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

Vicki de Lœngbærrow wandered down to her father’s meditation room in the basement of the mansion where she was born and raised. He wasn’t meditating, but the door to the TARDIS was open. She stepped into the console room and smiled as she spotted him lying on the floor with his head under the console itself.

“Are you busy, daddy?” she asked.

“Not too busy for you,” he answered, sliding himself out of the space and closing up the panel. “Is there something you want to talk about?”

“Nothing important,” she answered. “I’m just… a bit…”

“You’ve nobody to play with today?”

“Not exactly play. I’m not a baby any more, daddy. Just... nobody is around. Mummy is out with Peter and the little ones and Jackie and Garrick are with her. Christopher is in Parliament. Sukie’s gone to see Earl with Chris and Davie. I’m left behind.”

She wasn’t sulking, just making the point that she had been left out of everyone else’s arrangements.

“You and Sukie used to do everything together. Now she has a boyfriend…”

“We still do a lot of things together,” Vicki hurriedly explained. “Everything, really. But she is a bit stuck on Earl. I’ve got Jimmy, of course. But I’m not… we’re not… He’s a friend, really. Not a boyfriend. Not a boyfriend like Sukie thinks of Earl, anyway.”

The Doctor nodded in understanding. Even he and Rose forgot much of the time that Vicki wasn’t really nearly fourteen. According to her birth certificate she was still only eight years old. Intellectually, she was far ahead of any Human teenager, but emotionally she was still eight. Boys didn’t hold the same attraction for her that they did for Sukie, who was becoming a consummate teenager.

The real age gap between the two girls was showing as it never did before.

“You’re still my little girl,” he said, reaching out to her. She sat beside him and enjoyed a father-daughter hug. “My baby. You’ll always be that, even when you are grown up and walking down the aisle to marry Jimmy.”

Vicki sighed happily and let his hug enfold her. Sukie sometimes teased her about being ‘Daddy’s girl’, but only very gently. Nobody begrudged her that special place in her father’s hearts. She felt his thoughts as his arms held her safely. He was remembering when she was born, his second chance to be a father, coming so very long after his first born son and heir, Christopher. He had been so happy that day when he held her for the very first time.

“On Gallifrey, we were very old fashioned about that sort of thing,” he said. “We were supposed to get excited about sons, not daughters. But when Susan was born, I was the proudest granddad ever. I loved her madly. And when I first held Sukie in my arms, I could have cried. She was so beautiful. But you… Vicki Katarina… you were my very own girl. They said you were a big baby… nearly nine pounds. But you felt so tiny when I held you. I was afraid my big hands would bruise you. Your mummy laughed at me and told me to give you back to her if I was going to be like that. And I did. But after that, when I got over the feeling, I loved to hold you all the time.”

“You used to tell me stories,” she said.

“I think I started doing that the very first day, when you were wide awake in your crib and your poor mummy was fast asleep. I liked telling you stories. I still would if you asked.”

“Tell me one now.”

The Doctor smiled indulgently and stood up. He set the TARDIS to dematerialise and rematerialise in temporal orbit above Earth. He opened the doors and they sat together by the threshold, looking out onto the shining blue-green planet that they called home.

“A story that you haven’t heard before? That’s a tough one. I’ve told you so many.”

Of course, what she meant was a story about his own adventures in time and space before she was born. Rose had read to her from books like Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, but when he sent her to sleep with a story it featured The Doctor and some companion or other saving Earth or some other planet, or a whole solar system from terrible villains.

He was her childhood hero, whose deeds coloured her imagination. He felt rather proud of that. All fathers ought to be heroes to their daughters, of course. But he got to be one in the most spectacular way.

“Well,” he began. “I think I know one. About me and your mother before we were married. When we travelled in the TARDIS together. And Jack,” he added. “He was with us, too.”

“Uncle Jack?” Vicki asked.

“Yes. Though if anyone had called him that, back then, I think he’d have fainted in shock.” The Doctor laughed. Vicki did, too. Then she gasped softly. She could still see Earth below them, And the moon shining brightly. But in the darkness between she saw another planet, or the shadowy outline of one, anyway. It was a thought projection that her father was producing to illustrate his story.

“Woman Wept,” he said. “So called because the one great continent as seen from space looks like a woman in a veil kneeling with her head in her hands as if in deep grief.”

“If it only looks like that from space, how did the people know to call it that when they lived on the ground?” Vicki asked. “Before they had space travel.”

