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

“Rose… Rose, please wake up!” The Doctor grasped his wife’s hand and willed her to open her eyes. She had been unconscious for six hours now and the slight moan she had given a few moments ago were the first sign that she might be recovering. “Rose….”

“Whaaa….” She murmured incoherently. “Mum?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” The Doctor replied. “There’s just me, The Doctor.”

Her eyes opened wide and she stared at him in shock.



She looked around the TARDIS medical room and saw the advanced technology of the whole body scanner with its array of lights and dials, and the water-free ion hand sanitizer, as well as the perfectly ordinary basin with taps and soap dispenser that The Doctor preferred for washing his hands before medical procedures.

“Am I in a hospital? You don’t look like a doctor. You don’t sound like one, either. What’s happening? Is my mum here?”

“Rose, it’s me, The Doctor. You’re in the TARDIS. You’re safe.”

“Ta… I don’t understand. Who are you? Where am I? Where’s my MUM?”

“Rose….” The Doctor reached out and touched her forehead gently – or he tried to. She flinched away from him. He tried again and succeeded in applying his cool hand to her hot forehead. He drew off some of the heat as well as the anxiety that was stopping her from hearing his explanation of what had happened.

“What happened to me?” she asked before he had chance to explain anything. “My head feels like… like…. It hurts.”

“That’s because you fell, sweetheart,” The Doctor told her. “You fell a long way, very badly. I was worried. The bones mended, but I couldn’t wake you.”

“Yes, but… Fell from where? What do you mean the bones mended. Bones don’t just mend. Besides, I don’t remember anything. The only thing I ever fell off was… the climbing frame in the park when I was six.”

She was calming down now, but it was clear that her memory was affected. Just how much or if it was permanent, he couldn’t yet tell. Even the scanner couldn’t fathom the depths of the Human mind. It told him there was no physical brain damage, but memories could damage themselves.

“What do you remember?” he asked. “The last thing you remember doing?”

“Going to work, at Henricks,” she answered. “It’s a boring job, but the pay isn’t bad, and I don’t have to wear a pinny. My mate Shireen works in a pie and chip shop. All her work clothes smell of cheese and fried spuds.”

“Henricks? The Doctor’s two hearts sank with dismay. “That’s all you remember?”

“What else is there?”

What indeed? The Doctor tried another line of questioning.

“Rose… how old are you?”

“Nineteen, well, nearly. In a month’s time.”


He paused. How was he supposed to explain that it was nearly fifteen years since she worked at Henricks.

If she couldn’t remember anything since, then she couldn’t remember him. She couldn’t remember what they meant to each other or any of the momentous adventures they had gone through before and since they were married.

“Rose, you’re suffering from some memory loss,” he told her gently. “You don’t work for Henricks any more. In fact… Henricks closed after the fire on the top floor. There’s a cut price cosmetics shop on the ground floor, now, but you don’t work there. You don’t need to work anywhere.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because….” He took a deep breath and hoped she could cope with the news he HAD to break to her before anything else. He grasped her left hand. She wasn’t wearing her wedding ring because he had removed her jewellery before operating the scanner. But the deep mark where she had worn it for many years now was unmistakeable.

“Rose… we’re married. I’m your husband.” He showed her the mark and she understood what that meant. She had long ago stopped wearing the cheap, thin fashion rings on every finger of both hands and instead had the two that mattered the most to any woman.

“Then why did you say you were the Doctor?” she asked logically. She didn’t pull her hand away, though. She let him continue to hold it. Which of them took the most comfort from that, he wasn’t entirely sure. He felt he wanted to cling onto her for as long as she would let him.

“I am The Doctor,” he said. “That’s what you have always called me. There IS an explanation, but this isn’t the time to go into it. Rose, you really don’t remember anything of us? You don’t remember how much we love each other?”

