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

The Doctor walked around the field in the dying light of December 20th, watching the preparations for the night’s festivities. Torches on high poles were being set up to light the ceremonial place, as well as preparations for the Solstice dawn when the torches had died down. Inside the two marquees preparations were almost complete, one for the Solstice Feast, the other for the dancing that would continue late into the night. In the parking area, in campers and caravans as well as three TARDISes disguised as caravans and one that stubbornly remained a police public call box, people were dressing in their finery ready for the big night.

The landowner he rented the field from had been puzzled about the arrangements. Why would anyone want to have an outdoor gathering in December in Ireland? He asked The Doctor if they were some sort of druid types doing rituals at the solstice. The Doctor had said yes, but assured him no sacrificing of chickens was involved. Then he smiled disarmingly as he pressed the button on his PDA and automatically transferred the generous rental into the landowner’s bank account. No further questions were asked about why over two hundred people of all ages were coming from every part of the geographical British Isles to spend a cold night in a field.

“It IS going to be cold,” he observed as he watched the sun setting beyond the dark bulk of the Hill of Tara, focus of their Solstice celebration. “Cold and clear, starlit.”

“We COULD have hired a big hall,” Rose pointed out as she came to his side. She put her gloved hand in his, noting that he didn’t seem to need to wrap up at all. “They did it like this on Gallifrey, then?”

“Oh, yes,” he answered. “In deep snow, even. We had PROPER winters on Gallifrey!”

He was smiling as he said that. Rose was pleased to see him happy when he talked of his home world.

“I wish you could have seen it,” he said. “But it can’t be helped. And… tonight one of the great traditions of my world will be resurrected. The Dedication of the Candidates. I never did it with the twins. But I can for Vicki and Sukie and the others who are going to become Time Lords in the fullness of time. And in a few years, Peter and your mum’s baby will be old enough to be dedicated, too.”

“What if Peter doesn’t WANT to be a Time Lord?” she asked.

“Why wouldn’t he want it?” The Doctor replied, startled by the question. “It’s his destiny. Of course he will be.”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I know Vicki does. She’s really excited about tonight. And about the fact that she’ll be getting special lessons on how to be a Time Lord from you AFTER tonight. But I think that’s more about getting special attention from her dad than about wanting to be a Time Lord. And I just thought… what if Peter would rather just be a… I don’t know… a plumber or… or a hairdresser…”

“He can be a plumber or a hairdresser and still be a Time Lord,” The Doctor answered. “Though I think he might be destined for something greater than unblocking sinks or setting perms.”

“Nuts to destiny!” Rose answered. “Seriously, what about… what IF we have children that aren’t super-intelligent, half Gallifreyan. Isn’t it possible some of them might have MY genes instead of yours?”

“Did you ever have ambitions to be a plumber?” The Doctor asked her, wondering where this conversation was actually going. “Come on, we need to get back to the TARDIS and get ready. The party is starting soon.”

“I’m pregnant,” she told him.

He forgot all about the party as he turned to look at her in the light of one of the torches.

“What…! No! I would have known.”

“You should have. But you’ve been busy. And I know you didn’t really intend for it to happen. Because we WERE meant to wait till after mum’s baby was born. But I guess when you freeze time into a single moment and then use that moment the way we used it…”

“Oh…” He was disconcerted. And that was unusual enough for him. He was usually in control of everything. Including THIS. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Rose answered. “I thought you’d be happy. I am. I know we didn’t plan it, but in a way it’s nicer. A surprise. Not like with Vicki and Peter when you worked it out mathematically and said ‘we’ll make babies tonight’.”

“I did NOT say it like that,” he protested. “I just knew the moment that you were ready. And it was wonderful. Touching you and knowing I had just created a life within you. I loved them both from the moment they were conceived. But this time… that was nearly three months ago. And I didn’t even know. Oh, Rose…” He pulled her close and looked at her face for a long moment. She still looked only a little older than she did when he first met her, a young, brave, quick-thinking teenager. Twelve years ago now. Only the start of the long life they had together, and more children had certainly been a part of the plan. He wasn’t sorry this had happened. Only that he had been so distracted by other things that he hadn’t even realised it was happening.

