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

Grace Holloway sighed wearily and turned over the next page of the complicated paperwork she had to complete. She had just had two of the longest and worst days of her career and it was likely that tomorrow would be no better.

She looked at the pre-printed page twice. All she had to do was fill in the blanks. It was a total no-brainer. But she felt like a high school junior who didn’t even know how to fill in a form to choose her courses for the term.

Puccini’s Madam Butterfly was playing quietly in the background. She closed her eyes and let the music soothe her mind for a few minutes. She put that CD in three nights ago, but she had fallen asleep on the sofa by the second act each time and hadn’t had the energy to change the discs.

She got as far as Act Three this time but she was starting to feel drowsy. A part of her mind told her to wake up and finish the paperwork. Another part told her to go to bed properly and she would feel better for it in the morning. Another part wanted to ignore the other two and carry on snoozing on the sofa where she was warm and comfortable and Puccini’s great unfinished work was like a lullaby to her.

Then she heard a sound that woke her up fully. Somebody was tapping on the glass of the big walk in window of her living room. She sat up and stared. It was dark outside, but she only had one lamp on near the sofa. She could see the figure standing there. Her heart lightened as she stood up and went to open the window.

“Doctor!” she said.

“Doctor!” he replied. “Grace, how are you?”

“All the better for seeing you,” she answered. “Is this one of those times you promised – when I would be your port in a storm?”

“No storms,” The Doctor answered as he embraced her fondly. She turned her head so that it was easy to kiss her. He still wasn’t sure he had earned the right to do that without asking, but she reciprocated willingly.

“It is good to see you,” she told him. “It really is. Do you want a drink? I’ve got nothing in the fridge, but I can order a take out if you’re hungry.”

“You weren’t planning to eat tonight if I hadn’t arrived?” he asked. He was still standing on the patio and she was half in, half out of the house. He drew her out into the balmy air of a San Francisco summer evening.

“I had a sandwich,” she lied. She had been too weary and dispirited even to eat. She knew perfectly well that was wrong. She had important work to do and she needed to eat to be capable of doing it.

“Grace,” The Doctor said in a concerned tone of voice. Of course, he knew she had lied. He could see right into her mind. “Grace, come away with me. Come and forget all your troubles and see the wonders of the universe for a while.”

“Come away with you….” He had made that offer once before, in the first minutes of this century when her life had been at a crossroads and it would have been so easy to say yes.

It was easy enough to say it now. It was just one word – Yes.

But again a hundred reasons why not filled her mind. There was only one reason to say that one little word, and it was a completely selfish one.

She really WANTED to.

“I can’t, I have things to do,” she told him. “Important things.”

“I’ll bring you back to do those things,” he answered. “I have the TARDIS, remember. I can bring you back yesterday if you ask me to.”

“Yesterday?” She thought about yesterday briefly. “No, I don’t want to live through yesterday again. This morning will do. Bring me back to breakfast time this morning and it’s a deal.”

The Doctor looked at her curiously. The remark about yesterday wasn’t entirely meant to be serious. It was actually a potential paradox. But he decided not to worry about it for now. She turned and closed the window. The automatic lock snapped to loudly in the still night air. Her home was secure. Actually, too secure. The keys were in her purse that she had dropped beside the sofa when she sat down two hours ago. But that didn’t matter either, right now.

The TARDIS was parked at the end of the lawn in the shadow cast by the trees that screened the house from the street. She smiled to see its incongruous shape, an English police phone box from the 1950s. How absurd it was. And yet, how comforting to see it. How wonderful to step over that threshold and feel herself enter a different dimension to the one outside. She looked around at the console room that was so much bigger than it ought to be. The iron girders that held up the roof also served to separate different parts of the room in the same way walls did in any ordinary house. The Doctor brought her to that part of the room that didn’t quite go with his dashing, dynamic personality or his still youthful features. It looked like the drawing room of some old, gone to seed professor of literature in a dusty Cambridge college where they had almost forgotten he still worked there. Dog-eared and well read books were stuffed on a shelf. An antique clock sat on top of an unlit fireplace that was probably just for show, anyway. Two big, comfortable armchairs that had seen maybe a half century of use were separated by a table with an ornamental globe on it.