“No.” Her answer cut him to the bone, the more so because she didn’t know that it did. “No, I don’t remember that. I can’t…. Besides, you look so old. How did we… you’re not the sort of bloke I usually date.”

“That’s for sure,” he answered. “I’ve MET some of your old boyfriends. I’m a much better choice than any of them, believe me.”

She laughed. That was something.

“Not short of confidence, are you?” she said with something of her old self in the tone.

“No, I’m not. Like I said, I’ve MET your old boyfriends. No contest.”

“You could be lying. This could be some sort of weird trick.”

“Why would I want to trick you into believing a thing like that? Don’t you feel anything? Not a single stirring of… I don’t know… the RIGHTNESS of it all… of you and me… together?”

“No,” she said, though she gave it some thought, first. “No, I can’t.”

It hurt him. He couldn’t disguise it. Tears pricked his eyes as he grasped her hand more tightly than before.

She reached out her other hand to brush away the tears.

“Ok, I believe you,” she told him. “But I still can’t remember. And that’s going to be a problem, isn’t it?”

“Not for me,” The Doctor assured her. “I’ll always love you, Rose.”

But loving somebody who didn’t know how to love him back WAS a problem. There was no getting away from it. If this wasn’t very temporary, then they had a huge problem to overcome.

“I feel all right apart from not remembering. Do I have to stay here?” she asked. “This room is… if it isn’t a hospital, it’s way too hospitally.”

“No, you don’t have to stay here. There’s nothing more to do. In fact it might be better if I took you somewhere familiar. It might help you remember.”

“Why can’t we go home?”

“We’re not expected until tomorrow. If we turn up early your mum will freak out and think something bad happened.”

“Something bad has happened.”

“Yes, and if I can sort it out before she finds out it will save a lot of words. You know what your mum is like. That much hasn’t changed.”

She agreed with him about that.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “We could go and get something to eat. Not chips – or pies.”

“Yes,” she answered. “Yes, I’m hungry. I’d better get dressed if you want to go anywhere posher than the pie and chip shop, though.”

“I’ll take you to the bedroom,” he said. “You can choose an outfit from your wardrobe.”

She was still wearing the slacks and t-shirt she had been wearing for their picnic on the cliffs of Androga III. She put her feet into a pair of flip flops that he found in a cupboard rather than the strong walking boots he had taken off her when he carried her into the medical room. She walked in the noisy plastic shoes through the metal walled corridors of the TARDIS that she had learnt to take for granted long ago.

“Is this a ship?” she asked. “We’re on a ship?”

“Sort of,” The Doctor answered. “I’ll explain later.”

They came to the bedroom where they slept when they travelled in the TARDIS. It was the room they had first slept in as man and wife as he took her on a honeymoon in time and space.

Or it used to be. He was startled to see that the room had remodelled itself as the pink teenager’s room from the flat where she lived with her mother before he came into her life. She looked around it with puzzled eyes, not because it was unfamiliar, but because it was all TOO familiar.

“How come I have a room on this ship EXACTLY like the one at home?”

“That’s a very good question. The TARDIS is reading your mind as it is now. This is your bedroom as you think it should look.”

A bedroom that he had no place in. Even the TARDIS was kicking him in the proverbial now.

Look… don’t worry about it. Go and get changed. The bathroom should be through that door over there. And the wardrobe….”

“Ok. You scram off out of here, then. You’re not WATCHING.”

He had watched her dress and undress many times in the course of their marriage, but she was thinking like an eighteen year old who wasn’t quite sure that he wasn’t a forty-something perv.

He waited outside in the corridor until she emerged wearing a red cocktail dress with matching shoes and earrings and her hair done up with a feathery fascinator.

“That looks fantastic on you,” he told her.

“Thanks. It’s… It was in the wardrobe. I suppose it must be mine and it is gorgeous. It’s the sort of dress they sell in Henricks, but I could never afford one even with the staff discount.”