He kissed her lovingly and as he did so he put his hand over her stomach. She was wrapped up warm in a coat and woollen dress beneath, but in his mind’s eye he could still see what he had not looked for until now. A three month old foetus, already with a heart that was nearly detectable with a stethoscope, with limbs and organs, a head. Only a few inches long, yet, but a life.


He stopped kissing her as he concentrated harder, just to be certain.

“Well?” she said to him as the silence lengthened. “What is it? A plumber or a hairdresser?”

“Oh, Rose…” he whispered. He didn’t think he could manage anything louder right now. “It’s… it’s both. Rose… it’s twins.”

“Oh!” Now it was her turn to be disconcerted. “Oh…”

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you inside. You have to rest. You have to…”

“See,” Rose laughed. “I should have kept it secret for a bit longer. Like another twelve months. Because you get all protective and start treating me like an invalid.”

“This time, yes. Twins… Time Lord twins. It’s dangerous. You’ve got to save your strength. Oh, Rose, I shouldn’t have… It’s my fault.”

“Ok,” she told him. “Getting inside, where it’s warm, good idea. But all this ‘sorry’ stuff has to stop. I’m thrilled. And so should you be. So stop it.”

“Does your mum know?” he asked as he walked with his arm around her shoulders protectively, back to the TARDIS.

“Yes. My husband might not notice, but my mum certainly did. Have you noticed how she’s been so grumpy with you?”

“She’s ten days away from giving birth. Grumpy is her permanent state of being right now.”

They entered the TARDIS. Warmth enveloped them. Rose shed her outdoor coat and gloves and hat and went to take Peter from Brenda, who was sitting with him on the sofa next to her mum. Brenda, as always, was reluctant to give him up. Her eyes stayed on him, dressed in a toddler version of a Gallifreyan ceremonial robe in pale blue and silver, and very well aware that something important was happening.

“It won’t be too many years until you and Davie are married and you have a baby of your own,” Rose told her. “And before you know it, your child will be a Candidate Time Lord.”

“Or a hairdresser,” The Doctor added with a twinkle in his eye. Brenda was puzzled by that comment. It seemed to be a joke. But he was already partly dressed in his own Time Lord robes, apart from the headdress and sash of his presidency. She found the idea of him making a joke dressed that way, unsettling. In his leather jacket and old jumper she could forget he was a great Lord of Time and laugh at his jokes. But not like this.

“It will be an honour,” she managed to say. “To be the mother of a Time Lord’s offspring.”

“It will be exhausting,” Jackie corrected her. “I’m not sure where the honour comes into it.”

“Don’t say that when Christopher can hear you,” The Doctor told her. “Where’s Susan, by the way? Is she still with Vicki and Sukie?”

“I’ll go and see how they’re getting on,” Rose said as she gave Peter to The Doctor to hold. “Yes, I KNOW you want me to take it easy. Fixing Vicki’s hair is hardly going to overtax me, is it?”

“So you know?” Jackie said to him as she disappeared through the inner door of the TARDIS.

“Yes,” he answered and turned to the console. He stood Peter up on a stool so that he could reach the environmental control panel and showed him the lifesigns monitor. There wasn’t a single member of their small Gallifreyan community that hadn’t jumped at the chance to come and revive the Solstice rituals. More than two hundred of them were beginning to gather in the marquee, waiting for him, as their leader, to formally open the festivities. His hearts swelled with pride. They had achieved so much in so short a time, and they all had a right to be proud, together, on this night.

“Chris-topher,” Peter murmured in his baby voice and pointed to one of the dark blue blips on the screen. It was heading directly for the TARDIS, so it very well might be Peter’s MUCH older brother. But he wondered how the child could know for sure. Perhaps it was time to REALLY start developing his telepathic abilities, teaching him to focus rather than displaying these random moments.