The Doctor laughed softly and kissed her on the cheek.

“That’s my clever girl. Straight to the heart of the matter.”

Rose had asked the same question, too. She stood by the same TARDIS door and looked out at the view of the planet. Jack Harkness was at her side. He had brought her a cup of coffee. He had brought one for The Doctor, too. He was studiously ignoring it. Not that he didn’t want coffee, but he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted Jack Harkness making it for him.

And he didn’t want him making it for Rose. He didn’t want him standing at the TARDIS door chatting to her so freely.

He had come to that conclusion over the couple of weeks since they had picked up the Captain in wartime Britain. Not that Jack had done anything objectionable. In fact, he had been more than eager to make himself part of the TARDIS crew. He had helped with a complicated realignment of the phase coils, a job that left them both covered in old grease and blisters. While they worked, it had felt ok. They had passed each other tools and told the sort of jokes two men hard at manual labour tell. Rose had sat on the command chair listening to music on her ipod and reading a book while ignoring them both. She had laughed when she saw them both afterwards and sent them to the shower.

But later, when The Doctor had been piloting the TARDIS through the vortex and Jack was sitting next to Rose, chatting with her, it had felt different.

And watching them drink coffee while talking about the planet below felt different, too. If felt like something he didn’t want to happen.

“It’s…” he began in answer to Rose’s question.

“This planet wasn’t inhabited before space travel,” Jack explained to Rose. “The people who settled here saw it from above while they were analysing the atmosphere and the water and soil quality, and deciding it would be a good place to build colonies.”

That was exactly what The Doctor had been going to say. He felt annoyed that Jack had got in there first.

He couldn’t exactly explain why he was annoyed. After all, Rose asked the question and Jack answered it. And besides, that was ALL Jack knew about the population of Woman Wept. It was The Doctor who filled in the blanks as he programmed their landing on the planet. He told them that the species that had colonised it were called Talacci, and they were one of those species that were so numerous across the galaxies that looked just like Earth Humans, but had evolved completely separately. They were an industrious people who quickly established a thriving, prosperous community on the new planet, with a population of nearly a billion at its height.

“A billion?” Jack queried. He looked at his wristlet where a hologram of the planet below was accompanied by a stream of information. “According to this, the population is no more than ten thousand.”

“Is your information out of date, Doctor?” Rose asked.

“I was talking historically,” he replied. “The Talacci’s golden days on Woman Wept were numbered.” He closed the door and initiated the materialisation on the planet, warning both Rose and Jack to find some warm clothes.

For the Captain, that meant a big woollen RAF greatcoat that he had found in the Wardrobe, even though The Doctor was sure the TARDIS never had anything like that before. He had lost his original coat when he abandoned his Chula ship with only the clothes on his back. He seemed pleased to find something familiar in the TARDIS.

For Rose it was thick woollen tights under a knee length skirt and a cashmere hooded jumper with calf length fur lined boots.

The Doctor wore the same clothes he always wore. He stepped out of the TARDIS and hardly seemed to notice the sharp cold. It was late evening. There was a silvery moon in the sky and stars standing out sharply against a velvet blackness above. Walking under a bright full moon with a woman wasn’t something The Doctor had done for centuries, but he wanted to try it tonight. It was why he had chosen this planet. Despite its climate problems it was regarded as one of the most romantic locations in the quadrant.

“It’s a beach,” Rose said as she looked down at her feet. The ground had the texture of sand. But it was solid. And it was cold. “A frozen beach.”

Then she looked around at what she thought was some kind of glass structure and realised that a huge wave, the sort that she had only ever seen in films about surfing in California or Australia, was actually frozen just as it curled over and would have come crashing down onto the beach.

“How?” Rose asked.

The Doctor was at her side under the huge frozen wave, his hand in her gloved one. Jack was a few steps behind. He paused before answering her. He knew the exact scientific details of what had caused the sudden climate change that devastated the planet. But he knew Rose wouldn’t understand if he started to explain. And he didn’t want her to feel stupid and inadequate.

“Oh… wait…” she added before he managed to say anything. “It’s like that film, isn’t it? Day After Tomorrow… what did they call it… a superstorm…”

“Something very like that,” The Doctor answered. “Anyway, it happened instantly. Millions of the people died. Those caught out in the open. The survivors, most of them evacuated the planet. Some stayed and built enviro-domes where they regulate the temperature and grow food using hydroponic chambers.”

