m sorry,” The Doctor said to him as he watched the reddened eyes, full of the excruciating pain that he had inflicted. “I am so sorry. But I can’t let you live. This planet…. This universe… needs Rose and Jackie Tyler. I need them both. I need….”

He gave a soft cry and sank down onto the ground. The pain in his own body was nearly as bad as that his opponent was suffering. He was having a heart attack. Whether it was the exertions of the fight or the after effects of the toxins, he didn’t know. But he was in trouble.

“You have to live,” he told himself. “Your family need you.” He closed his eyes and concentrated. He slowed his heart and forced it to beat normally. He steadied his breathing and circulated the oxygen around his body. Slowly the pain subsided. He was over the worst. He ached in every bone in his body and he knew that Rose, Susan and Jackie were right. He WASN’T fit. He shouldn’t have been here. He WAS still ill and he could easily have died right here and now. Nobody would ever know who he was. Just another down and out under the bridge. An autopsy would show some very strange anatomical anomalies and he might end up being dissected by late 20th century scientists. And in the 23rd century his family would never know what had happened to him.

Raymond was dead. He lifted himself to his feet and walked over to the body. Whatever morphic field made it take on Human shape dissolved as he died. The thing that was left couldn’t be seen by any scientist. Not even the ones at UNIT and Torchwood whose job it was to deal with this sort of thing.

It WAS humanoid in a loose interpretation of the word. It had a head, torso and limbs. But it had six of what passed for arms. The whole body had a greyish-green exo-skeleton like an insect or mollusc. Mollusc was probably the closest description. The way the limbs, all covered with some kind of hairy sensors, were pulled across the torso in death reminded The Doctor of a crab on a seafood stall at the market. There was a carapace on his back that continued that crab motif.

“What ARE you?” The Doctor asked as he watched the dead body start to ooze a grey-green body fluid. A memory of an intelligent crab-like species crossed his mind. The Macra. But Raymond wasn’t one of those. Not unless they had evolved in a very different way than he expected. Raymond was a species he had never seen before. And that was something of a first for him. He thought there wasn’t much more for him to learn.

He reached for his sonic screwdriver and set it to analysis mode first. He took readings of Raymond’s DNA. The little he knew could go into the TARDIS database. It would be transmitted to the other existing TARDISes, and if Chris or Davie or any future traveller came across this species they would have SOME information to go on.

At least one of his family WAS going to come across them. He knew THAT. Raymond told him so.

But he still had to deal with the body. He adjusted the sonic screwdriver once more. He turned the laser mode up to full strength and aimed it at the body. It disintegrated under the intense heat. He kicked some dust around until the vaguely humanoid scorch mark was obliterated and then he turned and walked back to the TARDIS. He still ached all over and he thought longingly about his warm bed and the loving arms of his wife.

Except his task wasn’t over yet. He knew there was one more loose end to tie up. He went back to the TARDIS and took a shower, the warm water bathing his aching body and giving him new strength. He put on a clean shirt and trousers that weren’t ripped and covered in blood and a clean but still battered copy of his leather jacket. Then he headed for the Lamb and Flag.

He sat at the bar and ordered a drink. He drank it slowly and waited. He saw Jackie come in. She had really gone to town for Raymond. The dress she was wearing suited her down to the ground. She was wearing a little too much make up, trying to cover the few age lines that gave away the fact that she was the mother of a teenage daughter. Even so, she looked wonderful. She bought herself a dry white wine and went to a corner seat. She waited, watching the door as people came in, disappointed every time Raymond failed to arrive.

He waited for an hour before he stood up from the bar and walked over to her.

“Hello,” he said. “You look as if you’ve been stood up.”

Jackie looked up at the man who had spoken. He wasn’t much to look at, dressed in black jeans and a woolly jumper and an old leather jacket. Not exactly God’s gift to women in the looks department, either, she thought at first as she looked at his lean, angular face with features oddly out of proportion.

She recalled that he had been sitting at the bar for nearly as long as she had been waiting there, making her glass of wine last.

“You too?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he sighed and then smiled a sad smile. “Can I get you a drink?”

She looked at him again and realised that, actually, he was very good looking. Maybe not in the way good looking was defined in Hello magazine. He was no Hollywood icon. But he WAS good looking and she felt she WOULD like a drink.

“So who was this loser who didn’t know how to treat a lady?” he asked as he returned from the bar and put a glass of dry white wine in front of her. He sat opposite her, his long legs crossed under the table. He sipped a lager.

“Raymond,” she answered. “I really thought… you know… he was the one. He seemed nice. But…” She shook her head. “Maybe Rose was right about him, after all.”


“My daughter.” She smiled wryly. “Yes, I have a daughter. You might as well know that. It’s usually better to get that one out of the way. Some men seem to think I’m being deceitful if I don’t tell them. And no, I’m not an unmarried mother. My husband died when she was only a baby. It’s just been me and her ever since. Raymond seemed like he didn’t mind that I was a mum. First one in ages that was ok about it. But Rose really didn’t like him. We rowed about it. And I’m really sorry about that. I hated that I had to choose between her and him, and I blamed her. But that wasn’t fair, either. She’s a good kid. She’s… not a kid any more. She’s a young woman herself. Just a bit younger than I was when I was expecting her. God, I hope she doesn’t make the same mistakes I have. What sort of example have I been to her? Going out and pulling all sorts of men. I hope she finds the right one for her and has a chance to be happy. I hope her heart doesn’t get broken as often as mine has.”

She looked up at the man who bought her the drink. He had said nothing as she rambled on.

“You must think I’m an idiot. Going on like that. You didn’t want to hear my sordid life story.”