Jackie was still talking even though he had stopped listening. He caught the phrase ‘barefoot and pregnant’ and laughed.

“Jackie, you’re married to a Cabinet Minister and you live in a mansion. It hardly applies.”

“Even so,” she began. Then the inner door opened again and Sukie and Vicki came into the console room, followed by Rose and Susan. Christopher came in through the main door at the same moment. He smiled as widely as everyone else when he saw his little sister and granddaughter.

They were dressed in Gallifreyan gowns of deep russet-brown, heavily embroidered with mystical symbols in spun gold. They had stiff collars that rose up high at the back of their heads and their hair was elegantly finished with gold ornaments.

They looked beautiful. Everyone thought so at the same moment. They both smiled widely and clutched hands.

“They already look like Time Lords,” Christopher said when they walked forward very carefully as Susan had told them they must do. No hopping or skipping or playing about on such an important occasion. Not that hopping or skipping were possible in such an outfit.

“Go on to the marquee now,” The Doctor said. “We’ll join you soon.”

Rose took Peter from him and carried him. She and Jackie, Susan and Brenda went with the girls to join all the others making their way along a torchlit path from the parking area to the marquee. Christopher and The Doctor went to complete their own preparations. They helped each other to fix their high collars and their tight-fitting headdresses of gold, studded with precious stones. Christopher helped his father set the Sash of Rassilon, symbol of his Presidency of the exiled Government of Gallifrey over his robe.

“Rose is pregnant,” The Doctor said as they completed their preparations.

“Congratulations,” Christopher answered him.

“It’s twins,” he added.

“Difficult. But not impossible. She’ll be all right.”

“I hope so,” The Doctor responded. “But…”

Christopher looked at his father. He was a man of deep passions who felt everything keenly. He had driven himself to the edge of insanity trying to find him, his lost son, and risked losing everything else he had in the process. Christopher recognised a potential new obsession. He would worry about Rose until the day the babies were born, and drive everyone, including himself, crazy.

Christopher reached out and took his father’s hand. He held it tightly and concentrated as he read his future timeline. It wasn’t a skill he used very often and the fact that his father spent so much of his life in the TARDIS, crossing back and forth through time, made it more difficult. But he tried, and he read enough of his future to satisfy him.

“You and Rose are having twins. You’re NOT going to call them Boris and Titania and NOTHING is going to go wrong. Stop worrying. Now, come on, Lord High President. Your people are waiting for you.”

Christopher kept hold of his hand as they went back through to the console room, but at the main door he let go. They were Lord High President and Chancellor, after all. It was hardly fitting to the dignity of their office.

They walked side by side to the marquee, where a hush came upon the assembled people of Gallifrey as they entered. A path opened up to the stage and as they passed everyone knelt with heads bowed. Everyone except Jackie and a few other women, similarly burdened, who couldn’t bow if they tried, and for whom kneeling was absolutely out of the question. The Doctor wished the others wouldn’t do it, either.

“They’re honouring you, father,” Christopher said to him telepathically. “You should be proud.”

“I am,” he answered. “I’m proud to lead them. But they shouldn’t be kneeling, still.”

They mounted the stage and stood to face them all. As one they rose and stood watching, waiting for him to speak.

“My people, proud Gallifreyans, all. I welcome you to this Solstice Night celebration. I am glad that you could all be here. And proud… very proud… that tonight we will dedicate the first new Time Lord Candidates from among you. But the sun has only newly set a half hour ago and it is a long time to midnight, yet. So we shall begin, as we always have begun Solstice Night celebrations, with a party. There will be dancing here, as soon as I get out of the way and let the orchestra play, and there is food and drink in the other tent. So please, enjoy this night in company with each other.”

At that he, himself, bowed to the assembled people and they knelt before him once more. Then he and Christopher stepped down from the stage and the musicians took their places. He found Rose and led her onto the dance floor as a soft waltz began the evening’s music.

“So,” he said to her with a wicked smile. “We’ve definitely decided on Boris and Titania as names?”