He pointed towards the white dome that rose up on the headland at the end of the bay. It was like a giant golf ball sliced in half and planted upside down on the land.

“Very clever stuff. But hard work. The planet can’t support more than a few thousand colonists living that way. And it’s not the happiest of communities. They live a very proscriptive life. We’re not going in there. We don’t have food ration tattoos or work permits. I just wanted to show you the beach. This is quite a phenomena… a frozen ocean. You won’t see anything like it in this sector of the galaxy.”

Rose looked up at the wave and shivered, not because she was cold, since she was well wrapped up, but because she felt deeply for the global tragedy that had occurred here. “Doctor… is this what would happen to Earth… the way people are always warning us…?”

“No,” he answered. “This happened because there was something fundamentally wrong with the ecosystem of the planet. It probably shouldn’t have been colonised in the first place. Earth… well, you’ve had enough warnings, the Human race. You know what you have to do.”

“I suppose we must make it, though,” Rose added. “After all, Jack’s from 51st century Earth…. It must be ok.”

“Jack’s from the 51st century,” The Doctor corrected her. “He never actually said he was from Earth. He hasn’t said much at all, really. He’s still too much of the mystery man for my liking.”

“Well, there’s a case of the pot calling the kettle. I don’t even know where YOU come from. You told me your planet is gone. But that’s all. You never told me its name or where it was, or what happened.”

“That’s… different…” The Doctor answered.

“Different how?”

“You… wouldn’t understand,” he responded edgily, and then hated himself for it. But questions about his home were like salt on a raw wound and he just couldn’t open up, not even to her.

“Well, how do you know it isn’t different for Jack, too?” Rose insisted.

“Because it isn’t,” he answered. “He’s… just a drifter. He’s… Rose, don’t get involved with him. I don’t mind him tagging along for a while, at least until we stop off somewhere that suits him. But you shouldn’t… He’s not…”

“He’s ok,” Rose insisted. “You just need to give him a chance.”

She let go of his hand. He didn’t try to take it back as they walked, and when she dropped back and walked with Jack instead he didn’t protest.

“Daddy,” Vicki said, interrupting his train of thought. “You were jealous of uncle Jack?”

“Yes, I was,” he admitted.


“This isn’t really like your usual bedtime stories, so far,” The Doctor said. “It’s just the grown ups acting like children. I was jealous because… I was in love with your mother. And I was afraid to tell her.” He looked at his daughter and sighed. The question was in her eyes. “Because I was nearly a thousand years old and she was just nineteen. And it felt wrong. And… that’s why Jack… He was the same species as her. She had more in common with her than me, and he knew more about women than me. I thought I could lose her to him.”

Vicki nodded as if she understood. The Doctor wondered if she did. She knew, of course, that he won in the end. He married Rose. She was the product of that marriage. She knew Jack Harkness as a family friend who she had learnt to call ‘Uncle Jack’. And she knew there was no jealousy between them now.

But on the day they visited Women Wept The Doctor hadn’t come to realise just how much of a friend Jack could come to be. He still thought of him as somebody not quite trustworthy who was becoming an inconvenience.

He had lost the mood, of course. Rose was cross with him. They cut the beach walk short and went back to the TARDIS. Rose declared herself tired and cleared off to bed, leaving the men in the console room. Jack shrugged and without a word went back outside. The Doctor contemplated hitting the drive control and dematerialising the TARDIS, leaving him behind. But he knew Rose would be even more angry than she was already if they abandoned Jack in such an inhospitable place.

He sighed and stepped outside, too. He saw Jack walking purposefully across the beach and up towards the enviro-dome. He followed him. He wasn’t sure why he was following him, not exactly. It occurred to him that the two of them ought to talk. They certainly had some things to talk about.

Then he noticed where Jack was going and he called out to him to stop. Jack was in no mood to listen to him and kept on going. The Doctor began to run to catch up with him, cursing him under his breath because he knew Jack was walking into trouble and he was going to have to pull him out of it.

“This is weird,” Jack commented as he looked around the huge hydroponic chamber that he entered through an airlock door. “I was expecting some kind of… I don’t know… something a bit more sociable. A bar, maybe…”

“This is a place where people live by the skin of their teeth, on the very edge of annihilation. They don’t have bars. They don’t have shopping malls. They use seventy-five percent of the habitat for food production and that’s barely enough to keep them alive. And we shouldn’t be in here. This is a restricted zone.”

