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

Jack put one foot in front of the other in careful strides, just about keeping up with The Doctor, who strolled on the hard packed snow as if he was born wearing snowshoes. They both reached the top of the slight rise and looked down on a wide, pristine white, snow-covered valley where no Human had set foot since the winter set in.

“Glad you came?” The Doctor asked with a grin.

“Oh, sure,” Jack replied in a sarcastic tone. “Thirty mile hike in the foothills of the Himalayas is just my ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

He wasn’t really complaining. He enjoyed the physical challenge, too. And it had done him good, as The Doctor promised him it would. There really was no point in brooding around the house. Still less being at the hospital. Hellina’s newest set of skin graft operations were practically routine, but they meant she had to spend days sedated under an isolation hood afterwards and he wasn’t allowed near her. She had practically ordered him to go away and do something to take his mind off it all. The Doctor had suggested taking him off for a couple of days of brisk exercise.

Jack looked back. The monastery of Det-Sen where they had spent the night before setting off with a stomach full of yak milk and boiled cereals to sustain them looked like a miniature model perched on the side of the mountain. The TARDIS was in there, being looked after reverently by the monks who had legends about The Doctor and his blue box and were only too happy to oblige him.

That was ok. But if anything happened, there was no way to get a message to him. And even if there was, it would take them a day’s hike to get back there.

She’ll be fine,” The Doctor promised him. “Don’t worry. Come here, let’s have a look at that wristlet of yours. Anything new on the lifesigns monitor?”

“Yak,” Jack answered. “Herds of wild yak. You don’t really think we’re going to find a Yeti, do you?”

“You never know your luck,” The Doctor replied.

“You’re having me on. Seriously. There are no such thing. Even you can’t tell me there are really abominable snowmen in Tibet.”

“Well, I’ve never seen a real one,” The Doctor admitted. “The last time I was here the countryside was being menaced by what turned out to be crude Yeti-shaped androids. They were the foot soldiers of an alien intelligence from another dimension that wanted to take over Earth as its base for universal dominance.”

“Oh, that old chestnut!” Jack laughed.

“I know, boring, isn’t it? You’d think they’d get a better motive.”

“And you stopped it, of course?”


“You can tell me all about it when we make camp for the night,” Jack said. “Sounds the very thing for telling around the campfire.”

The Doctor laughed. He very well might tell him the story.

“Another couple of miles?” he suggested. “We’ve still got plenty of light. We can camp up near that escarpment. It’ll give us some shelter from any further snowfalls overnight.”

“Sure, Doctor, whatever you think,” Jack answered as they set off again. They didn’t talk much, but that was because they were conserving their energy for walking. Jack breathed deeply and evenly. The sharp cold of the air burned his chest, but he wasn’t suffering any altitude problems. They weren’t quite high enough for that.

The light began to fade fast once the sun dropped low. They were in twilight when they reached the chosen camp site. When they did, at least putting up the tent was relatively easy. It was a twenty-eighth century tent that unfolded and self-erected with a flick of the wrist. It still needed pegging out with the two foot long steel pegs that went through the snow and into the frozen soil beneath, and that was hard work. But once it was done they could clamber into a cocoon of thermal membrane lined light canvas.

“Minus five and falling outside,” Jack noted, looking at his wristlet as The Doctor sorted out the two undermats and sleeping bags and then broke out the rations. “Cold night.”

“Very cold. But we’re safe in here.” The Doctor took two flat discs from the food pack. He pressed the centre and they opened out into disposable cups that steamed as kinetic energy heated the automatically rehydrated contents. Jack took off his gloves to hold the cup of sweet, creamy hot chocolate.

“It’s not quite the real thing,” he admitted as he detected the slight aftertaste of the artificial ingredients. “But it’s welcome after a long, cold slog.”