It came from a far more select boutique than Henricks in the fashion boulevards of Milan, but The Doctor decided not to mention that just now. He took her by the hand and she allowed him to guide her to the console room. She sat on the old command chair and watched in wonder as he programmed their journey.

“I’d better go and change, too,” he said. “This place has a dress code. Will you be all right for five minutes?”

He wasn’t sure where HIS clothes were since the bedroom had been remodelled, but there was always the Wardrobe with the capital ‘W’ that never failed to have the right thing.

For the best part of the first three years he knew her, he hardly wore anything other than the battered leather jacket ensemble. He was her bit of rough with a northern accent, an Everyman who could fit in anywhere.

That was still his preferred choice of outfit, but he had others. He dressed, now, in a silk shirt and black Armani suit, an up market version of the leather jacket man. Quite apart from the dress code, he felt he wanted to impress Rose with his ability to look… well, impressive.

She was impressed.

“Maybe there’s something to be said for older men,” she remarked. “Mickey never looked that good in a suit.”

He kept his thoughts about Mickey Smith to himself. It hadn’t escaped his mind that she might actually have stronger feelings for him right now, with her memory regressed to her teen years.

Then she frowned, and shivered. She looked around the console room with frightened eyes.

“Something… came back to me… just for a moment. There was a bright light in here… and something about… a Bad Wolf.”

She shook her head. The fleeting fragment of memory was gone.

“Weird,” she concluded.

“It’s a good sign,” The Doctor assured her. “It’s all still in there somewhere, just lost for the time being.”

“So it might all come back to me any minute?”


“If it turns out you’re lying about us being married you’ll be for it when I do remember, then.”

“I’ll take that chance. Come on. Let’s go. We’ve arrived.”

“We’re in a port?” Rose asked. “We’ve docked?”

“Not exactly,” The Doctor replied. He took her by the hand again and opened the TARDIS door. They stepped out into a warm summer twilight in Rome.

Specifically, they were in the Piazza Navona where the Fountain of the Four Rivers was subtly uplit at night. Somewhere nearby there was a busker playing an accordion and singing an old Italian love song – a detail The Doctor couldn’t have contrived if he had planned it.

The TARDIS was parked next to the fountain. Rose turned and looked at it curiously. She walked slowly around the box and then pressed her hand against it, noting the vibration.

“You’re going to tell me there’s an explanation for this, too, aren't you,” she said.

“Yes. But right now, I just want to know if it feels familiar to you in any way.”

“For a moment… when I touched it… I thought it was. But it’s gone again.”

“Never mind. Come on. Our favourite table at our favourite restaurant awaits.”

“We have a favourite restaurant? We have a favourite table?”

They most certainly did. They were met by the manager himself who escorted them to their table on the quieter, more exclusive mezzanine floor with a balcony view of the piazza and that glorious fountain.

“Did he just call you ‘lord’?” Rose asked when they were left alone with the menu.

“Actually he called me Signore, which is the polite Italian greeting to a man, generally.”

“Yes, but that’s not what I heard,” Rose answered him. “And his tone was so… deferential. And… when did I ever use a word like ‘deferential’ and since when did I understand Italian?”

“More long stories,” The Doctor replied. There was a pause while he ordered for both of them. He chose her favourite antipasti – fresh pear and rocket salad with dolcelatte. She looked puzzled by the idea of fruit and salad with cheese on the same plate and she struggled with the salad fork at first. All these things that she had learnt during her time with him were gone, along with the more important memories of their life together.

“Rose,” he told her. “You’re not eighteen and working in a shop. As my wife….”

“The waiter called me Gentildonna when he brought the food. That’s the word Italians use for a titled woman. He thinks I’m….”

“Something more than a girl from a council estate, and you are. That’s why your vocabulary is wider than it used to be.”

“Just how old am I?” she asked. “I looked in the mirror in the bedroom, and I looked just the same as ever. Well, almost maybe a bit older. But you’re telling me we’ve been married for ages.”