“What do you mean, restricted?” Jack asked. “If it’s restricted, why was the door unlocked?”

“Because they don’t expect anyone to break the law. Because the penalty for doing so is severe. Interfering with food is…”

The Doctor’s words were drowned by a klaxon sound accompanied by flashing lights and the chamber filled with armed guards. Jack didn’t hear what he said to him next. If he did, he might not have known that it was a Low Gallifreyan swear word. He uttered an ordinary fifty-first century Human one as he raised his hands in surrender.

The klaxon stopped as abruptly as it began, and The Doctor and Jack heard the guard captain clearly as he pronounced them guilty of trespass in a hydroponic chamber and attempting to interfere with food production.

Jack tried to protest that they hadn’t touched the food. He was jabbed in the neck with a hand held device that caused immediate and excruciating pain. Convicted prisoners were, he was told, allowed no appeal. Sentence would be carried out immediately.

Vicki looked at her father with a worried expression. Of course, there had to be a happy resolution to this story. After all, he was sitting there with her right now. But it didn’t sound like there was one.

“I know,” The Doctor said. “It’s a very strange kind of justice. It’s not at all fair. We were in big trouble.”

Jack had learnt his lesson. He didn’t even ask what the sentence was. He let himself be marched at gunpoint out of the hydroponic chamber. The Doctor walked at his side and said nothing.

He still said nothing when they stopped beside what was obviously a transmat portal and the charge and guilty verdict was repeated.

“The sentence is death by exposure,” the guard captain said and nodded curtly. They were pushed into the portal and the door closed. Jack swore loudly. The Doctor swore under his breath. Their bodies shimmered momentarily before disappearing.

The Doctor woke face down in a snow drift. He groaned and tried to stand up. He managed to get to his feet and swayed sickly for a moment or two before he looked around and saw Jack Harkness lying in an even more awkward position. He was groaning loudly.

“Stop complaining,” he said to him. “You’re alive.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“I’m sure. Time Lord’s don’t have any concept of afterlife. And if we did, I doubt you and I would be destined for the same place. We’re alive. Which is more than I expected. I was half sure they were going to reconstitute our molecules as compost.”

“Feels like they have!” Jack complained as he struggled to his feet. “Damn, I hate transmats. Where the hell are we, anyway?”

“We’re in what is popularly known as ‘The middle of nowhere,” The Doctor replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “I’m glad they didn’t bother to frisk us before they abandoned us to the elements.” He held the sonic upright and looked at the readout. “We’re twenty-five miles from the TARDIS – that way. Basically frozen tundra. Most of the continent is tundra. The transmat must only have a very short range. They could have stuck us five hundred miles away.”

“Twenty five miles… long walk,” Jack acknowledged. “But… not impossible. I’ve walked further.”

“Me too. But not at night on a planet where the temperature plummets to minus fifty,” The Doctor responded. “We are meant to die before we get back to safety.”

“Minus fifty centigrade?” Jack shook his head. “There’s no meant about it. We’re dead.”

“You, maybe,” The Doctor replied. “You’re Human. I’m a Time Lord. I’ve got greater stamina, better respiration system, and the ability to regulate my own body temperature.”

He turned away deliberately and started to walk away. Snow crunched beneath his boots. Jack Harkness followed him quickly.

“You don’t mean that,” he said. “You don’t mean to leave me to die…”

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t. You’re the one who went barging into a restricted area without looking. You got us both into this.”

“You didn’t have to follow me.”

“I was trying to get you out of there.”

“Rose,” Jack said.

“What about her?”

“She’s one reason not to abandon me. She likes me. She’ll be upset.”

“She doesn’t like you THAT much. Don’t kid yourself. She’s… you stay away from her.”

“I’ve not gone near her,” Jack replied. “At least, not like that. She’s a nice girl. We’re friends.”

“I know your idea of friends.”

“And what’s your idea, Doctor? You keep that girl hanging on, but you never make a move. You treat her like part of the furniture.”

“Rose is… special to me,” The Doctor replied. “And until you came along, we were doing fine.”

“So how come you’re so scared that she might like me more?”

“She doesn’t like you more. You just… dazzle her with your toothpaste advert smile and your smooth talk. She’s an impressionable girl, and you’ve taken advantage of that.”