“We have NOT,” she responded, laughing. She hugged him tightly, abandoning all formal hand holds and enjoyed his strong arms around her shoulders. The people who had knelt before him watched joyfully as their President kissed his wife so lovingly in front of them all.

“I’m too happy,” he said. “Something must go wrong, soon. It always does.”

“Not this time,” she answered him. “Everything is fine.”

He smiled happily. He looked around the marquee as he danced with her head pressed against his shoulder. He saw so many of his friends among the crowd. There was Brendan from Kerry, late of Gallifrey, with his wife, one of the women who couldn’t kneel, but who managed to dance slowly. Susan and David were dancing. So were Brenda and Davie. Christopher was sitting this one out with Jackie but they both waved joyfully. Tristie danced with his young lady, Trudi, a pleasant enough young girl who seemed just a little over-awed by this occasion. Chris wasn’t dancing. His vow of celibacy didn’t preclude him from taking a young woman out on the dance floor, but he chose not to. Davie’s apprentice, Spenser, stood beside him, dressed in style since he was one of the Candidates. He didn’t seem to want to dance, either. He watched the dancers on the floor.

Or to be exact, The Doctor noticed, he watched Brenda and Davie.

He watched Davie.

The Doctor realised that as he studied the young man’s face more closely and saw the wistful expression of one who knew that he yearned for something unattainable.

Jack Harkness, with the same yearning expression, came to mind.

Well, he thought. Davie would have to work out how to handle that situation for himself.

The informal party went on until nearly midnight. Friends and family ate and drank and danced and enjoyed themselves. Then it was time for the more serious part of the night to begin. The Doctor made his way to the marquee entrance. Christopher stood with him. Their two wives joined them, and then the Candidates. There were twenty of them in all, those he thought ready to start on the road to being Time Lords. These were the brightest and best of the fifty or so he had been teaching telepathically for over a year. The oldest of them was ninety, though looking no more than seventeen in Earth terms, being a pure-born Gallifreyan. The youngest were Vicki and Sukie.

He led them out into the cold, crisp, clear night. They went to the arena that had been set up outside, torches burning brightly and at the four corners, bonfires ready to be lit. The candidates and their mentors, the five existing Time Lords, The Doctor, Christopher, Chris and Davie and Tristie, stood waiting as the rest of the company joined them. The bonfires were lit. A drum beat filled the air. Fire jugglers took up positions between the torches and whirling, moving light cast unusual shadows inside and outside the arena. This was the bit when the landowner had probably expected something sinister to happen. But nothing did. There was nothing much more happening than the singing of the Gallifreyan National Anthem. It was led by one of the Candidates, a young girl with a sweet high voice that rose clear on the air as the drum beat and the fire jugglers kept time with her. The whole Gallifreyan race together stood proudly and listened to that tune that stirred their hearts.

When it was over, the twenty Candidates turned and looked at the dark bulk of the Hill of Tara and then formed into a crocodile of pairs. They set off to walk towards it, a torchbearer in front and every fifth pair also holding a torch aloft. Some looked back as their families waved them off. Vicki and Sukie didn’t, even though Rose and Susan stood and watched until they could not be seen any more. They walked proudly at the head of the crocodile, behind The Doctor and Christopher. Behind them, Davie walked beside Spenser, proud to be his mentor on this night. Chris walked with a young woman called Brón. Tristie accompanied a Gallifreyan man who had taken the Welsh name of Rhys when his family settled near Swansea. They walked in silence, feeling the sense of occasion. As they reached the foot of the hill and began to climb it, a great firework display lit the sky above them. While they went on this midnight pilgrimage their friends and families celebrated with bonfires and fireworks and fire juggling. They looked back and saw the arena lit up in the dark night and then they pressed on up the hill, following a path that had been marked out carefully with fluorescent flags earlier in the day. They shone in the torchlight and ensured that nobody went astray until they reached the entrance to the Hill.

“We need more mentors, really,” Davie said telepathically to his brother as they walked. “Five of us and twenty candidates. That’s four each.”