Grace sat in one of the chairs and The Doctor went away murmuring about tea. She relaxed and looked at the globe. She had seen it several times and vaguely assumed it was a representation of Earth. Every other globe she had seen was, after all. Her eyes focussed on something called The Southern Plain on a continent that was a shape she had never seen before.

Definitely not Earth.

They were moving. They had been doing so for some time. The vibration in the floor was only slightly more than it was when they were stationary, but when she pressed her ear against the cushioned back of the chair she could hear the engines through it. They had the same kind of rhythm as a train rushing along tracks. It was a restful sound, and an exciting one. They were going somewhere. She didn’t know where they were going, which was different to being on a train. She had never got on a train without a ticket with a destination printed on it.

But she was with The Doctor. She could be going anywhere, any time.

He returned with one of those huge old fashioned trays that had legs of its own that opened out underneath. There was a silver teapot on it, and tea cups and saucers, cream and sugar. There was also one of those multi-level cake stands. Two levels were piled with fresh sandwiches. The top layer had fresh cakes on it.

She was hungry. She took a sandwich and ate it without really tasting it properly. She drank the tea that The Doctor poured for her then ate a second sandwich more carefully. It was roast beef with horseradish sauce lightly spread on it. The bread was fresh and soft. The butter was lightly salted the way the English preferred it. She thought it was the nicest sandwich she had ever eaten.

“You didn’t make all this just now,” she said. “I’ve only been here five minutes at the most and you had to set the TARDIS going, too. I know how complicated that is.”

“You’ve been here half an hour,” The Doctor told her. “You really are tired. You didn’t even notice how long you’d been sitting there staring at the Southern Continent of Gallifrey.”

She glanced at her watch. He was right. She really WAS tired.

“That’s Gallifrey?” she asked looking at the globe again. “Your home?”

“Yes, it is,” he answered. “Gallifrey - my home. Here, eat some more. Then sleep if you like. That is a REALLY comfortable armchair. You’ll be just fine in it.”

She ate more sandwiches and drank more tea. The Doctor drank one cup of tea and ate one of the sandwiches, watching her carefully.

“You need a holiday from your life, Grace,” he said to her. “That’s why I’m here.”

She barely responded. She was almost asleep. The Doctor took the empty tea cup from her unresisting fingers and adjusted the pillow under her head. He put a padded footstool under her feet and a travel rug over her. He leant over and kissed her gently on the cheek. She murmured something that would have been unintelligible to anyone else. It was his name. Not ‘Doctor’ but his real name that he had told her once. She was one of a tiny number of people in the entire universe who knew that name, and he was glad of it.

Grace woke up after a dreamless sleep and looked around. She was still in the TARDIS. There were no windows, of course. But she had a feeling that it was morning. She had slept all night in the armchair with a cushion under her head and she felt more refreshed, more awake, now, than she had ever felt before.

She looked around and saw The Doctor at the steampunk console. He was holding the speaker of an old fashioned telephone in his hand. While she was waking up a voice had asked him to confirm how many non-Gallifreyans were aboard his capsule.

“One, Human female, my guest. She has already been cleared at the highest level. If you want to confirm it, feel free to disturb the President while she is at her breakfast. I’m sure she’ll be very happy to hear from you.”

There was a pause, then the same voice with the tone of a civil servant, granted leave to pass through the Transduction Barrier. The Doctor responded with a ‘thank you’ that was just a little bit insincere. She had much the same tone with jobsworths of that sort.

“We’ll be landing in five minutes,” The Doctor said. “We’ll have breakfast then. I’ve made a picnic.”

“A picnic breakfast?” she queried. “Where?”

She ran the last few minutes back in her head. The civil servant had asked how many non-Gallifreyans were aboard the TARDIS. The Doctor had answered the question by pulling rank and referring to the President in a very familiar way.

“We’re going to Gallifrey?” she asked.