“And what if I have? You don’t have any claim over her.”

“She’s my responsibility. And I’m not going to let a drifter… a petty criminal like you… to… to play with her affections and then… let her down.”

“What makes you think I’d let her down?” Jack demanded. “Have you considered that I might genuinely care for her?”


“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” Jack replied. “Because I do.”

“Not as much as I do,” The Doctor insisted. “Anyway, what kind of life do you think you can give her? Tagging along with you, helping you pull your scams.”

“No,” Jack insisted. “I’m not… I’m done with that life. I don’t want to… I’m trying to go straight, ok.”

The Doctor’s smile suggested that Gallifreyans, for all their stoicism, knew what an innuendo was.

“Well, maybe not that straight,” he added. “But…”

“So you think you can get an honest job in order to impress Rose?”

“No,” Jack replied immediately. “To impress you.”

The Doctor said nothing. He just kept on walking on the hard packed ground, looking occasionally at his sonic screwdriver to be sure he was still going in the right direction.

“I don’t know why… but your opinion of me matters. I know what you think of me. You’re right. Drifter… criminal. I object to the petty bit, by the way. I’ve been quite an exceptional criminal in my time. And… yes, you’re right. I’ve played with the affections of women… and men… I’ve used them… in that way. But that’s not what I’m doing now… with either Rose or you. I’m… serious. I want to change. I want… you to see me as something more than that. If you’ll give me a chance.”

The Doctor stopped walking and looked at Jack, surprised by his emotional outburst.

“Are you crying?” he asked.


“Bad idea in this temperature. Any moisture freezes. Have you noticed we can’t even see our breath in front of our faces. It’s too cold for that, even. The water molecules that condense into mist in ordinary cold weather are freezing instantly and falling away.”

Jack brushed his face with his hand and then pushed up his sleeve to look at his Time Agent’s wristlet. The temperature reading shocked him.

“It’s dropped ten degrees since we started walking.”

“It’ll drop more, soon.”

“We’re in trouble. At least… I am. Like you said before, you’re a Time Lord. You can survive.”

“Jack!” The Doctor reached out and touched him on the shoulder. Jack flinched slightly. “Jack… do you really think I would let you die? Even if I did think you were competition for Rose’s affections… which you’re not… Even if I thought you were in my way… Do you really think I’d do that? Is that the kind of man you think I am?”

“You… No. I don’t… you saved my life… you got me off my ship before that bomb blew… I thought I could trust you. But… you said…”

“Never mind what I said, Jack. Sometimes I say stupid things. But there’s no way I’m going to let you die. Not while I have breath in my body. We’re both going to get through this. I promise you.”

For a moment, Jack said nothing. The two men looked at each other. Sapphire blue eyes met slate grey ones and though one had no psychic abilities at all, something more than all the bitter words they had exchanged passed between them.

“I believe you,” Jack said. “I believe you’ll try. But… the fact still remains… we’re out here, in the open. We’ve only gone a mile, two at the most, so far. We’re not going to make it.”

“Yes, we are. Jack… hold my hand.”

The Doctor reached out to him. Jack looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“You’re the one who said there’s a time and a place…”

“Yes, and the time right now is for some Time Lord trickery. Hold my hand and I can do something to protect us both from the cold and give us a fighting chance.”

Jack reached out. The Doctor grasped his hand. Jack gasped as he felt a warmth flow through his half-frozen body.

“What did you do?” he asked.

“Heat transfer,” The Doctor replied. “Simple osmosis. Come on. Keep moving. Don’t waste it. I can do that again in another half hour. Once my own body has generated enough heat to share.”

“Ok,” Jack said. “Well, let’s use the half hour. We should be able to make up some mileage if we don’t talk. We’re not laden with supplies or equipment. We ought to be able to make four, five miles an hour forced march speed.”

The Doctor was impressed by that. It proved that ‘Captain’ Harkness did have some real knowledge of military discipline. Five miles per hour was the optimum speed of a Humanoid military force making best time.

A Time Lord could move faster. But not when he was keeping pace with a Human. And he meant what he said. He would never leave Jack, he would never leave anyone behind if he could help it. He matched Jack’s best speed and used the reserve energy he had within his superior body to heat his blood and give himself the strength to warm Jack when his body temperature dropped to a dangerous level again.

He did that every half hour as they pressed on. They made good time. But the temperature was continuing to drop worryingly.