“Ideal for camping trips,” The Doctor agreed as he took two larger discs and pushed them out. A few moments later they resembled shallow dishes containing something approximating chilli con carne and rice. Both The Doctor and Jack had eaten synthesised food in the far corners of the galaxy. Both had eaten real food. They knew the difference. But the synthetic chilli was warming and filling and contained a balanced set of nutrients. They ate cheerfully, not exactly around a camp fire, but at least around a flame free, wood effect portable fire that worked by the same kinetic energy as the food packs. It cast a soft yellow-red light around the tent walls and they felt the warmth of it on their hands and faces.

“This one claims to be syrup sponge and custard,” The Doctor said examining another disk. “Are you brave enough to try it?”

“I’m game if you are,” Jack answered. “What about that Yeti story?”

The Doctor grinned and sat cross legged on top of his sleeping bag as he told the tale of his visit to these parts in his second incarnation with his friends, Victoria and Jamie. Jack lay on top of his camp bed and listened happily. He liked it when The Doctor talked about his past. He felt close to him, as if he was let into an exclusive fold.

“You’ve been looking after this planet for a long time,” he commented as The Doctor finished his tale. “Do you ever get fed up of us?”

“Never. This planet, the Human race, you’re worth fighting for. All of you. If I ever think differently, check for alien implantations affecting my brain.”

Jack laughed and began to tell a story of his own, from his Time Agency days when he and a team of hot blooded young agents had tracked down a shape shifting alien assassin to the Canadian Rockies where it had disguised itself as the pack leader of a band of wolves.

The Doctor was interested in their solution to the problem, and in the alien itself. They spent a useful hour comparing notes on hostile shape-shifters and their characteristics and weaknesses.

Then Jack gave a surprised exclamation that The Doctor would usually pronounce in Low Gallifreyan and looked at his wristlet.

“I’m picking up something big coming this way,” he said. “Something very big.”

“A Yeti?” The Doctor asked.

“Could be. It’s large and organic.”

The Doctor grasped Jack’s wrist and examined the data himself.

“It’s coming straight for us,” he said. “Jack, quickly, grab your coat and run for it.”

Jack did as he suggested, noting that it was now eight below zero outside the thermal lined tent. As soon as he stepped outside the extreme cold hit him. His lungs filled with frozen air and he shivered as he did up his coat and pulled the hood up around his head.

The Doctor didn’t seem to be affected by the cold at all. Or if he was, he didn’t let it bother him. He held out his sonic screwdriver in penlight mode to illuminate the immediate area. The beam fell on a huge creature with long, shaggy hair that moved at a lumbering but rapid pace. The Doctor had been right about getting out of the tent. The creature was heading right for it. There was a crashing, crunching sound as the canvas collapsed under the weight of the Yeti’s heavy footsteps. It carried on as if nothing was there, leaving huge footprints in the snow as well as the devastated tent.

“It was in pain,” The Doctor said. “Come on, after it.”

“After it? You’re kidding!” Jack looked at The Doctor. “Not kidding!”

“It’s a semi-sentient creature in pain. I’m not going to leave it. I need to know why it’s in pain. If any Human has hurt it, there will be a reckoning.”

The tone in The Doctor’s voice when he said that was one Jack recognised. Any Human who had, somehow, managed to hurt the Yeti more than the Yeti hurt them would be in trouble when he caught up with them.

“Ok, but…” Jack searched among the detritus of the tent and found the still glowing ‘fireproof’ campfire. He left it beside the tent as a beacon to find their way back and retrieved a torch that fully deserved the claim to be shockproof when he found it still worked despite several dents. For preference, he would have liked to have had a gun, too. But The Doctor wouldn’t countenance it on this trip. “Ok, come on. It’s dark, it’s freezing and we’re pursuing a mythical creature that could mash us in seconds. But you’re the boss.”

Pursuing it wasn’t difficult. The footprints as big as dustbin lids, the roaring cries that hung on the night air and the lumbering shape against the white snow were easy enough to track. Besides, it wasn’t moving much faster than a Human could jog. They followed at a discreet distance as the creature headed in as straight a path as was possible on the side of a snow-covered foothill.

