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

He kissed her. It was a good kiss. It was a kiss fit for the front cover of a Mills and Boon romance novel. A tall, handsome man with his head inclined, a woman a little shorter than him, her head tilted upwards to meet him. The rigging of the ship in space and the glorious starfield beyond made for an amazing image.

“Rachel, a stór, marry me, be my Queen and stay by me aboard the Rí na Chladach as we journey between stars.”

Rachel breathed out and then took another long, slow breath as she prepared her answer.
“No,” she said. “I can’t. You’re a remarkable man and I think your life on this ship is amazing, but it is not for me. I don’t want to travel in space for all my life. I’m just spending some time with The Doctor and then I will probably go home… to Earth. Besides… I don’t… I don’t….”

She shook her head. All of her reasons for saying no, The Doctor, Wales, even Jes, were fading from her mind. It had been on the top of her tongue to say that she didn’t love Ó Máille, which was a very important reason as far as she was concerned, but somehow she couldn’t say it.

Of course she couldn't. She loved him as if she had known him forever and loved him for as long. She couldn't imagine any other future or any other life than as his wife.

"I'll have to tell The Doctor," she said. "He's been kind to me. I owe him an explanation."

"Of course," he answered. "But after that, we'll be together for all eternity."

"All eternity," Ray whispered dreamily. "Oh, yes."

She hardly noticed her steps as she made her way back down to the deck where the party was going on, still. As they entered the room, the music stopped and the dancers moved aside. The King of the Claddagh held the hand of his betrothed as he announced the good news to his crew.

There was cheering and raised glasses toasting the happy couple. Everyone was pleased to know that Ray was going to stay with them as Ó Máille's queen and wife.

The Doctor stood up from the corner where he had been talking with Ó Murchú and some of the other men. The crowd grew silent again and a path opened as he slowly walked towards Ray and Ó Máille.

"This is very sudden," he said to her in a calm, steady tone. “Are you sure it is what you want?"

"It is all I have ever wanted," Ray answered, her eyes bright and a smile upon her lips. "Oh, Doctor, you know it is a dream come TRUE. I know I am going to be so happy. "

"Then I wish you well," he said with no trace of disappointment in his voice. "I will remember you to your friends in Wales... and to Jes."

"Jes?" For a moment she was puzzled. "Oh, yes, Jes. Please give him my fondest wishes."

"I'll tell him the better man won," The Doctor assured her coolly. "I suppose I’d better be off, then?"

"You don't want to stay for the wedding, Doctor?" Ó Máille asked. “It’ll likely be tomorrow. There is no reason to delay.”

"Oh, I never do weddings," The Doctor answered. "I know Ray is in safe hands. I can go on by myself without any sense of guilt. Better this way, a clean break. Ray, my dear, I am sure you are going to be very happy."

"Oh, I know it," she told him brightly. "I know it."

"Well, that's that, then. I'll be off. Are you coming up on deck to wave me off?"

"Of course we are," Ó Máille answered though he was actually talking to Ray. He clutched her hand tightly as they returned to the top deck once more.


"Well, this IS goodbye," The Doctor said as they stood beside the tethered TARDIS. He embraced Ray tenderly and kissed her on both cheeks and then, very quickly, on her lips.
"Have a wonderful wedding and a marvellous life," he told her. Then, close by her ear, so that her betrothed man could not hear he had something more to say.
"I'll be here when you need me."

She was puzzled by that remark. Why should she need him after all? She had Ó Máille to look after her now. He would protect her from danger. He would always take care of her.

The Doctor drew away from her and wished her well one more time, then he turned and walked away. He went into the TARDIS and a few minutes later it dematerialised.

"He's really gone," Ray said in a suddenly worried tone. "I never imagined...."

"You don't need The Doctor," Ó Máille assured her. "You have me, now. Now and forever more."

"Yes, I do," she said happily as she clung to his hand.

"You must be tired," he added. "I'll have one of the women bring you to a quiet cabin. Rest well. Tomorrow will be our wedding day."

The Doctor carefully wiped his mouth with a clean handkerchief and spat out the acrid taste in his mouth into the fabric.