“It’s two o’clock in the morning, local time,” The Doctor said when they briefly rested. “In the next hour it will reach the very coldest part of the night. After that, it will get a bit better. Dawn is six-thirty. By then we should be down onto the lower plain and only a few miles from the TARDIS.”

“So if we get through the next hour, we might make it?”

“There’s reason to hope.”

“Good enough for me.”

They pressed on again. Jack watched the temperature even more closely than ever. The Doctor watched Jack more closely. They were fast approaching what was the very limit of Human endurance. And those limits were set by men wearing clothes specially designed for polar exploration. Jack’s greatcoat was warm, and he had a scarf and gloves to go with it. But they were no protection against real extremes of weather like this.

For that matter, a woolly jumper, jeans and a leather jacket were no protection against anything. A Human dressed as he was would have been dead two hours ago. He was feeling the cold even though his body was able to fight it. It was getting harder even for him to keep up the pace.

And it started snowing. Lightly at first, but soon so hard that they couldn’t see where they were going. Only the sonic screwdriver’s compass mode kept them on the right track, and it was a track that was getting increasingly hard to follow.

“We’ve got to stop,” The Doctor said.

“What? But… we can’t. If we stop now, we’ll die.”

“We’ll die anyway if the temperature drops another four degrees. Jack, come closer to me.”

Jack didn’t argue about it. He thought The Doctor was just going to do the warming thing again. He was surprised when he embraced him, pressing him so close that he could actually hear his two hearts beating in syncopation and smell the leather of his jacket, the faintest aroma of Time Lord sweat infused in the lining.

But he wasn’t cold. Jack looked around and gasped. The snow was no longer touching them. It was falling all around an invisible bubble that encompassed them both.

“Doc?” There was no answer. Jack looked at The Doctor and saw that his eyes were open but not focussed on anything. His hearts were beating just as fast as before, and he was breathing. But he didn’t blink, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to speak.

Jack forced himself not to tremble in awe and just a little fright. He knew that Time Lords were capable of some incredible things, but creating a mental shield around the two of them was possibly the most incredible, yet.

“You’re really something, Doc,” he whispered. “I’m so glad I met you.”

“Daddy…” Vicki interrupted. “How do you know what Jack said when you were making the shield work?”

“Because I could still hear him even though I was putting so much of my energy into maintaining the shield that I couldn’t speak to him. I heard everything he said. Most of it, I don’t think he would have said if he thought I would hear it. And… most of it was deeply personal. He said some things that he wouldn’t want anyone else to know about.”

Vicki didn’t say anything at all about that, but of course she was curious.

“He talked about Boeshane, about the things that happened there, when he was just a boy. He forgot what I said about not crying. He dried his eyes afterwards, but for a little while he dropped all pretence, all of the emotional armour he had put on over the years, and somebody very vulnerable slipped out briefly.”

“You see, Doc,” he had said. “We’re not so different after all. I understand you better than you think. I may not be the last of my kind… but I’ve felt like I was. Until I met you and Rose and for the first time in years, I felt I belonged somewhere. I belonged with the two of you, in the TARDIS. And… well, it’s a funny definition, even for the fifty-first century, but you felt like a family. The first one I’ve had since I was a kid.”

He stopped talking then. There was a long silence. Then he felt The Doctor move slightly. He breathed a little more deeply.


“Don’t call me Doc, young man,” The Doctor replied in a voice that had a different accent and a whole different cadence to it. Then he felt the snow fall on him again and the cold surrounded him. The shield was broken. The Doctor stepped back from him. Jack felt a little sorry for that.

“And yes, I did know what he was feeling,” The Doctor told his daughter before she questioned it. “Holding him that close while I was using that much psychic energy, reading his mind was a very interesting little side effect. I felt how disappointed he was that I stopped hugging him.”

“Poor Jack,” Vicki said with a smile. The Doctor hugged her warmly and thought again about that cold, dark night.

“The snow is easing off and the temperature is coming back up slightly,” he said to Jack. “We should get moving again.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.

“You’ve got to be pretty tired by now,” The Doctor added as they started walking again, picking up the optimum speed. “But try to fight it. Sleeping is the worst possible thing you could do in this weather. You’d freeze for certain.”

“Yeah, Doc, I know,” Jack told him. “I’ve done survival training.”

“And don’t call me Doc.”