It was more and more obvious that it was in pain. The Doctor wondered what was wrong with it. Was it injured or ill? Could Yetis get problems like appendicitis? If so, what could he do about it? He was qualified in the medical problems of most more or less humanoid species, but this was something else. He didn’t know anything at all about Yeti anatomy. This was, in fact, the first real one he had been close to. The androids obviously didn’t count.

But his instinct to help anything that needed help spurred him on. Jack kept pace with him as they followed the creature downhill and to the west of their own camp.

“It’s heading for that cave,” Jack said. “Over there.”

“Yes, you’re right,” The Doctor agreed, noting the dark opening against the snow field.

“It’s going into a cave – so naturally we’re following it,” Jack commented. “All right, Doctor, have it you’re way.”

The torchlight lit up the cave as they entered. It wasn’t a big one, but it was surprisingly warm compared to outside and the floor was covered with soft, dry, sandy soil. The Yeti was crouching on the floor, giving out a distressed sound. The Doctor told Jack to hold up his torch as he approached the creature.

“Oh,” he said when he was near enough to make an immediate diagnosis. “Oh… I see. That’s the problem. Jack, it’s a lady Yeti, and this is her maternity department.”

“You mean she’s….” Jack watched as The Doctor stepped even closer to the creature and reached out to touch its head, perilously close to a mouth wide enough to bite his own head off. He looked as if he was communicating with it telepathically. But surely it was just an animal. How could he do that?

“Not just an animal, Jack,” The Doctor told him when he stepped back at last. The creature was still making a groaning noise, but less distressfully, Jack thought.

“What do you mean, not just an animal?”

“The Yeti are an evolutionary dead end. They are loosely related to the apes that humans descended from. They started the same development of the cranium that allowed higher thought. But for whatever reason, they never fully developed. They are more intelligent than monkeys or dolphins, the kind of animals Human scientists have identified as having near Human intelligence. They don’t have speech as we understand it. They have no use for technology. But they are magnificent creatures.”

“Mythological creatures,” Jack pointed out.

“Clever creatures who keep out of the way of mankind. They live in this cold, inhospitable place where there are few humans, anyway. They’re nomadic, but they don’t travel in large groups, perhaps only two or three at the most, a mated pair or a mother and her young. They know how to hide themselves in the snow and be inconspicuous.”

“You got all of that from a few minutes communicating with her?”

“I did,” The Doctor replied. “And she got from me the Yeti equivalent of an epidural, to ease her burden. It will only be a few minutes, now. Her mate is somewhere down in the valley, waiting. Yeti don’t go for the father being in the delivery room. He’ll wait until she returns with the young.”

“Ok.” Jack answered. “Waiting is good. He won’t be sneaking up behind us.”

“He’ll probably be hunting. There’ll be a stray yak less on the mountains in the morning while he provides nourishment for her.”

The Doctor was right. It did only take a few minutes more before the baby was born. It was about the size of a chubby ten year old Human, standing upright almost straight away on shaky legs and suckling at its mother’s milk. They would spend the night here and move on at first light when the child was strong enough to travel.

“We can go now,” The Doctor said to Jack. “They’ll be just fine.”

Jack said nothing. He was smiling, though. He had witnessed the miracle of life that was repeated across the universe wherever there were organic beings who procreated naturally. His tough guy armour was slightly undone.

They made their way back to the wreck of their camp. Jack pulled everything out, reporting that everything was messed up and crushed but salvageable. The Doctor examined the tent, though and was less positive. There were rips and holes all over it and most of the ropes had snapped.

But with the Yeti mother and child occupying the only cave within walking distance and the stars blotting out rapidly as snow clouds came across them he had to do something. He dragged what was left closer to the escarpment where it would have some protection from the wind and was out of the likely path of the Yeti family in the morning. He used the sonic screwdriver to fix the worst of the rips and the ropes he simply knotted together as best he could. When he put the tent up again it wasn’t quite the advanced all weather habitat it used to be.