She was thirty, but he didn’t want to tell her that. It didn’t matter. She still looked like twenty. But thirty was the sort of age humans made a lot out of.

“Do we have children?” she asked, passing over that question.

“Yes, we do,” The Doctor answered her.

“I don’t remember them, either. Not even what they are – boys or girls.”

That worried her. The Doctor reached out and touched her hand gently. She let him do so.

“This isn’t all a joke, is it?” she asked. “I mean… surely I would remember my own children.”

“It will come back… At least I hope it will.”

“You’re not sure. Not much of a doctor, are you?”

She was joking with him, just as she always did, the cheeky cockney chirpiness that he loved. But it covered up a frustration and a sadness he couldn’t do anything about.

“Our children are beautiful. Vicki is becoming more like you every day. Peter is so brave and clever.”

“Peter? We named our son after my dad?”

“Yes, we did.”

“I think I believe it, now. I never got as far as thinking about what I would call my children if I had any, but Peter… yes, that’s right. I suppose Vicki must have been your idea?”

“Yes.” He wondered if he ought to mention Jack and Julia and Sarah Jane, but it was hard enough for her dealing with being a mother, without being the mother of five children.

He poured wine and ordered the second course, escalope of salmon with fresh lemon-peppercorn sauce served with Lyonnaise potatoes and fine beans. Again the cutlery puzzled her and he had to show her the proper use of the fish fork. She seemed to get it, but then, part way through eating she stopped, her fork half way to her mouth.

“I remembered something,” she said. Her hands shook and she put the fork down quickly in case she spilled food in a posh Italian restaurant – actually IN Italy.

“What?” The Doctor asked.

“Something gross. Big, green, smelly, with huge eyes…. It exploded… everywhere… like… old cabbage.”

“A Slitheen,” The Doctor told her. “From Raxacoricofallipatorius.”

She laughed. It was difficult not to. Raxacoricofallipatorius was the sort of ridiculous word that went in nursery rhymes, not a catalogue of murder and mayhem.

“Try not to let them put you off your food,” he said. “But that proves your memory isn’t permanently damaged. If you can remember Slitheen, perhaps you can remember me, next.”

“Shouldn’t I remember you before I remember big smelly exploding monsters?” she asked. “And how come I’ve met something that disgusting, anyway?”

“That’s my fault. My middle name is trouble. But you considered it worth the trouble to be with me.”

“Because you’re rich?” she asked. “You obviously are. We’re in Italy, wearing posh clobber and the manager of the restaurant thinks you’re a lord.”

“No, not because I’m rich,” The Doctor assured her. “You love me despite that.”

“Good. I mean… it must be nice being rich. I know I had enough of being poor, so it would be a change. But I don’t think I’m somebody who would like a bloke JUST because he’s rich.”

“You’re not, Rose. You most certainly are NOT. You loved me before you knew I had anything at all. You loved me before you even knew my real name.”

“So you DO have one, then? I didn’t go down the registry office and marry somebody called Doctor? That’s definitely not on the marriage certificate?”

“It’s not. I could tell you my name, but it would be better if I heard it from you, once it comes back to you.”

“Well, I hope it’s something worth remembering, not Fred or Melvyn or…. Humphrey.”

“Nothing wrong with Humphrey. I used to have a very dear friend called Humphrey.”

“We’re not naming any of our children that,” Rose warned.

The Doctor laughed softly. Yes, her sense of humour was there, and her sharp wit.

“My name is worth remembering,” he promised her. He signalled to the waiter and ordered the dessert course - panacotta with cherries and praline. She had no idea what that meant, and when it arrived, the eighteen year old Rose would probably have called it a pink blancmange with fruit and toffee topping.

At least she picked up the right cutlery to eat it with. She savoured the pallet-cleaning taste of the creamy dessert and washed it down with sips of the fine wine The Doctor had ordered with the meal.