“We’re ON Gallifrey,” The Doctor replied. “We’ve landed.” He reached out his hand to her. She uncurled herself from the chair and came to his side. She was still wearing the clothes she had slept in, and should have wanted a shower and a change before going anywhere, but the promise of breakfast and the news that they were on Gallifrey were too tempting.

They stepped out together and the first thing Grace was aware of was a thundering noise that echoed loudly in the cave that the TARDIS had materialised within. The noise was a wide, powerful waterfall that fell like a curtain across the entrance to the cave. It sparkled in the daylight beyond.

“Wow!” she exclaimed.

“Hold that thought,” The Doctor said with a smile. He closed the TARDIS door and shouldered the strap of a large wicker picnic basket before clasping her hand tightly and warned her to be careful of the wet floor behind the waterfall.

As they came close to the thunderous fall of water she saw that there was a path both sides, a narrow one with a cliff one side and a drop the other. They were part way up a mountain.

And what a mountain. She couldn’t see the top. It was still shrouded in an early morning mist. Far below, a wide plain stretched to the horizon. It was mostly shades of green, suggesting it was well watered and fertile. There were smudges that might have been trees and perhaps there were houses near the trees, but there were no towns to be seen. It wasn’t like looking down from the through the smog at the sprawling mess of Los Angeles or even looking out across San Francisco where there was less smog but plenty of life crowded in on top of each other. This was wide open space such as she had never seen on planet Earth.

The sky above her was yellow. That was registering in her intellect, but her emotions had yet to catch up with it. She was on another planet, and not just any planet. This was Gallifrey, The Doctor’s home world, the planet of the Time Lords.

It caught up with her and she wondered whether to laugh or cry.

“I wonder the same thing every time I come home,” The Doctor told her.

“Which do you usually do?”

“Laugh,” he answered. “I’m a Time Lord. We don’t cry.”

Grace knew that wasn’t true. She had seen him cry. If his people didn’t usually, then that was something that marked him out as different from the rest in a good way. People needed to cry sometimes. It was what made them people.

The narrow path broadened out into a wide ledge with an outcrop above that shaded it from the Gallifreyan sun that was already warm quite early in the day. The Doctor stopped and opened the wicker basket. He spread a cloth on the floor with a flick of one hand and invited her to sit while he laid out the breakfast of orange juice, fresh croissants with butter, fluffy scrambled eggs and crisp hash browns that, by some Time Lord technology, perhaps, tasted freshly cooked. The toast was also perfectly freshly toasted served with butter and marmalade done the English way with fine pieces of peel in it. The coffee that he poured from a pot to accompany it all tasted freshly brewed.

She didn’t bother to question it, she just ate her fill, wondering when she last had time for more than a cup of instant coffee and a cereal bar in the morning. When did she last have the leisure to enjoy any meal? Lunch was usually a sandwich from the machine in the corridor outside the cardio-theater. Tea didn’t exist in her day. Dinner or supper, whatever she chose to call it was either straight from the freezer to the microwave or delivered by a pizza boy whose acne she was becoming intimately familiar with.

“Does this mountain have a name?” she asked.

“Yes, but it is unpronounceable in English,” The Doctor replied. “It is ours. My family. We own most of the land below.”

“So you’re rich?” Grace asked.

“Well, I suppose so. I’ve never really…. I’ve travelled away from home so much, I don’t really think about it. For a long time… I couldn’t come home. I was banished… living in exile. That’s when I came to know Earth so well. Even after I’d been forgiven for my sins… I didn’t come back unless I absolutely had to. I suppose I resented the enforced exile, so I made myself one by choice.”

In less than a hundred words The Doctor had told her more about himself and his world than she had ever really known before. She wondered if he had ever told anyone else that much. She knew he must have known many people in his long life. Many of them must have been women. Some of them must have had the sort of relationship she had with him. But she still felt she was one of the chosen few that knew some of his secrets.

“Home is where your hearts are,” he said after a long silence. “And mostly, that’s in the TARDIS, travelling where I choose, with the people I choose to travel with.”

“Me, this time, at least,” Grace said.

“You’re more than just a travelling companion,” he told her.