"Yachh," he murmured. "A cheap, low trick."

It was hypnotic dust, used to control the thoughts and words of a victim. His old adversary The Rani used to make it in her laboratory and use it on the males of easily suggestible species. It was the tool of a femme fatale, passed on through a kiss. He was surprised to come across a man using the sane trick, but he had known by the glazed look in Ray’s eyes and the triumphant smile Ó Máille had when he made the announcement that nothing short of a devious ‘love potion’ could have made this happen.

Ray just wasn't that flighty sort who fell in and out of love like a butterfly. She had her heart thoroughly broken when she was a girl thrown over by Billy for the charms of Delta. She had never let herself make that mistake again. She knew that love came at a hard price and rarely came easy.

Certainly not THAT easy.

She was under Ó Máille’s influence. That much was easy to work out.

What to do about it all was harder, except he was quite certain he wasn't going to leave Ray on her own to fend off Ó Máille when the stuff wore off and she realised she didn’t love him and didn’t want to be his wife.

That was why he re-materialised the TARDIS in one of the Rí na Chladach’s several holds. This one contained silks and spices, barrels of very highly prized Alba Nuadh malt whiskey and gold, silver and lutanium ingots. The King of the Claddagh had his own treasure house of fine things bought or bartered for the minerals trawled from space.

Or he had a sideline in smuggling. The distilled products of Alba Nuadh's grain harvests were subject to prohibition on many planets, which made the barrels of amber liquid worth more per square inch of hold space than the ingots of precious metals.

Whether that sort of thing was a profitable sideline or not didn't concern The Doctor. Out here in deep space there were no laws and no lawmen to enforce them.

And a marriage ceremony in that same lawless deep space was binding if performed in front of sufficient witnesses who could later make their mark upon a sworn affidavit.
Even if the bride was under hypnosis!

That was why he had to get Ray back to her senses before the wedding took place.

But he knew there was no chance of taking her by force. She was by no means Ó Máille’s prisoner, but he would have his people watching over her.

Besides, while she was under the influence force would be the only way to get her into the TARDIS. Kicking and screaming would be the appropriate phrase. Until she recovered her senses and realised she wasn't in love with Ó Máille there was no point in causing her distress.

Assuming the stuff lasted as much as fifteen hours, it would be cutting it fine.

He just hoped a Claddagh wedding ceremony was a long one and contained one of those pauses where lawful impediments might be raised.

Ray woke in what would have been early morning if such times existed in deep space. The porthole in her cabin showed a dark region of space with very few stars. For a moment she felt very alone and very far from home and more than a little frightened. Then she remembered that she was getting married, today, to the most wonderful man in the universe.

There was somebody in the room. She sat up, startled, before she realized it was the same woman who had showed her to this room last night - Marie-Anne Ó Murchú, wife of the first mate. She had brought a breakfast of toasted barley bread, butter and honey with a pot of hot, strong coffee with cream and more honey to sweeten it.

"When you've eaten there will be time for a nice long, hot bath," Mrs Ó Murchú told her. Then we'll be ready to help you with your wedding dress."

"I don't have a wedding dress," Ray pointed out. Then she looked at the hook in the wall beside the mirrored dresser. There was a white lace gown hanging there. It looked antique - that is to say it was at least sixty years old in the early nineteen seventies when Ray left Earth. In this century it was far older than that and it was a wonder it was still so wonderfully preserved.

It was beautiful. She resisted the temptation to touch it with her hands sticky with honey, but she knew the lace covered satin would feel fabulous.

"Why is there a wedding dress waiting for me?" Ray asked as a strange doubt surfaced through her happiness. "How could he have known?"

"Its a family heirloom," Marie-Anne explained. "Peadar's grandmother and mother wore it in their turn and his first wife who died only a year after they were married."

"He had a wife before... a wife who died?" Ray was surprised but not dismayed. "How sad for him. I hope I can make him happy."

"I am sure you will," Marie-Anne told her. "But, muise, are you sure he will make you happy? It has all been so sudden. It’s not too late to back out. Nobody would blame you."