“It’s not sordid. It’s perfectly natural. You lost the man you loved, the father of your daughter. You need to know that love like that isn’t a once in a lifetime experience and that there IS another Mr Right out there who will care for you as you deserve to be cared for.”

“Rose should’ve had a dad. I always hoped to find a man who would care for us both. It’s too late for that now. She will be off one of these days. And then I’ll be on my own. And I suppose men won’t want to be bothered then anyway, because I’ll be past it!”

“The right man is out there, Jackie. For you and for your daughter.”

“Thanks. If you happen to bump into him, give him my number.”

For a moment there, at the back of her mind, she almost questioned how he knew her name when she had never said it. But the same Power of Suggestion that meant she was never going to remember his face in nine months time when he came into her life once and for all, stopped her from wondering about things like that, stopped her from being suspicious of a stranger who was suddenly taking an interest in her.

“So…” she said as a silence lengthened. “Enough about me. What about you? You said you’d been stood up tonight as well. What was her name?”

“HIS name was Jack,” As he waited at the bar he had mulled over the ways of making sure he didn’t become the focus of her affections in the wrong way and THAT answer had presented itself as the best one. Now he smiled wryly and watched her face as she processed that idea and worked through it to the point where she could reply to him.

“Oh. Right. Well… I… see.” She laughed a little. “It must be true what they say. All the best ones are gay.”

“‘Can we just be friends’ still hurts as much,” he assured her.

“I bet it does. But… If you’re… how come you came and sat with me?”

“Because you looked sad and lonely and even if I’m not in the running for that Mr Right who lies in your future, does that stop me buying you a drink and talking to you? Or buying another drink before the barman calls last orders, and then maybe a pizza at that really nice late night Italian restaurant down the road. And maybe I can see you safely home afterwards?”

“That sounds like a really great plan,” Jackie answered with a wide smile. She looked even prettier now that she was relaxed, knowing that there was nothing more than a couple of drinks and a pizza involved in her immediate future. He let her talk a little more about herself, about Pete, the man she loved, whose shortcomings she had forgotten as the years went by so that she remembered only that he was the one man she had always loved. She talked proudly about Rose, and of her hopes for her little girl’s future. All the things that the men she had dated DIDN’T want to know about, but the things that were important to her. He let her talk, and she didn’t notice that he didn’t tell her anything else about himself. Not even, in fact, his name. He had been prepared to call himself John Smith if she had wanted to know. But she didn’t. She knew that he was a nice man who she didn’t have to lie to, didn’t have to put up any front for. She could talk to him. And she needed that more than she needed a one night stand who promised forever as she opened her front door but left before she woke up in the morning without even leaving his phone number.

He took her home by taxi. He walked up the stairs, because the elevator was broken again, to her front door. She found her key, but hesitated before putting it in the lock.

“I suppose you wouldn’t like a cup of coffee?”

“No,” he said. “I have to go. It has been a pleasant night, but I must go now.”

“That’s ok,” she answered. “You know, I DID have a very good time. And it IS a shame. You could make some woman VERY happy. And I really wish it was me.”

Then he wasn’t entirely surprised when she put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips warmly. It wasn’t a come on kiss, designed to make him change his mind about coffee, or indeed any other personal preference. It was a kiss that said “thank you” for reminding her that she was worth it, and didn’t have to have a man like ‘Raymond’ to prove it. He knew it wouldn’t last. It would be a few years yet before her Mr Right came along out of the most unexpected quarter. And until then she would go on dating the wrong men, though none QUITE so wrong as tonight’s one. She would get her heart broken a few more times. But he couldn’t help that.

He watched until she went into the flat and closed the door, then he walked away, back down the stairs that he had climbed so often with Rose when the wonders of the universe palled and she longed for the comforts of home for a brief spell. He walked back to his TARDIS, parked in the place by the bins where, a few years from now, the neighbours would all become accustomed to seeing it parked. He felt satisfied. He hadn’t found a despot to fight, a world to save. But he had saved the people he loved. And that wasn’t a bad day’s work.

He programmed the TARDIS to return only a few minutes after he had left, heartily glad that it did that now, and didn’t land him twelve months later as it did the first time he brought Rose home to her mum. He went to the bathroom first, where he stripped his clothes that smelt of a smoke-filled bar. He showered and dried himself and put on a clean pair of pyjamas and a robe. Then he went to the nursery. He looked at his baby son as he slept in his cot. He put his hand on his forehead and felt his innocent baby dreams. Peter, named after Jackie’s first love, WAS the son who was going to grow up to be the Peacemaker, a diplomat who would forge peace between warring people across the universe. He had seen it in his future when he held him as a newborn baby and looked at his timeline. Peter was the one that creature wanted to erase from history.

“I’m proud of you, my son,” he said, leaning over to kiss his cheek. He stood up and turned and saw Rose standing at the connecting door to their bedroom.

“Was he fretting?” she asked. “I didn’t hear him.”

“I thought he was,” he answered. “Must have been a bird outside or something. He’s just fine.” He stepped towards his wife. She was wearing a long silk nightdress that covered her while clinging to every curve. He breathed in and steadied his heart before he embraced her. Not long ago he had thought he was dying as his one functioning heart reminded him of his limitations. But having satisfied his wanderlust with that little adventure in time there was something else he needed to prove to himself he was still alive, and still the man he was.

“Ok,” she said in answer to a question that was asked by the pressure of his body against hers and the softness of his breath against her neck. “But try to remember you’re not fully fit yet. Take it slowly.”

“Slow suits me fine” he told her as he took her hand and led her back to bed.