“I’m your port in a storm,” she said. It had been good, the last few years, when he turned up for a weekend or just overnight sometimes. She had enjoyed the respite from her daily life, the dinners by candlelight, the walks in the park, the warm nights with him at her side. She had never asked for more than that. She didn’t really want more than that. She wasn’t about to be married to a Time Lord and spend her life travelling the universe.

He had never suggested anything so permanent and neither had she.

But if he suggested it now, after the last couple of dreadful days, she thought she would jump at the chance to leave it all behind. She wondered what would happen back on Earth. Sooner or later somebody would come and find her house empty, the cold pizza in the microwave, forgotten about, coffee cup on the sink waiting to be washed, her statement to the disciplinary board unfinished on the table beside the sofa, and no sign of her - no clothes missing from her closet, her bank account untouched. Somebody would call the police. They would think she had committed suicide, maybe, depressed by the unfortunate chain of events she had been struggling to resolve. They were unlikely to think she had been abducted or murdered. There was nothing to suggest that. She would just be gone, never to be seen or heard of again.

No, of course, that was silly, she told herself. This was a respite from it all. Eventually she would have to go back and face her responsibilities.

But if he asked her….

“It’s all right, Grace,” The Doctor thought. I’m going to make it all right for you. I just don’t want to spoil this day, this holiday of ours by letting you worry about it all.”

“This is as far up the mountain it is possible to go without being an experienced rock climber,” The Doctor said just to make conversation. “Near the summit is a House of Contemplation – a sort of monastery. Those who wish to devote their lives to the disciplines must first climb the mountain under their own effort.”

“I suppose you never tried, then?” Grace asked.

“I did,” he responded. “But they told me I lacked the patience for the Contemplative Brotherhood and my destiny lay elsewhere. They were right, of course. Impatience is my worst fault. I could never have sat up there watching a flower grow or raindrops filling a puddle. It’s just not me. I’m a restless spirit. I want to see and do everything, touch every star in the heavens….”

“I don’t think even a Time Lord can do that,” Grace pointed out.

“I know. But I have been trying for a long time. And I’m not ready to stop trying, yet.”

“Good. I think the universe would be a sadder place without you in it.”

“It would be a lonelier place without you in it, Grace,” The Doctor replied in a quiet voice. “You’ve still got so much more to do, so much more to achieve.”

“I hope so,” she told him. “I always wanted to do something that would benefit mankind. I haven’t done that, yet. I’ve achieved my own ambitions. I am a very good cardio-surgeon. I have saved so many people who would have died without me being there. But a lot of other people do the same thing. I’ve done nothing remarkable.”

“You will, I promise,” The Doctor said.

“I believe you,” she told him.

“Let’s walk for a little while,” he said after a while. There’s a better view on the northern side and the sun will be less hot towards noon.”

The path went downhill from there. They came within sight and sound of the waterfall again, but this time they passed the outside of it. A bridge had been built between two parts of the path. Halfway across, cooled by the spray from the tumbling water, she looked down the sheer rockface to the deep pool far below that the waterfall constantly filled before it was drained off into a river that wound through the plain.

“I suppose the name of the river is unpronounceable in English, too?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Though for those of a romantic bent the meaning of the name is ‘river of song.’ I really don’t know why. The meaning was lost in time before I was born. I suppose if you lie by the river bank and close your eyes the rushing water has a musical quality. But I don’t know many Time Lords who bother to lie in the grass beside a river for long.”

“You make your people sound so….”

“Stoic is the word people have always used… when they’re being polite, anyway. Insufferable, irritating….”

“That’s not you at all. You really must be different from the others.”

“I certainly hope so. And yet… I am proud of what I am. I am proud of my world, my people… my heritage. Gallifrey… my childhood, my home.”

He smiled warmly and gazed out across that wide plain. She followed his eyes and saw, on the far horizon, a very thin line of blue and a smudge of white.

“That’s the southern capital, Athenica,” he said. “A peaceful centre of learning – there’s an observatory and a huge library, art gallery, a forum where our philosophers go to debate the existential issues for hours on end.”

“Sounds wonderful. I’d like to see it.”