“Elementary maths, brother,” Chris responded with a laugh.

“We should have asked Ten to come. I’m sure he would have.”

“I asked,” The Doctor said, breaking into their conversation. “He said he couldn’t make it.”

“Why? What could be more important?”

“He didn’t say. Though… if I had to guess… nothing. I think he feels awkward about…”

“About mum,” Chris said, reading The Doctor’s thoughts before he had expressed them in words.

“Yes, exactly. I think he feels that meeting her after all these years would be too much.”

“I wish he’d think again,” Davie responded. “Mum would love to see him. So would we.”

“So would I,” Christopher added. “He’s… Well, he is… he’s my father just as much as you are. I would like to meet him.”

“Maybe next year,” The Doctor said, though he had a feeling that he’d be saying the same thing again. Then he gave his attention to the blank hillside before him. “Chris… you’re the one who rigged up the chameleon wall. Do you want to open it for us?”

Chris stepped forward, holding out his hand. His Ring of Eternity glowed and in front of him what looked like a solid rockface dissolved into a tunnel entrance. The torchbearer came up beside him. The Doctor felt Sukie and Vicki both sigh with relief. It had looked a dark, frightening hole. They had not quite been afraid, after all, The Doctor was there, so were Christopher and the twins, and Tristie. How could they possibly be afraid. But they were apprehensive. The torch, though, lit the entrance with a warm glow that made it seem almost inviting. They stepped forward bravely together.

The Doctor led the way down the passage, followed by Christopher and the torchbearer who lit the way for everyone else. Vicki and Sukie reached out to each other and held hands. They weren’t frightened, just completely overawed by what was happening. Here they were, walking inside a hill that had been associated with mystery and legend for millennia, and was now, unknown to the Humans who lived and worked in the area, the heart of their Gallifreyan society.

As they neared the chamber they stopped holding hands. They felt, as everyone did, a sense of power and wonder that pervaded the very air. They walked solemnly, heads held erect, proud of their glorious Time Lord costumes that they wore. The same feeling radiated from each of the candidates. Pride, excitement, anticipation of what was to come.

The Doctor felt all their thoughts at once and sifted through them, singling them out. Chris was thinking about the first time he had come to this place. He and his brother had almost been overcome by the power that was within the chamber. They had both lost sight of themselves for a little while. He was feeling that same power. But he was a Time Lord now. He had the universe itself in his head and he was at one with it all. So was his brother.

Sukie and Vicki were coping with it, too, he noted. They were the youngest, but they were the most experienced. They had travelled in the TARDIS. They had learnt about the mysteries of the universe first hand with him. They were taking it in their stride.

He felt the thoughts of the others. There was one overriding, nagging doubt for them all. What if they were rejected. What if they found within this chamber that they were not, after all, fitted to be Time Lords. They were Caretakers. Even on Gallifrey, Caretakers didn’t get to be Time Lords. Perhaps they wouldn’t be good enough.

Spenser was wondering, one last time, if he actually WANTED to be a Time Lord. In so many ways, for all the right reasons, he did. But still he remembered his father’s madness. He remembered how a Time Lord’s power had driven him to do terrible things, and he still feared to become like him.

The Doctor was about to reach out to him mentally and reassure him. But he didn’t have to. He felt Davie do it for him. Spenser responded with renewed confidence, buoyed by the words of his mentor and teacher.

It was just nerves from all of them, of course. They were ALL going to be all right. As for the concept of Oldblood, Newblood and Caretaker, that was long gone. Spenser was as good as any of the others. All he needed was a little more belief in himself. And this ceremony would give him that.

The Doctor, Christopher and the lead torchbearer stepped into the chamber first. The torchlight glanced off the elaborately ornamented walls. In the flickering light the others stepped inside and took their places in a wide circle. They surrounded the raised dais in the centre of the wide floor that looked like a cross between an altar and a funeral bier.

It had been both, of course. The body of Princess Tamar Tephi had lain there for millennia, waiting for the day when this chamber that was her tomb would have another purpose.