“It’s a nice restaurant,” she said. “Why is it our favourite, though? It seems like a long way to go for dinner.”

“It’s where I proposed to you,” The Doctor answered. “Out there on the balcony overlooking the piazza.”


“It means nothing to you, does it?”

“I know it ought to. I mean… that’s a romantic place for a proposal... just the sort of thing I would have liked to remember. But….”

She screwed up her face as if she was in pain. He reached out to her and was shocked to find her trembling.

“Daleks,” she whispered. “What… the hell… are Daleks and WHY… why do they scare me so much?”

“They scare everyone,” he answered. “I’m sorry you had to remember them at all. If I could get rid of THAT memory, I would.”

“You could take Nestenes and the Arachnoids and… what was that thing like a load of flesh hanging on the ceiling… and… a whole bunch of weird stuff. Where does all that come from? Is it a nightmare or am I really remembering stuff like that?”

“They’re real, I’m afraid. I don’t know why you’re remembering them and nothing about me… about us. It could be something to do with traumatic experiences coming more readily to mind.”

“Or maybe… you and me aren’t quite the item you think. Maybe we don’t love each other as much as you’re making out.”

“No, that’s certainly not true,” The Doctor protested. “We’re just as much in love as we ever were… from the very first moment we knew we WERE in love.”

“When was that?” Rose asked. “When did we fall in love?”

“I loved you from the first time you saved my life,” The Doctor answered. “Down in the Nestene lair under the Millennium Wheel.”

Rose frowned. Her brain was scrambled right now, but that didn’t sound like her idea of a romantic outing.

“And when did I fall in love with you?”

“I don’t know for certain. Maybe about ten seconds before then, when you decided to risk your life to save mine. Of course, that might just have been bravery. After all, humans risk their lives all the time jumping in rivers and running into burning buildings to save people they don’t even know. It’s a thing your species do. But I always thought there was a BIT more to it in our case. We were stuck on each other pretty much since then.”

“My species?” Of everything he had said, that was the one thing she had to fix on. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She looked at him with narrow, suspicious eyes as the waiter brought coffee and little biscuits wrapped in silver foil. She unwrapped one and let it melt on her tongue as she thought about everything he had said and everything she had experienced.

“You’re an alien. That box…the TARDIS… is a spaceship.”


“I’m married to an alien. That… it ought to worry me, but it doesn’t. I don’t… feel ANYTHING about you. I’m not scared of you. But I’m just not… not feeling the love we’re supposed to have. All I know is that we seem to have got into a lot of trouble, and that’s where those creepy things I keep remembering come into it. And I can’t help wondering what love means to you if that’s your idea of a romantic day out.”

“It’s not. Those things don’t happen all the time. They haven’t happened for a long time. I’m retired from fighting the slimy, multi-tentacled and generally gross things. We use the TARDIS strictly for exotic outings. This weekend we were having a really good time. We went to Androga III. It is a beautiful planet. It has three suns and four moons and they orbit in such a way that there is a sunset and moonrise every three hours and a sunrise two hours after that. We’ve always liked sunsets and sunrises, and walking under the stars. It was like every romantic interlude we’ve ever had rolled into one day. The only thing we didn’t reckon on was a landslide and a clifftop path that suddenly wasn’t there. My fault. I should have been more careful.”

“I… suppose it probably wasn’t your fault,” Rose conceded. “But you were right when you said your middle name was trouble. Why do I put up with you?”

“Because you love me, and… you love the trouble, too, as long as we’re together. You were BORED working in that shop. You wanted more. When I came along and blew up the alien on the top floor….”

“Blew up. You said there was a fire.”

“There was, after the explosion.”

“You’re an alien fire-bomber.”

“And you’re still not scared. You weren’t then, either - at least not too scared to help me fight the Nestene. You were fantastic, Rose. You always have been. I’d be dead many times without you. You’re brave and tough as well as beautiful, and that’s why I love you.”