“Another time, perhaps. I just wanted… you and me… and the mountain. Come on. There’s another cave further on. You’ll love it.”

The path was wider here. She was able to walk beside him, holding hands. The sun was warm on their faces as it came close to midday and the shadows grew shorter and shade disappeared, but there was a slight breeze that made it bearable and the glorious view to look at as The Doctor talked some more about his world, especially this southern continent where he had grown up. Grace remembered him telling her something about his childhood once, just a glimpse, a fragment of his life. He had talked about lying in the grass with his father and watching a meteor shower of green and red, yellow lights in the sky. She had wondered about that at the time, because all the meteor showers she had ever seen were silver and that was spectacular enough. But perhaps when there was a yellow sky by day the night sky was different, too. Perhaps multi-coloured meteor showers happened on Gallifrey.

“Yes, they do,” he told her, reading her unspoken thoughts. “There’s one this evening. We’ll see it from here. It’ll be to the north and the sky is going to be absolutely clear.”

“Wonderful,” she said, because that was the only word she could think of to describe something like that.

They came to the other cave he spoke of. There was a ledge outside that was in full sunlight now, but inside it was cool and shaded. The coolness came from the fact that a waterfall actually fell down the back wall of the cave. It formed a shallow pool that disappeared down a crevasse at the far end of the wall. She couldn’t see where it went, but it sounded as if it fell a long way.

“There are caverns and tunnels all through the mountain,” The Doctor said. “This and the one we parked the TARDIS in are the best. Would you like a shower before lunch? It’s very refreshing. The water is pure and clean.”

“We have lunch? I thought we emptied the basket at breakfast.”

The Doctor smiled his enigmatic smile. Grace accepted that as his answer. She looked at the waterfall and then toed off her shoes and began to unbutton her blouse. She was starting to feel a little sticky from walking in the sunshine. The idea of a cold shower in a waterfall was very tempting. The Doctor turned away and busied himself with the picnic basket while she undressed. He didn’t look around again until she was done and had put her underwear and her petticoat back on over her waterfall cooled skin.

She was surprised to see that lunch was laid out on the cloth in front of the cave entrance. There was a green salad, tomatoes, a whole roast chicken and mayonnaise in a dish and fresh fruit for afterwards. The Doctor opened a bottle of white wine and poured two glasses. It was crisp and cool.

“How?” she asked. “The basket was empty.”

“Don’t you think the people who invented a Dimensionally Relative time and space capsule could invent a bottomless picnic basket?” he asked in return.

“No,” Grace responded. “I don’t think they did. They don’t sound like the sort of people who go on picnics.”

“You’re right,” The Doctor admitted. “I bought the basket at the space port on Alterius IV about three centuries ago. It’s been very useful over the years.”

She wasn’t sure whether to believe that or not, but she wasn’t sure she cared. She was enjoying the second delicious meal of the day with The Doctor. She realised she actually was hungry and was actually tasting the food. She couldn’t remember the last time she had done either.

“You’ve been working hard,” The Doctor said.

“Yes,” she answered. “We’re short staffed. The most experienced doctors are all working double shifts, a few hours’ sleep in-between. Yesterday evening was the first time I managed to get home in seventy-two hours.”

“Poor girl. You needed a holiday from it all.”

“Yes, I did.”

He poured another glass of wine for her when they had finished eating.

“I mustn’t drink any more than two glasses,” she said. “Or I’ll want to sleep all afternoon.”

“No reason why not,” The Doctor told her. She turned and looked inside the cave where there had been nothing but a stone floor before. Now there was a kind of bed made up of fur blankets. She slipped between the layers and felt warm and comfortable.

“You know, I don’t really approve of fur,” she said.

“It’s from an animal that sheds its coat in spring and grows a new one before autumn,” The Doctor told her. There’s no cruelty involved.” He came to her side and kissed her softly on the cheek. She sighed and closed her eyes and was asleep quickly. The Doctor went back to the cave entrance and sat looking out over the familiar land of his childhood and thinking quiet thoughts.