“It’s colder in here now,” he admitted as they set up their beds again inside. “I think the thermal membrane was damaged. It’s still waterproof, windproof, but it’s not cold proof.”

“We’ll manage,” Jack said as he pressed open two hot cocoa drinks. They got back into their sleeping bags and drank before lying down again to try to sleep.

After a while, The Doctor was aware that Jack was not sleeping.

“I’m freezing,” Jack said through chattering teeth when The Doctor asked him if he was all right. “I can’t seem to get warm at all.”

“Hang on.” Jack heard movement in the tent. And then to his surprise he felt The Doctor sliding into the sleeping bag with him. He was wearing his jeans still but he had taken off his jumper.

“Shared body heat,” The Doctor said. “Oldest trick in the book. Just have to raise my own temperature. My natural body heat is nearly 30 degrees less than Human. But I can adjust it at will.”

And he did. Jack gasped with surprise as he felt The Doctor’s body become warm to the touch. The Doctor put his arms around his shoulders and snuggled close to him.

“My wildest dream,” Jack laughed ironically. “You in bed with me.”

“Not EXACTLY as you imagined it, I think,” The Doctor answered. “I’m still a one-woman-man. I just don’t want my best friend freezing to death.”

“Best friend.” Jack smiled. “That’s a nice thing to be. Never really been anyone’s best friend before. Never known anyone like you before.”

“Now you’re getting soppy,” The Doctor warned him. “You’re meant to be a tough guy.”

“Must be the thin air around these parts,” he replied. “Makes me daft.” He was silent for a while, then he spoke again. “Doctor… if I tell you something… you won’t laugh.”

“I’ll try not to,” he promised.

“I DO have a fantasy about you,” Jack said. “But it's not about being in bed. It’s… it’s that you turn out to be my father.”

The Doctor didn’t laugh.

“Every time I see you with the little ones… you’re such a great dad to them. And when you’re with Christopher… you and him are so close. I just want to be in on that. I would love to call you father. And… I have this dream… where you confess to me that you are… and welcome me into the family wholeheartedly.”

“You don’t know who your father is?”

“I can’t remember. I broke into the office at the orphanage once, to try to see if they knew anything. But my record… blanks where mother and father should be.”

But why did you think I might be one of the blanks.”

“Didn’t. Just sort of hoped. Always hoped my father might be somebody special. And you’re the most special person I ever met. And…”

“That’s a sweet idea,” The Doctor said. “But I’ve never even KISSED a woman in the 51st century. Let alone… Julia was the first woman I ever made love to and Rose was the second.”

“And you told me that Time Lords aren’t frigid.”

“We’re not. I’m just particular. But never mind me. I never knew… I knew you were an orphan, but I didn’t know you knew so little about yourself.”

“You know that my name isn’t really Jack Harkness, don’t you?” You must have realised…”

“I’m not judging you, Jack,” The Doctor told him.

“I took the name from a dead man a little while before I met you. It was a cover. But the name seemed to suit me, so I kept it. Before then, I had a name that a lady at the refugee centre gave me, because I couldn’t remember my real name and she didn’t want to just give me a number like I was a piece of lost property.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything. He knew this was very painful for Jack. He let him tell his story gin his own time. He knew it was probably the first time he had told it to anyone. Even Hellina probably never saw this vulnerable side of him.

“I came from Boeshane. You must know about that place. It’s tiny, insignificant. It’s famous for only one thing… the massacre… Men, women, children cut down by…”

Jack shivered and his teeth clamped together. It wasn’t cold this time, but horror and grief. He couldn’t even say the name of the creatures that carried out that unspeakable act of war against a peaceful community.

“Understand,” he continued. “I only know the facts of what happened from books… Later, when it became history. I can’t remember anything about it first hand. I think I must have seen something so horrifying that my mind just crashed. I think maybe… I saw my family killed… that’s why I can’t remember them. My mind wouldn’t let me.”

“You remember nothing?”