"I couldn't let him down like that. Besides, I love him as if we had known each other forever. "

"That's grand, so," Marie-Anne told her. "I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. I'll get on with drawing your bath."

The Doctor had been busy all night arranging a trump card in case reason alone wasn't enough. When he was done, he went to the door of the locked cargo hold. The sonic screwdriver made short work of the locks and he stepped out onto a dimly lit companionway.

Then he ducked back into the hold. Somebody was coning down the steps at the far end.
Male and female voices spoke low as if afraid to be overheard even here below the main decks.

"It isn't right," the female voice was saying as they halted by the very door The Doctor was concealed behind. "She isn't really in love with him. It’s just pollen of the scarlet emperor flower fuddling her head. It’s false pretences. That poor woman will be nothing short of his prisoner for the rest of her life."

"A prisoner wrapped in every luxury he can provide," replied Ó Murchú. “He will love her to the end of time itself.”

"But still his prisoner. You know it, Briain Ó Murchú, if any man knows it. This is all wrong."

"I know. But he's my captain and my King, and my friend since we were both children playing hide and seek in these very decks. And I know that he's only been half a man since Theresa died on him. To see him happy again, I'd let worse things be done. The woman won’t come to any harm. He’ll take good care of her, and perhaps she WILL come to love him in time."

"You're a prize gombeen," Marie-Anne Ó Murchú told her husband. "Never mind what it’d do to her. Do you think he'd be happy living a lie like that? If you care for him, as your captain, king or friend, we have to put a stop to this wedding - for the sake of both souls involved."

There was a long pause. Ó Murchú was considering his wife's words.

"You're right, as always, Marie, mo chuisle. You were always the better part of me. But what can we do?"

The couple clutched each other in fear as the door beside them opened. They were only slightly reassured when they recognised The Doctor.

"I have a plan," he said. "If you help me, it could work much more smoothly."

The dress fitted as if it were made for her. Ray looked at herself in the long mirror in her room and was thrilled. She knew she wasn't a young woman, but right now she felt as if she were. She felt as beautiful as everyone told her she was.

"You're perfect," Marie told her. "Absolutely beautiful. It’s a shame that your friend didn't stay. I'm sure he'd be proud to see you like this."

"He was jealous," Ray answered. "Jealous of Ó Máille because I love him and want to live my life with him."

"I don't think that's so, a chailín," Marie answered her. "He seems too good a man for that."

"Ó Máille is a good man," Ray answered as if prompted to say so by some kind of cue card in her head.

Marie sighed.

"Yes, he is. He is a good man, a good friend, a good king and captain. Chailín, if you come to a time when you think otherwise about him, try to be kind. He is a lonely man and that's why he might have acted against his better judgement."

"What do you mean?" Ray asked. "I don't understand."

"I know you don't," Marie admitted. "When the time comes that you do, don't think too badly of any of us."

Ray was still puzzled by such earnest and cryptic talk when she was so very happy. But there was a knock at the door. It was the maids of honour, four of the youngest and prettiest of the women of the Claddagh fleet. In pastel satin gowns trimmed with ribbons they brought a bouquet of white roses for her to carry and prepared to escort her to the ceremony.

The Doctor was having trouble. The big, dramatic entrance into the wedding depended on split second timing, and split second timing was hardly possible when the temporal gears were out of line. If he hit the right hour it would be a miracle, let alone the vital moment in the ceremony when he had to intervene.

He sighed wearily and slid under the console to examine the set of temporal gears. They looked pretty much like a set of cotton reels of decreasing sizes ever turning at proportional speeds. The biggest ones hardly moved at all when the TARDIS was stationary. They measured out huge units of time - epochs and eons, millennia, centuries. Then it was years, months, days, turning slowly, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds. That was the tiniest spindle made of lutanium and when it was working properly it span so fast it was almost invisible.

It wasn't working properly. One end was out of its minute cradle and the spindle wobbled erratically.

He took a deep breath and reached to gently clip the spindle back in place. It span evenly again and the bigger reels caught up and steadied themselves into their proper rhythm.

He had fixed it, but it was going to be very close, now. He wasn’t even sure he was going to make it at all.