Grace woke again much later and saw that the sun was starting to go down. She saw The Doctor silhouetted against the deep orange sky opening a bottle of wine. It looked as if the picnic basket had yielded yet more food and drink. She was hungry for it. She pulled on some of her clothes and went to sit with him.

“When the sun goes down the sky will be a deep burnt orange colour,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

“The sun goes down to the east on Gallifrey,” she noted, getting her bearings from landmarks she had seen earlier. There was a warm glow of lights where the city of Athenica was in the distance and a glimmer of a reflection of the setting sun on the distant sea beyond it. “The north-east. It must have risen from the south-west before we arrived.”

“Yes. The axis of rotation is opposite to that on Earth.”

Whichever horizon it was, she had never seen a more beautiful sunset. She watched it as she ate supper with The Doctor and sipped the heady red wine that was a contrast to the white at lunch time. The sky really did turn a deep orange-black with silver stars and a copper-coloured moon shining from it. She looked at constellations she had never seen before. The Doctor identified some of them to her and told her the stories behind the names that came from a past time when Time Lords were less stoic than now and were prepared to see patterns in the sky and invent fantasies.

The meteor shower started about an hour after sunset. It really was multi-coloured and utterly fantastic. Grace sat almost in The Doctor’s lap with his arms around her and her head leaning against his shoulder. She was warm and comfortable and completely happy.

“Are we going back to the TARDIS tonight?” she asked after a while. “It’s a long walk in the dark.”

“No,” The Doctor said. “We’re staying right here. It’s a warm night and the bed there was quite comfortable this afternoon.”

“Yes, it was,” she agreed. “Will you join me this time?”

“Yes, I will,” The Doctor told her. Her heart fluttered with pleasure. She remembered the times he had slept with her before – and the love-making that presaged the actual sleeping. She knew it would be just as good tonight.

And it was. Afterwards she fell asleep warm and satisfied. The Doctor lay beside her, holding her close in his arms, his face pressed against her soft hair. She had been showering in the hospital rest rooms lately, washing her hair with the generic shampoo they had in the dispensers, but that scent had been cleaned away by the waterfall shower. Now her hair smelt of Gallifrey, the minerals diffused in the water as it filtered through the mountain.

Her hair was ruffled by a sudden displacement of air and a familiar sound echoed around the cave. So often the TARDIS could be unreliable and cranky. But this time it materialised exactly where he set it to materialise at exactly the time he set. He dressed quickly and lifted Grace in his arms. He carried her into the console room and left her on the armchair while he set the next pre-arranged co-ordinate.

The staff of the hospital ship the SS Grace Holloway had been forewarned. A porter with a hover-trolley was waiting when he stepped out of the TARDIS again. He laid Grace down on it gently and walked beside her to the cardio-theatre that had been booked for her. He spoke to the surgeon. He was confident that the procedure would be straight-forward. Even so, it was a long anxious wait for him. He paced the floor of the waiting room endlessly, drinking cups of coffee from a vending machine without tasting them, even going, once, to the chapel that was made available to patients and their friends who felt the need for prayer. The Doctor didn’t pray. He was a Time Lord. There were races out there among the stars that worshipped his people. But he found the peaceful atmosphere soothing.

Finally the surgeon came to speak to him. He held his breath as he heard him telling him the news he had waited for.

“You can take her home whenever you’re ready,” he was told.

Grace woke in her own bed with daylight behind the closed drapes at the window. She sighed. It had been a dream, a very wonderful dream, about The Doctor and his planet. But now she was awake and she had to face reality.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” The Doctor said, putting an aromatic mug of coffee on the bedside table. He reached to kiss her on the forehead.

“It wasn’t a dream?” she asked him. “But how come I’m home?”

“I brought you home… to breakfast this morning… just as you asked. Eight o’clock on the dot.” Her eyes filled with concern. “Yes, I know. It’s a paradox. Right now you’ve just fallen asleep in the back seat of your car in the parking garage underneath the hospital after a long night on duty.”