“Sometimes, fleeting moments,” Jack answered. “Tiny little things. There’s a perfume… when I smell it, it evokes a feeling in me. I am sure my mother must have worn that perfume. Sometimes, being by the sea… the smell of sea salt and sand… brings something close to the edge of my memory. I associate that with my father. And… scrambled eggs and hash browns… when I eat those… the taste… I get a feeling as if I once had a normal life where my mom would cook those things for breakfast. It’s a feeling of safety and security and love. Nice feeling. But I can’t get anything more concrete out of it. I have no real memories before they brought me to the refugee station. They did a whole bunch of tests on me and said I was in shock. They said the memories might come back in time. But they never did. And neither did my parents. At the orphanage… sometimes we’d all be lined up… people came looking for their kids. A lot of people just got separated in the confusion and they came looking. Sometimes they found them. The lucky ones. But nobody ever came for me. They must have been killed.”

Jack said all of that with some emotion, but nothing like the grief that should have filled his heart and soul. He almost seemed to have become immune to any feelings about those traumatic events at all.

“Nothing ever came back?”

“I don’t suppose it ever will now. I’ve done so much since. The Time Agency – they messed with my head enough. Then… the Gamestation… Being killed by the Daleks and then yanked back to life by you and Rose… My head is so messed up. I doubt it there’s any chance now.”

“If it was that bad, then remembering might be dangerous. Could cause a neural implosion.”

“No idea what that is, but it sounds bad. I just wish… I wish I had a couple of memories of them… my parents… If I knew for certain that … that I was once a part of a regular family…”

“You want to know if there was love there or not?” The Doctor said. “I can understand that. I don’t remember much of my mother, but I know she loved me.”

“I wish I could… I don’t even know what she looked like. Or my father, either.”

The Doctor reached out in the dark and touched Jack’s face, brushing away the tears he had failed to hold back. The horror of being a child caught up in an infamous massacre didn’t touch him emotionally, but his inability to remember his mother’s face did.

“I might be able to help you. If you let me. If you trust me.”

“I’ve always trusted you, Doctor,” Jack answered. “Whatever you think you can do…”

The Doctor reached out and put his hands gently either side of Jack’s head and concentrated hard. He saw Jack’s DNA. Definitely Human, though altered in amazing ways by the Artron energy that brought him back to life on the Gamestation. The Doctor felt a little bit disappointed. When Jack told him about his fantasy he was almost ready to join in it. Jack had proved himself time and again to be a loyal and trustworthy ally, and he would be proud to be his father.

He focussed then on Jack’s deepest memories. The ones he, himself, didn’t even know he had. He saw a young woman with tired but happy eyes, holding her newborn baby in her arms. He saw a woman who loved and cared for her child, who picked him up and cuddled him every opportunity she got, who kissed his baby cheeks and nourished him from her own body.

He saw a man leaning over to kiss her as she fed the child, clearly in love with his wife, and proud of their baby son. His hand reached out to the child and touched his face tenderly.

Jack sighed softly but didn’t speak. The Doctor reached and looked for other memories. They were all fractured like pieces of a painting on glass that had been smashed. Some of them The Doctor touched on and drew away from before Jack could see them, too. He didn’t ask to relive the massacre of his friends and family, only to see the faces of his mother and father.

He found another memory that was pretty much intact. It was a sunny day on a sandy beach. A small boy was making a sandcastle with his father while his mother set out a picnic tea. She called to the boy and used a hand held gadget to wash and dry his sandy hands before giving him a sandwich to eat. The boy wanted to carry on with the sandcastle, but his mother insisted on him eating first. So he stuffed the whole sandwich in his mouth. Both parents chastised him for being uncouth and made him sit still through the rest of the picnic and eat properly before he was able to continue the sandcastle construction.

Later, the tide came in and besieged the castle. The boy watched from the rocky foreshore above the beach, sitting in his father’s lap.