He and his son and the other mentors stood in the circle, too. He waited for a long, silent time until he was sure everyone was ready. Then he raised his arms up high and began to recite the Ancient Gallifreyan words of Dedication. As he did so, the torchbearers put out their torches. There was no need for them. Another light cast out strange shadows on the walls. Everyone looked up in wonder as the great, glowing latticework crystal descended. It was the Matrix, containing the wisdom of the ancients, the repository of Time Lord knowledge. Its actinic light brightened the chamber as it slowly span and descended until it was barely touching the dais. The Doctor kept talking for a long, long time. Only a few of the Candidates knew Ancient Gallifreyan, but in their hearts they all seemed to know what he was saying. He was speaking of tradition, of their links through their ancestors all the way back to Rassilon, the Creator of the Time Lord race, and of the duty and honour they all shared in being chosen to be the future of that great race. Dressed in an old leather jacket and looking like an ordinary man, The Doctor would not have used such words. He preferred plain speaking and simple truth. But here, in this place, in the regalia of his Office, as the oldest Time Lord still living, and the last link to that ancient way of life, he embraced the majesty of the archaic words and spoke them proudly.

“My Lords,” The Doctor finally declaimed in High Gallifreyan that they all understood. “Our forefathers – we acknowledge your wisdom and greatness. These Candidates present themselves to you before they embark on their long journey to Transcension. They dedicate themselves to the memory of Gallifrey, to the legacy of Rassilon.”

He crossed his hearts with his hands and bowed his head as the Matrix continued to spin slowly. There was no obvious change to it, but everyone heard the voice that replied - a voice that resounded with that ancient wisdom they all sought to live up to.

“Let the Candidates present themselves individually,” it said. “Let them show themselves worthy of that great Legacy.”

They had drawn lots earlier to decide who would do so first. A young man whose Earth name was Colin Vine stepped forward, feeling self-conscious about being the first, excited, nervous, but not unwilling. He reached out towards the Matrix, palms up, and bowed his head.

“I am Cól Vaehn, a Child of Gallifrey. I seek the wisdom of my ancestors,” he intoned as he raised his head and looked directly into the crystal.

What he saw there, he was not to tell anyone else, not even those around him who watched in fearful anticipation of their own turn. They saw his face illuminated by an even brighter light than that which illuminated the chamber itself. They saw his eyes grow bigger as he faced into it, rather than screwing up and looking away. They heard a susurration that might have been a voice. But it wasn’t speaking to them.

The light faded. Cól Vaehn, Child of Gallifrey stepped back into the circle and knelt, head bowed in honour of his ancestors. A serene smile was on his lips.

The next stepped forward. The young woman called Brón who gave her Gallifreyan surname as Origer Jasch. She, too, looked into the Matrix and felt it look back at her. She listened to the voice of her ancestors then she knelt, head bowed and smiling.

Spenser was next. The Doctor watched him carefully. So did Davie. And when he was done, they both noted with relief the same serene smile. It was not EXACTLY a test. But it felt like one and Spenser knew he had passed. He knew he had it in him to be a better man, a better Time Lord, than his father.

One by one they went forward. The Doctor felt a surge of pride when Vicki stepped forward. Pride such as he had not felt since Christopher went to be tested before the Untempered Schism in the cold and lonely, permanently frozen valley in the Mountains of Solace and Solitude. At least he was proud when he returned from it with that exact serene smile and a glazed look in his eyes. Before he had been nervous and fearful, knowing just how dangerous the Schism was and what happened to those who failed.

But there was no test here. It was a way of keeping the traditions of Gallifrey alive and showing these first privileged few what it was they were working so hard for.

Vicki stepped back and knelt as the others did. The Doctor felt her mind buzzing with wonder. What they had all seen was a little like the Schism. They had seen a glimpse of eternity, had felt all of time and space in their heads for a brief time. But it was not so traumatic. It was not an UNTEMPERED Schism. It was tempered and channelled by the ancestors whose thoughts created the matrix as a physical thing. It was safe. But it was glorious enough to inspire them all.