“Yes,” she said. “And at ten-thirty an emergency case came in. A thirty-nine year old father of three with an aortic dissection – a dangerously life-threatening condition with a fifty per cent mortality rate. They paged me. But… the batteries were dead in my pager. I slept on until just before midday. By then, they’d found another surgeon. The man lived. He was all right. But I was in trouble for not responding when I was supposed to be on call. I didn’t tell you, Doctor… I’ve been suspended pending an investigation. I could lose my job, maybe even my licence to practice as a cardio-surgeon.”

“I know,” The Doctor told her quietly. “It’s all right. You’ve had a good night’s sleep. You’re going to have breakfast in a little while, then you’ll take a cab to the hospital and you’ll be there when they need you, fresh and alert and ready to operate on the father of three.”

“But what about….”

“Don’t worry about that. When your shift is over, take a cab to Golden Gate Park. We’ll have tea in the Japanese Garden and I’ll tell you a couple of things you don’t yet know about these past few days.”

The Doctor made breakfast in her kitchen. They ate together then he called the cab for her. He kissed her on the doorstep and promised to meet her by the Tea House, later.

The Doctor carefully checked that the house was locked up securely before he left in the TARDIS. A few minutes later it materialised in the parking garage beneath the hospital where Grace worked. He found her car easily enough. She was stretched on the back seat, still dressed in green disposable scrubs over her blouse and skirt. Why she went to the car he couldn’t imagine, but there she was, fast asleep, oblivious to everything.

He opened the car door and gently shook her. She woke and stared at him in shock.

“It’s all right,” he told her gently. “Everything is absolutely fine. I’m going to drive you home. You’re going to get some more sleep, because you need it, and I’m going to come back later for you, when you’re feeling brighter. Just wait there for me on your sofa.”

“But I can’t go home,” she said. “I’m on call. I’ve got to….”

“Really, it is all right,” he assured her, and he knew she was too tired, too weary not to give in. She didn’t even ask why he was there, or why he was going to come back later. Almost as soon as she lay down on the sofa in her own living room she was falling asleep again. He kissed her on the cheek and left her there. He walked back into the city to pick up the TARDIS where he left it and set the next destination for the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park. He was waiting when Grace arrived looking happy to see him. He waited until they were sitting in the tea house before he asked her how her day had gone.

“It went fine,” she told her. “The patient is doing well. His family came to see him. They thanked me for all I’d done for him. And… I’m not going to be disciplined any more. My job is safe, and I feel great.”

“I’m glad,” The Doctor said. “Grace, there’s something I haven’t told you, yet. I thought about leaving it, but I think you should know the truth.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing, now. I’ve fixed it. But… Grace, the reason you were so tired, it wasn’t just because you’ve been overworked. You were ill, sweetheart.”


“You’re a cardio-surgeon, a very good one. But I bet its years since you had a medical yourself, and you take your own heart for granted. You didn’t know that you were suffering from the same condition as that man you operated on this afternoon. Your heart was failing you, Grace. One more day like the one you had today and it would have killed you.”

“What do you mean… WAS failing?” she asked.

“I took you to a good hospital. One in the future when that kind of thing can be treated quickly and easily. It didn’t feel quick to me, waiting for them to finish, but it was. They used micro-tools to repair the tear in the aortic wall then closed your chest with laser sutures that don’t even leave a scar. Then I brought you home to sleep for a few hours, and you’re as good as new.”

“You did all that for me?”

“Not just for you, Grace. But for mankind, because you still have to do those remarkable things that I know you are going to do.”

Those remarkable things made her name live on after her in the name of the actual hospital ship he had taken her to when she needed the advanced surgery it offered.

“And… in part….” he added. “For me… because I didn’t want to lose you.”

“But wasn’t it… isn’t it a paradox or something? If I was meant to die….”

“You weren’t meant to die. You are meant to live a long life, yet. I was meant to call in all the favours my government owed me so I could do what I did to put your life back on track. The only paradox left is that there are two of you in San Francisco now, and in a couple of hours there will be two of me and two TARDISes. That’s why we’re going to hang out here and have a moonlit walk in Golden Gate Park until the earlier version of me and you both leave in the TARDIS and it’s safe to take you home.”

“So I get to spend a few more hours with you,” she said. “I can live with that.”

“So can I,” The Doctor replied.