“You’re bloody touchy about that,” Jack pointed out.

“I’m not ‘Doc’,” he insisted. “I’m The Doctor.”

“Ok, chill. Well, don’t chill. But… you know what I mean. I’ll call you anything you want me to call you if we can just get back to the TARDIS and get a pot of hot coffee.”

“Keep thinking about that coffee,” The Doctor told him. “Focus on getting there. And we will.”

They talked as they marched. Not about anything important. No more soul searching, just small talk that kept Jack awake. The Doctor knew he was fighting fatigue now. He was fighting it well, too. His instinct to survive kept him going.

But he was reaching the limit, now. His responses to the small talk were starting to get vaguer and more disjointed. He was falling asleep on his feet. And he couldn’t do that. It was still dark. They were still many miles from the safety of the TARDIS.

“Jack!” The Doctor reached out and caught him before he hit the ground. He touched his face and assured himself that Jack had just fainted out of exhaustion. It was nothing more serious than that.

Then he lifted him over his shoulder and walked on as fast as he could. He was tired, too. His muscles ached, and bearing the weight of a full grown man didn’t help. But he kept on moving.

At least he had a couple of Time Lord tricks up his sleeve. Transferring body heat and creating a shield against the elements were both elementary, if mentally exhausting. This was harder, but it was the only way he could make up time with an unconscious Jack slowing him down.

He closed his eyes and looked time square in the face. Time looked back at him and acknowledged him as its master. That was how he had been taught to regard the ability to manipulate the time around himself. It was a tiny bit pretentious and surprisingly fanciful for the teachers of the Prydonian Academy, but apart from the implied personification of Time it was accurate.

Around him, time slowed. The snow eased and even the wind felt less acute as he covered far more ground than he should have been able to cover in the five minutes he was able to keep the time fold going. He had to let it collapse after that long or risk the Laws of Physics rising up in front of him like a very painful brick wall.

He walked on in normal time until he felt able to fold time again. After he had repeated the process three more times he took his bearings and noted that they had gained back the miles lost when they were forced to stop. He checked to make sure Jack was still only sleeping and warmed him before moving on again.

He was coming out of the time fold again when he felt Jack stir. He let him down on his own two feet and held him steady.

“I was dreaming,” he said. “About… flying… Thought I was dying… going to meet the angels!”

“Highly unlikely in your case,” The Doctor replied shortly. “Can you keep going under your own steam for a while? Carrying you is hard work.”

Jack said he could manage. The rest had done him good. Eight hours in a warm bed would do him a lot better, but he had his second wind. He managed to get up to something like the speed they had managed when they were both fresh. They kept going. They kept up the small talk that made the journey a little easier to bear. The long night slowly turned.

“Is that dawn?” Jack pointed towards the horizon where a paler sky and a thin line of daylight could be seen.

“Nearly,” The Doctor answered. “We’ve got another ten miles to go. Two more hours.”

They were five miles from the TARDIS when the sun rose. Despite their exhaustion, despite being cold, and by now hungry, too, they stopped to watch. When the sun that barely warmed Woman Wept spread its rays of light over the frozen land three hearts felt uplifted by the sight.

“Always liked sunrises,” The Doctor said as they set off once again. “Sunsets, too. But there is something about a sunrise… the start of a new day.”

“Since we weren’t meant to see this one at all, I’m appreciating it more than I expected,” Jack replied. “We’re going to make it now, aren’t we? The temperature is rising. We’re over the worst.”

“More to the point, we’ll make it without Rose finding out,” The Doctor pointed out.

“You mean…”

“I don’t know about you,” he added. “But I think I’d rather have her think we’ve been on a lad’s night out, stayed in the pub too long and took our time coming home. She’ll call us some choice names, but I’d rather she didn’t know we were condemned to death, wouldn’t you?”

“Good point.”

They kept walking. They could see the frozen ocean now, though not the beach where they had left the TARDIS. That was obscured by the dome of the habitat where their problems had started.

“Are we going to have trouble when we reach that place?” Jack asked. “What if they grab us and dump us back in the wilderness?”

“I was wondering the same thing,” The Doctor admitted. “I am assuming the guards have changed shifts by now. They won’t recognise us just walking along like a couple of demented early morning fresh air freaks. Even if the same guards are around, they probably wouldn’t recognise us. They expect us to be frozen lumps under a snow drift. We weren’t meant to make it this far.” He paused and looked at the glittering white roof of the habitat. “All the same, I might try another bit of Time Lord trickery on the last stretch.”