Ray clung to Ó Máille’s arm as the ceremony, conducted by the captain of An Cill Chiaráin, Ruairí Ó Dubhda, proceeded. She was smiling brightly beneath the veil as she looked at the man she loved. There was a laugh in her voice as he pledged his love to her in Irish and she pledged hers in Welsh. She looked forward to those final, binding words ‘I do’. For her it would be “I ei wneud!”. For Ó Máille - “Is féidir liom!”

After that a delightfully bilingual life among the stars.

If she had ever thought of a perfect place for a wedding she could not have imagined anything as beautiful as the open deck of a space sailing boat with the whole universe above and around her. She could almost hear the stars singing along with the soft bodhrán and the singing of the women as the ceremony proceeded. All of the boats of the fleet were tethered around the Rí na Chladach and their crewmembers stood on the decks or climbed into the rigging to watch, to sing and to cheer when it was all over.
She couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful, a more perfect wedding if she had planned it.

“Where is The Doctor?” Ó Murchú murmured under his breath. “If he doesn’t come soon, it will be too late.”

“He’ll be here,” Marie answered, equally quietly. “He HAS to be here.”

The Doctor was having the most extraordinary difficulty in moving the TARDIS from the hold at the bottom of the Rí na Chladach to the top deck. The repairs to the temporal gears had upset the calibration of the spatial co-ordinates.

“Come on!” he exclaimed in frustration. “I could have run upstairs faster at this rate.”

“He’ll be here,” Marie said again. Then less certainly, “He HAS to be here.”

“We can’t wait for him,” Ó Murchú decided. He let go of his wife’s hand and stepped forward to do what he had hoped The Doctor was going to do.

“No!” he cried out, pushing his way towards the couple. “No, for the sake of all that is sane, stop this now. Peadar, you know it’s wrong. You can’t marry a woman who is under the influence of a love drug and doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

“Briain!” Ó Máille turned to look at his First Mate. “How can you betray me in such a way?”

Other men closed in on Ó Murchú, but he fought them off to reach his king and captain.

Ray watched the fight in horror then turned to her betrothed.

“Ó Máille, I ei wneud!” she cried out.

“Is féidir liom!” he replied and pressed a ring on her finger. It was made of silver and was in the style of a crowned heart held in a pair of hands known as a Claddagh wedding ring.

Ruairí Ó Dubhda looked at them both as they embraced and kissed and decided there wasn’t much else for him to do. They were married.

“Take him below,” Ó Máille called out as Ó Murchú was finally subdued by a crack to the head. “When I’m ready I’ll deal with him.”

“No!” Marie-Anne cried out. “In the name of all the saints, what are you doing, Peadar? Please stop this madness. Briain has been your friend since childhood. Don’t betray that friendship over this. He only meant to keep you from doing a terrible and a foolish thing.”

“You, too?” Ó Máille was incensed by the double betrayal and ordered his men to take hold of Marie as well as her husband. She backed away, grabbing a stout stick to defend herself with.

And it was just then that the TARDIS materialised in the midst of the confusion. The Doctor stepped out hurriedly and saw the situation as the wedding party turned into a brawl – a bigger and bigger brawl as people swung pirate style on the rigging from other boats and joined in.

“Ray, you have to come with me,” he said, reaching out to her. “You don’t belong here. You don’t really love this man. It’s all been a charade. You were drugged….”

“You, too!” Ray stared angrily at The Doctor. “How can you all keep saying this? I DO love him, and… and… it’s too late. We’re married. You can’t do anything about it.”

“I wonder about that,” The Doctor replied as Ó Máille tightened his hold around Ray’s shoulders. “Ó Máille, I wonder if you love Rachel as much as you love the treasures in your hold. I’ve taken them, hidden them where you will never find them unless you let Ray go.”

His eyes flickered with a moment of doubt, but he still held Ray in his arms and she was not struggling to get away from him.

"Rachel means more to me than all the treasure in the universe," Ó Máille answered him. "You can't bargain for her with material things."

Ó Máille may have genuinely meant that, but some of his crew were not so certain.

"Our treasure is gone?" The news spread and men and women pressed forward demanding to know what he meant.