There were other memories of that beach. The boy, a little older now, was walking in his bare feet in the shallow waters of the incoming tide. It was nearly sunset and the dying sunlight cast into deep silhouette the bulk of the township where they lived on the edge of the peninsula. The boy’s father walked along with him and they were talking as a father and son might, about school, and about the boy’s interest in flying. As they spoke, a jet propelled rocket ship went by overhead, disturbing the peace of the scene with its sonic boom. The father looked worried for a moment, then relieved. The boy identified it as one of their own space fleet, reeling off the make and model and mach capability of the ship, and adding his desire to fly one when he was older.

“We might be at war before you’re old enough to fly anything, son,” his father replied. “The political situation is bad. There’s talk about abandoning the colonies. We may have to leave Boeshane.”

The boy looked around at the sun going down on an idyllic setting. He looked back at his father. The idea of leaving there was unthinkable.

“I know, son,” his father agreed. “Maybe it won’t happen. The politicians may find a peaceful solution, yet. We have to hope.”

The boy came out of the water and walked next to his father. They didn’t talk much, but there seemed to be an unspoken understanding between them. The father reached out his arm around the boy’s shoulders as they walked along.

Jack sighed again as The Doctor gently withdrew from his mind.

“That was nice. Wish we could have stayed longer,” he said.

“Didn’t want to risk it. Might damage your mind if I stayed in there too long. Besides… those were pleasant memories for you to hold onto. I didn’t want to raise any bad memories to taint them.”

“That’s ok, Doctor. I saw them, at least. They… did love me. My dad… He was worried, wasn’t he? About the future. He knew something was going to happen.”

“The way I heard it, nobody had any real warning. The attack came out of the blue. Your father… everyone… was caught out. There was no chance of escape. It was a filthy, cowardly attack on unarmed civilians, designed to provoke a response from the Earth Federation.”

“I know. I’ve read all about it. It always seemed so distant and remote from me. As if it all happened to somebody else. It did, in a way. The person I was before… the person I was afterwards… different. Had to be. I didn’t know who I was.”

“You were a boy. You hadn’t had a chance to be anyone. I think… in the long run, your father might have been proud of you.”

“There were times when he wouldn’t. Before you found me. Now that I’ve seen him… I feel kind of ashamed of that time. And… my mom… she was… beautiful. Gentle. Everything a mother should be. I still can’t remember… but I can imagine it was her who made those scrambled eggs. It… was nice seeing her. Now I know her face. Thanks, Doctor.”

“You’re welcome,” he answered.

“Funny thing… all that time me and my dad were talking… he never called me by my name. And mom. They both called me ‘son’. So I still don’t know what my real name is.”

“If it matters to you, we can try again another time. We might unearth some other memories. Slowly, though. That’s the best way.”

“I don’t know if I want to know or not. I’m Jack Harkness now. If I find out I really am… I don’t know… Larry Ashcroft or Bill Maloney… will I feel different?”

“You’re still Jack Harkness to me. And I’m not going to call you anything other than Jack, even if you are really Larry or Bill.”

“Fair enough,” Jack answered. “You going to stay there now? I’m warm enough. But… might get cold again if you leave me.”

“I’m staying right here. Go to sleep. I’ll be right here when you wake. Or if I’m not, I’ll be cooking breakfast. Might even have scrambled eggs in one of the food packs. I rather like those, too.”

Jack sighed contentedly. He fixed on those sweet memories The Doctor had managed to find for him. He thought about his mother. He thought about his father. That time on the beach, even if there were bad times coming, right there and then had been one of the good times. He thought about the smell of sea salt and sand at the end of a warm day, and the feel of his father’s arm on his shoulder and he slept contentedly.

He woke in bright daylight. The tent flap was fastened open and he could smell coffee and scrambled eggs. The Doctor was sitting by the open air with the breakfast packs already prepared. Jack pulled himself up out of the sleeping bag, aware that it was cold outside of its cocoon, but not uncomfortably so. He sat with The Doctor and drank the ersatz coffee and scrambled egg with surprisingly close texture and taste to the real thing.

“It looks beautiful in the morning, doesn’t it,” Jack said, looking out over the wide valley. The sky was clear now, but snow had fallen overnight.