“That’s a nice thing to say. But I still don’t feel anything when you say it. I think I ought to, and I’m trying. But I just don’t. I feel so numb.”

“I think I know what to do about that,” The Doctor said with a wide smile. He stood and reached out to her. Rose stood and let him take her by the hand. He led her out onto the balcony above the Piazza.

It was the sort of evening that gave Rome its reputation as a romantic city. The traffic in the distance was a muted buzz while the delightful sound of water pouring over the fountain was in the foreground. There was music from inside the restaurant as well as the busker on the pavement, still. Night birdsong completed the symphony. Subtle uplighting in the piazza highlighted the facades of buildings designed by men who were friends with the likes of Michelangelo and Da Vinci.

The Doctor held Rose in his arms in that setting and just let it all wash over her, driving away the anxieties and frustrations of trying to remember what stayed so stubbornly hidden behind the clouds in her mind.

“This is the very spot where I asked you to marry me, Rose,” he told her. “Right here, with that warm, fragrant breeze and all these sights and sounds. It was a perfect moment, the sort I wish I could have frozen and kept as a souvenir. It’s the sort of moment that can’t be recreated. It happens only once in the lives of any two people who love each other. But on a night like this we can make a new moment.”

She didn’t say anything. There really wasn’t anything to say that wouldn’t spoil that moment he set such store by. He reached into his pocket and unfolded a piece of tissue where he had kept her rings. Carefully he put the gold wedding band and the diamond solitaire engagement ring on her finger where they belonged. The solitaire caught a glint of light from somewhere.

“I don’t think I ever mentioned, but it is a white point star diamond, a very rare kind. Some people think they’re magic. Time Lords don’t believe in magic. But they do believe in diamonds.”

With that, he enfolded her in his arms again and kissed her long and fully on the lips. At first she didn’t respond, but gradually he felt her kissing him back. He felt her grip his shoulders and pull him closer.

Then she pulled away from the kiss and moved her head so that it rested on his shoulder. She whispered something.

His name. The one he never used, even with his wife, because she preferred to just call him Doctor.

But his wife knew his name and she said it now.

“You remembered.”

“It’s all still a bit fuzzy. I’m missing bits… or I’m confused. Do I really have a half brother who is also my step-grandson?”

“Yes, you do.”

“And twins called Boris and Tatiana?”

“No. They’re called Jack and Julia after two special people in our lives.”

“Jack… how could anyone forget Captain Jack Harkness.”

“I try, every day,” The Doctor replied. “But never mind Jack. What about….”

“I love you,” Rose whispered. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten that, either.”

“It doesn’t matter as long as you’ve remembered, now.”

“I remember. Yes, I do. Oh, I can’t believe how much I’ve forgotten. The children… mum and Christopher… Vicki finishing school this summer. If you’d told me we had a teenage daughter doing her exams I’d have freaked. I really felt like I was only eighteen, still. It was… frightening.”

“It was frightening for me, too,” The Doctor told her. “Thinking you might never love me the way you used to love me.”

“It’s over now. And… lovely as it is out here… let’s go and finish our coffee and then head back to the TARDIS. I want to go home. I want to see our kids and give them big hugs.”

“The little ones will be in bed, and Peter is going through a phase where he thinks he’s too big for hugs. And I don’t think Vicki will be home from her weekend away with Sukie and the boys in Elizabethan Lancashire, but that’s a good plan, anyway. Just try not to be too enthusiastic when you’re hugging them and telling them how much you love them. They’ll think you’ve been taken over by an alien entity – again.”

Rose paused for a moment in thought.

“That’s a big fib. I’ve NEVER been taken over by an alien entity.”

He laughed and she punched him in the shoulder, then they hugged and kissed again for good measure before stepping back into the warmth of their favourite restaurant – the place, as Rose fully remembered – where The Doctor had proposed to her all those years ago.