Jack didn’t know what he meant by that. The Doctor didn’t enlighten him. But as they came down towards the Habitat, he adjusted his sonic screwdriver and held it up like the handle of an umbrella. Jack wondered if he was creating another shield, but there didn’t seem to be any difference in the air around them.

“I’ve created a short range perception filter around us. We’re invisible to any casual observer. It’ll get us past the Habitat and then down onto the beach. After that, once we’re in sight of the TARDIS, if we have to, we can run for it.”

“Clever,” Jack agreed. He paused for a while and then spoke again. “Doc… Doctor… about Rose… you know I COULD seduce her away from you, don’t you? It… wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like that just because I can.”

“I…” The Doctor shook his head and said nothing. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

“In the past… I haven’t cared about the damage I’ve done to people. But… I think if I did that to the two of you… I think I’d feel guilty for a very long time. It would be wrong for me to come between the two of you… whether I tried to seduce Rose away from you… or seduce you away from Rose… and both ideas have crossed my mind…”

The Doctor smiled despite himself. Jack’s blue eyes glinted.

“I’m steering clear of you both, ok. In… that sense, at least. I hope I can be friends with you… for as long as you’ll have me.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything. But the expression in his eyes spoke volumes. Jack’s smile widened as they stepped onto the frozen beach. The TARDIS was only a few hundred yards away. They were almost there.

“Let’s warm ourselves up with a bit of a sprint,” Jack said as The Doctor put the sonic screwdriver into his pocket. They broke into a run, keeping pace with each other. It wasn’t a race. They weren’t trying to outdo each other.

As they came close to the TARDIS, the door opened. Rose stood on the threshold with her arms folded and a look on her face that uncomfortably reminded The Doctor of her mother – especially that time when she floored him with a right hook.

“We’re in trouble,” he said to Jack. He put on his brightest and most disarming smile to Rose as she stepped aside and let them into the welcome warmth of the TARDIS.

“Where the bloody hell have you been?” she began as The Doctor closed the door and went to the console. “I woke up… and neither of you were here…”

“We went for a walk to watch the sun come up,” Jack said.

“The sun come up…” Rose looked at them both suspiciously. “The two of you? Did you hold hands? Was it a big romantic moment for you?”

“You were fast asleep, or we’d have asked you to join us,” The Doctor added. “Anyway, as sunrises go, it was pretty average. I think we’ve seen the best this planet has to offer. I’ve seen enough snow to last me a lifetime, anyway. How about a continental breakfast on the veranda of a beachfront café on the Côte d'Azur? We can be there in half an hour. Just long enough to get out of the winter woollies and into something Mediterranean.”

“Good enough for me,” Rose answered. “Just as long as we go straight there and don’t get lost in the Horsehead nebula or something. I’m hungry.”

Vicki looked meaningfully at her father.

“No,” he said. “Your mother never found out the truth. I haven’t got very many secrets from her. In fact, that’s probably the only one.”

“And you weren’t jealous of uncle Jack after that?”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he admitted. “Sometimes… He is a very handsome man. I’m… not. He’s naturally charming. I had to work hard at it. Sometimes I did feel a twinge of envy. But I think it was then that I really became friends with Jack. I saved his life that night. He repaid the debt a dozen times over, since. He’s… the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“Sukie is my best friend,” Vicki said. “And… sometimes I DO get jealous. When she’s away with Earl… when she’s writing to him and telling him things that she doesn’t tell me. I do feel a bit… sometimes a lot…”

“Maybe… that’s why I wanted to share this story with you. So you know that even adults can be silly that way, sometimes. But… when you do feel hot and angry and hurt because it looks like Sukie doesn’t have time for you any more, just remember she’s your best friend and she always will be, for as long as you both live. And when she’s back from her adventure with Earl she’ll tell you all about it while you’re cleaning the bear pens or sitting up at night in your pyjamas eating jelly babies together. And you’ll forget those feelings.”

“Yes,” Vicki agreed. “Yes, I will.”

“Meanwhile, there’s a big old world down there. Why don’t you and me go find a fun bit of it to spend an afternoon in. Then you’ll have something to tell Sukie when she’s finished talking about her day out with Earl.”

“Oh, yes, please,” she answered with a big smile. Because she was still her daddy’s girl, after all.