“The snow stopped just before dawn,” The Doctor told him. “It covered last night’s tracks. But… look.”

He pointed. Jack’s eyes adjusted to the morning light and the glare of the snow and he made out the new trails. Large footprints, and smaller ones beside them.

“Mother and baby have moved on?”

“Down the valley. The mother will eat whatever her mate found for her, gather her strength, then they’ll press on out of this valley and out of the reach of men. That’s their way, nomadic, ever moving, surviving out there.” The Doctor grinned widely. “Fantastic.”

“Fantastic,” Jack agreed. “They’re not the only ones. Last night…”

The Doctor didn’t say anything about last night. He just suggested striking camp after breakfast and heading back towards the monastery. They had achieved their objective, after all. They had seen the Yeti. Jack knew he wasn’t brushing him off. He would talk to him again about his memories, his hidden past. But right now he was thinking practically.

They took their time returning, taking a wide, sweeping route and enjoying the spectacular scenery on a fine, clear day for doing so. The monastery in the distance got bigger and bigger all the time, though, until they were back there just before nightfall. The monks welcomed them both, inviting them to sit with them for their supper of delicately flavoured rice, beans, cheese and as much yak milk as they could drink. They were offered a place to sleep for the night, too. Jack was tired enough to appreciate the simple palette bed in the guest quarters. The Doctor didn’t use his. He spent the night in the TARDIS, working. Jack didn’t ask him what he was doing. The Doctor always found something to do in the TARDIS.

In the morning, though, after a monastic breakfast, they left Det-Sen. Jack assumed that they were heading back to London. But there was a message on the communicator from the hospital to say that Hellina was stable and comfortable after her operation but still unconscious. There was no need for them to return, yet, and The Doctor said he was going to take a detour.

“Where?” Jack asked.

“Boeshane,” he replied. “I think I might have some more answers for you, without risking a brain implosion.”

Jack didn’t say anything more. The Doctor looked at him carefully. If he had said no, he would have cancelled the co-ordinates and took him straight back to London. But Jack said nothing and his expression was indecipherable.

“Ok,” he said eventually. And that was all he said for nearly an hour as the TARDIS travelled forward in time and across the galaxy to the Earth colony of Jack’s lost childhood. He said nothing when they materialised. But as they stepped out onto the headland above the beach he had seen in those fragments of memory he was glad that The Doctor was with him. And he was glad that their relationship was close enough that he could reach out and hold his hand for comfort at this highly emotive time.

“The town is gone,” he said as he looked across to where it had stood on the tip of the peninsula. There had been a community of several thousand people there. Now there was a tall, white stone obelisk rising up into the sky. “A memorial?”

“The whole town was flattened and a memorial park laid out,” The Doctor said. “There are plaques with the names of the dead and missing.”

“Are my family….”

“Yes, they are,” The Doctor said. “It took me all night. I had to scan through photo identifications to find your father’s death certificate. Once I had that… Jack, I know his name. I know your mother’s name. I know your name… and…”

Jack paused and looked across at the memorial obelisk for a long time. He could turn back now. The Doctor could keep his secret. Or he could find out the truth that had been at the core of his existence all his life.

“Show me,” Jack said at last. “Don’t tell me. Show me. Let me see it for myself.

He let The Doctor take him by the hand again as they walked around the headland to the memorial park. It was vast. There were thousands of plaques set into a well kept lawn. The bodies had been cremated. It was the only thing the authorities could do. But these memorials had been set in place for the relatives, the survivors, and for any revisionist who might try to say it had never happened or it wasn’t as terrible as the history books suggested.

Jack didn’t ask how The Doctor knew which plaque among the thousands was the right one. He trusted him. And when he looked down and read the name of a man killed on the day of the massacre, and two sons, missing, declared dead, he knew it was the right one.

“Two sons?” Jack looked at The Doctor. “I… had a brother.”