Sukie was the last but one, following a woman whose Gallifreyan name was Shone Drader. The Doctor watched her carefully as she went forward. Sukie was the real unknown quantity. She was a hybrid with only one heart and Human blood. Everyone else here had two hearts and Gallifreyan blood. But Sukie was a stronger telepath than any of them and had a keen intelligence. She had asked to be included. Susan and David had been nervous about it, but both felt they had to let her try. They agreed that The Doctor should give her the training she would need and they would see later if the Transcension would be possible.

“I am Susan Ámándáliá Kierinia Fiona Campbell de Lœngbærrow,” she said in High Gallifreyan. The Doctor, Christopher, and even her two brothers registered a moment’s surprise. It was the first time they had heard her full name mentioned since she started school. She had always been called by the diminutive form of Sukie. But when she was too small to fit such a long name she had been named Susan for her mother, Ámándáliá for her grandmother, Christopher’s first wife, Kierinia after her great, great, great grandmother, the long dead wife of the Lœngbærrow patriarch whose suffix to his given name was Dracœfire, and Fiona after her father’s Scots grandmother who had died long before the Dalek invasion of Earth.

“I am a Child of Gallifrey. I seek the wisdom of my ancestors,” she added after her proud name. She bowed her head then looked into the Matrix. It looked back at her. It shone brightly back and enveloped her whole body, not just her face as it had done for the others. The susurration went on for a lot longer, and everyone heard her speak out loud in reply to the voice.

“Yes, I understand. Thank you.”

She stood back as the light faded. Like the others, she knelt, but as the last Candidate, a man by name of Virgilio Caldarone, stepped forward and faced his ancestors, some kept their eyes on her, instead. And they all thought that she still slightly glowed.

The Doctor thought so, too.

“Are you all right, Sukie?” he asked her telepathically.

“Yes,” she answered. “Granddad… I spoke to my…” Even though she was a highly intelligent girl her lips moved silently as she worked out her family lineage. “My great, great grandfather.”

“You mean MY father?”

“Yes,” she answered. “He told me… that I CAN’T be a Time Lord. My body won’t stand it. But I must train with Vicki, learn everything there is to know. Because I will have my part to play. He told me I will be a teacher. I will teach the others how to be Time Lords.”

“And are you happy with that?” he asked her.

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “But… Granddad… There is something else. He gave me a message for you.”

“What is it?” The Doctor asked.

“He said there is a great storm coming.”

“My father said that?” The Doctor queried. “He gave you a message and it was either a comment about the weather or a cryptic crossword clue.”

“Yes, granddad,” she told him. “I’m sorry. I should have asked him what it meant. But I was a bit scared.”

“No need to be scared of my father. He wouldn’t hurt a hair on your head. But it’s all right, Sukie, sweetheart. You did fine. Nothing for you to worry about.”

Virgilio Caldarone had finished. The Candidates were all kneeling. So were their mentors. They all looked at The Doctor expectantly. He raised his hands and said the closing words of the ceremony in Ancient Gallifreyan. The matrix crystal rose up into the air again and its light faded. As it did so the torches sprang into flame again and lit the chamber with a more ordinary light. He nodded to the lead torchbearer and he took up his light and walked to the chamber entrance.

The Candidates all lined up behind him and began their procession back up through the tunnel to the open air. The Doctor and Christopher led the way again. They came to the tunnel entrance and when everyone was out in the open air again, savouring the sting of the bitter cold night and the sight of stars in the sky high above them Chris sealed the chameleon gate, hiding the entrance to the Time Lord chamber from any who might come this way.

The journey back was less formal and more joyful. The Candidates walked with a spring in their step, glad that the anxious moment was over, still feeling a little dazed by their experience, inspired and mentally uplifted, but in no way changed or harmed.