“It’s a lie,” Ó Máille insisted.

"It is true," The Doctor assured them. "You will never see the fruits of your labour again unless I get Ray back. And I would think again about hitting me with that stick, sunshine." He parried a stout blackthorn stick with his question mark shaped umbrella. "If you kill me, you will NEVER know where I put the treasure."

The would-be assassin thought again. Instead the crowd turned towards Ó Máille, demanding to know why he had risked what belonged to them all for his own pleasure.

"Get back, the lot of you," Ray called out. "Get away from him. I love him. He....."

She yelped as Ó Máille's grip on her tightened and he pulled her backwards. Maria screamed even louder as her husband lunged forward to stop the inevitable. As Ó Máille fell backwards over the rail, dragging Ray with him she turned and saw The Doctor hurrying towards his blue box.

She ran after him.

It was several stunned minutes later before the TARDIS re-materialised. When the doors opened Ó Murchú stepped in. Other crewmembers crowded around the door and watched a tragic tableaux. Ray was kneeling on the TARDIS floor crying while Marie tried to comfort her. The Doctor was leaning over Ó Máille desperately giving him CPR.

"I think it’s too late," Ó Murchú told him after several unresponsive minutes passed. "He's gone."

"I'm afraid you're right," The Doctor admitted as he leaned back and closed Ó Máille’s eyes. Ó Murchú accepted a hand woven blanket passed to him by one of the crewmen and stepped forward to cover the body of his King and Captain decently.

Ray cried even more piteously and reached out for the dead man's hand.

"Ray, it isn't real," The Doctor told her. "You aren't in love with him. It was a drug... on his lips. "

" I know," she sobbed. 'I know. I came out of it as we fell. But... but he must have really cared about me. He... he kissed me... he gave me his last breath.... He died to give me a few seconds more... so that you could rescue me."

"I'm sorry," The Doctor said to her. “I am truly sorry. I couldn’t reach you any sooner. If I could have… you know I would.”

Everyone understood that. They were grateful to him for trying, for at least bringing their King back to them so that they could mourn him properly.

"You told me," Ray continued, letting go of Ó Máille's hand and grasping Marie's instead. "You told me to remember that he is a good man."

"He was that, a chailín," Marie answered. "Yes, he was. In the last moment he was the very best he could be."

Ray wasn't crying now. She was biting her lip and touching the Claddagh wedding ring that he had put on her finger.

The Doctor nodded. He knew what she was thinking – that even for a few brief, tragic minutes she had been married to Ó Máille.

It that helped her through the grief it was fine.

Peadar Ó Máille, King of the Claddagh was buried in space sewn into a sailcloth in proper ceremony. Ray watched dry eyed. She had cried all her tears now.

Afterwards The Doctor had a few last things to talk to Ó Murchú about before they went on their way.

"I took your treasure into the future," he said. "It will be right there in the hold in another thirty hours. Use it wisely, won’t you."

"Nobody was being greedy, Doctor,” Ó Murchú assured him. “I want you to know that. It’s just that the treasure us security for all of us if we had to give up this life."

"I fully understand," The Doctor said. "Just one thing. I'm holding you to this promise as the new King. I'm asking no questions about where anything came from or where it is going - except for the whiskey. I am sure you know you can sell for huge profits in the prohibition planets of Erisi X and Tyri espinal. But don't. Liquor is prohibited on those worlds because it is a poison to their respective species. That doesn’t stop some of them wanting it or idiots selling it to them, but don’t be one of those idiots."

"You have my word," Doctor. As King of the Claddagh."

"Good. Well, Ray and I will be on our way. We're going to meet her young man now that he is done with his official business.”

"I’m glad of that,” Marie said. "What will you tell him about Peadar?"

The truth," Ray answered, fingering the silver ring that was starting to feel familiar on her finger. "It’s not going to be easy, but he will have to know because nobody can live a lie. That was the mistake Ó Máille made. But I will tell Jes that for a short time the King of the Claddagh loved me and I loved him – and that he died saving me and he was a good man.”

“That’s the truth, sure enough,” Marie said with a warm smile. “That’s how we’ll all remember him.”