“You were the eldest. The memories we saw. Two of them were from when you were young. Before he was born. The other… the last one… it was just you and your dad. He must have been elsewhere.”

Jack looked back at the plaque. He shook his head. “I can’t feel anything. I don’t have a memory of him. So I can’t feel any loss. It’s just a name. My dad… I saw his face… so I feel… everything…”

The Doctor’s arm around his shoulder held him up as he let the emotions overtake him. When he was done, he looked back at the memorial and something struck him about it.

“My mother isn’t on this memorial. How come?”

“It could be a mistake,” The Doctor told him as he saw the look in Jack’s eyes. He didn’t want to raise his hopes. “It wasn’t an easy task. Records were damaged or incomplete.”

“Or… it could mean…”

“Back to the TARDIS. We’ll try to find out.”

It took half a day of searching the records of the dead, dispossessed and displaced of Boeshane. But in the end they had an answer. Jack’s heart was pounding with apprehension as The Doctor landed the TARDIS in the grounds of the residential hospital in the suburbs of the new city that was built in the aftermath of the war. A nurse brought them to a bright, pleasant conservatory where some of the patients liked to sit in the afternoon.

Jack looked at the women they had come to see. She was about fifty years old, but she looked frailer than her years. Her eyes looked as if she was tired of life.

But her eyes were still a sapphire blue that both her visitors recognised. Jack sat on the bench beside her wheelchair. He gazed at the woman who had the same eyes as his and struggled to find something to say.

“Mom,” he whispered eventually. “Mom… do you know me?”

She looked at him for a long, silent moment before grasping his hand and pressing it against her face. Jack suppressed a sob.

“I… know you, son,” she answered. “Yes, I know you. You’ve come back from the dead. I… couldn’t find you. After your father was killed… we couldn’t find your brother. We both searched. But then they came again. There was an explosion. Then… darkness. I woke… in the hospital. I asked… but they didn’t know where you were. Nobody did. I thought you were dead.”

“I thought…. Nobody came for me. I thought there was nobody left. I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry I took so long to find you.”

As they hugged tearfully, The Doctor walked away. He wasn't needed. He left them alone for an hour, two hours. Not quite long enough to catch up on the years since Jack and his mother were separated by cruel fate. But time enough for emotional mending to begin.

When he returned, Jack reached out his hand to him. He smiled widely.

“Mom,” he said. “Mom, this is The Doctor. He’s my best friend. He helped me to find you.”

“I’m glad you have a friend, son,” his mother replied. “You’re not lonely.”

“Not any more,” Jack told her. The Doctor gave him another five minutes with her. Then at last he hugged his mother and kissed her cheek.

“I’ve got to go now, mom,” he said. “But…” He looked at The Doctor hopefully. He nodded. “I’ll come back and see you again. You take care of yourself. I love you, mom.”

“I love you, too, son,” she answered. And that was what Jack needed to hear. He kissed her again before he stepped away. A nurse came to bring her back to her room. Jack walked away with The Doctor, back to the TARDIS.

“She’s not very well,” Jack said as he watched The Doctor programme their return to London. “I’m not sure how long she’s got…”

“However long, I will make sure you can spend time with her,” The Doctor promised. “If I can’t take you, we have three other competent TARDIS pilots in the family who will be happy to help you, Jack.”

“I’m…still Jack, aren’t I? Even though we both know, now. We know who I really am.”

“You’re really Jack Harkness. You always will be to me, and to Hellina, and everyone else who loves and cares for you. Except…”

“Except when I’m there, with her. Then I’m her son.”

“Yes.” The Doctor looked at Jack. Sooner or later, he might ask a harder question than he had so far. He might ask about his younger brother who he had no feelings for because he had no memory of him. He might ask if it was possible, if he was alive, having been declared dead, could the same to true of the eight year old boy named on that plaque as Gray? And that was a question The Doctor didn’t know how to answer. The records on Boeshane drew a blank. But he had once searched to the ends of the universe for his own son. And if and when Jack asked him, he would do the same for his brother.