A new explosion of fireworks coloured the sky as their torchlights heading down the hill signalled to their friends and relatives that they were on their way back. Below the outdoor arena was still brightly lit and they knew everyone they loved and cared for would be waiting for them. If they had not been weighed down by their elaborate costumes they might have run down the hill. As it was, they walked, collecting as they went the luminous markers lest they be found by any ordinary hill walker.

It was almost six o’clock in the morning, two more hours till the Solstice dawn, by the time they marched into the arena. They were greeted joyfully by their families who had waited through the night in vigil, warmed by the bonfires and entertained by fireworks and fire juggling and anything that took their minds from the anxiety they all had about the Candidates as they went to face their ancestors.

Now everyone went to the marquee where a table was laid out with breakfast food and urns full of hot coffee and tea. Nobody had felt the cold until now. The excitement of the night had kept them warm. They weren’t hungry until now, either. But they were glad to fill plates with food and eat and drink their fill until it was time to go out again and gather on the arena. This time the torches were put out as soon as everyone was assembled, but the sky to the east was already lighter. Two drums beat slowly, in syncopation, matching the double heartbeat of the Gallifreyans who waited for the Solstice dawn on planet Earth.

The sun rose slowly in a clear sky that was still black velvet beyond the dark bulk of Tara but azure blue and pink to the east. Its rays warmed the fields of County Meath. The new sunlight fell upon the crystals that had been set up on high poles next to the torches that had burnt through the night. The light was refracted through the crystals. The people of Gallifrey found themselves surrounded by a light spectrum of glorious colour that was almost too bright to look at. They turned to each other and reached out to hold hands, blessing each other in the light of that beautiful dawn, enhanced by the clever, mathematical positioning of the crystals. They held hands, they hugged each other, some of them kissed. The Doctor, hugging his eldest son while reaching out to hold his wife’s hand and kiss his – so far – youngest son in her arms, noted that Brenda had claimed her fiancé back from Spenser, who had hugged him tightly for slightly longer than the joy of the moment warranted. He found himself again thinking of Jack Harkness and wondering where he was just now. He wished him well, anyway.

As the sun rose higher most people wandered back into the tent to get another hot drink before they went to get a bit of sleep in their temporary homes on the trailer park. The Doctor stayed, watching the dark, brooding hill soften as the sunlight caught it and made it look a green and welcoming place. He thought about what Sukie had told him.

“Granddad,” Chris stepped up beside him. “What happened in there? In the hill. I felt something. But I couldn’t reach you. The matrix blocked me. Is Sukie all right?”

“Sukie is fine. She’ll tell you all about it, I’m sure, when she’s finished telling Vicki.”

“There was something else.” This was Davie’s voice coming into his head now as his other great grandson flanked him. “What did she tell you?”

“She told me that my father told her there was a great storm coming,” he answered.

“Why would he say that?” Chris asked.

“YOU said it to me,” Davie told him. “Granddad, in the future, when we met you, when Tristie was just a little boy, you told me that there was a storm coming. You wouldn’t tell me anything more, either.”

“We never used to talk in riddles in this family,” The Doctor sighed. He looked up at the sky. “I wish I could think he meant we’re going to get wet before the morning is out. But my father wouldn’t waste time sending me weather reports. He means something is going to happen that I – that WE - need to be ready for.”

“What?” Davie asked.

“I don’t know. And I don’t care. In ten days or less I’m going to be a grandfather again. Rose is three months pregnant with twins. My daughter is going to be a Time Lord. And it’s CHRISTMAS in four days time. I am a happy man and I’m not going to let a vague portent of doom cloud my happiness. If there’s a storm coming, I’ll deal with it then. But for now, I’m GOING to be happy.

Chris and Davie understood his feelings. They agreed with him. There WAS no point in worrying when they knew so little about the ‘threat’ - if there even was one.

But Davie remembered seeing Mount Lœng House in the future, with a whole section of the roof and part of a wall repaired after some terrible damage. If THAT was the storm that was coming, then it couldn’t be dismissed forever. Sooner or later The Doctor would have to face up to it.

But for now, he was happy.