Well, this is it! Thanks again to everyone who has R&R'd this story!

She was unusually quiet the rest of the day, making marked few comments about what he read to her. Towards evening she made a grand feast appear, complete with embroidered tablecloth, crystal goblets, and a silver candelabra. She disappeared for a moment and returned wearing a long velvety dress, very different from her usual garb, dark gray with silver trim. Her hair was swept up and secured with a silver headband scattered with purple gems. She looked resplendent, regal, and the Doctor was very taken aback by the change.

"That's a rather fetching ensemble you're wearing," he commented.

"It was the outfit I wore when preparing to make difficult decisions concerning the people," she answered softly.

"The people..." realization hit him sharply. "Parthenope... you were the Queen of Psia?"

"Yes, Doctor. And my brother was the King. And when the invaders came, he brought us here, instead of staying to help our people fight."

The Doctor was at a loss. "That must have been a difficult thing for him to do," he said at length.

"Perhaps," she allowed. "Perhaps not. My brother, though I love him dearly, was always a bit of a coward. I cannot say what his true intentions were: I never asked him." She paused to look at the Doctor. "I never truly wanted an answer, you see."

He nodded. "So... why are you wearing that dress now?" he asked, a bit apprehensive.

"Let us eat," she answered with a smile. "And then I shall tell you."

The meal was delicious, and their conversation entertaining and interesting. The Doctor found her knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects, from horticulture to temporal physics. They agreed on many things, argued over a few points, and overall he quite enjoyed it. When the last bit of dessert had been eaten and the wine glasses refilled for the last time, he sat back and looked at her.

She didn't try to stall. "I have decided it is time for you to go," she told him.

He was certain he couldn't have heard her correctly. "Sorry, what?"

"Tomorrow morning you are free to leave."

"Why?" he asked simply. "Why now, why have you changed your mind?"

She smiled. "You have been wonderful company, Doctor. I have enjoyed every minute of our time together. But I know that you will never stay here willingly, happily. I can no longer keep you."

He blinked, oddly feeling as though he'd been slapped. He shook his head. "All right... I don't really know what more to say except thank you."

She smiled again.

"You are, of course, coming with me, you know," he said, his tone light but his eyes serious.

"No."

"Oh, yes, you certainly are."

Now it was her turn to shake her head. "I cannot."

"Rubbish!" he snapped. "I won't leave without you."

She laughed. "What? Are you mad?"

"I've been called that, and worse," he replied, unruffled. "But you must know that I can't leave you here alone: why, anything could happen to you!"

"And do you care what happens to me?"

"Don't be an idiot!" he said angrily. "Of course I care! Why do you think I haven't made any effort to find the TARDIS key, or tried to convince you to let me go? I wanted you to know me, trust me, so that you would let me take you away from here eventually!"

"I do know you, somewhat," she answered slowly, reflectively. "And I do trust you now. But I can't let you take me from here."

"Why not? I'm not going to try to hand you over to the interstellar police! I want to help you, Parthenope. I'm partly to blame for what's happened to you in the past fifty years."

"That wasn't your fault," she whispered. "The Master..."

"Yes, well, the Master," he snapped. "It would be all well and good, and easy, to put all the blame on him, wouldn't it? But I can't. I'm a Time Lord, and I shouldn't forget things no matter how many times I'm cracked on the head. I should have remembered! I shouldn't have left you here alone for so long!"

"It is the past now, Doctor," she told him gently. "Accept it and let it go, as I have done, as you have taught me to do."

"I bloody well won't," he said firmly. "You are coming with me or I won't leave. We can have another round of the obstinate contest, and this time I guarantee you I'll win."

She sighed, casting him a sad, weary glance.

"You can't force me to leave," he said stubbornly. "You promised me you'd stay out of my mind, so you can't make me go."

"That is true, I cannot. But I am asking you to go."

"Why? Tell me why you won't come with me!" he exclaimed, grasping a handful of curls and tugging on them as though the action would make all things clear to him.

"I have to undo what I've done over all these years. I must put this galaxy back to rights."

"Then I'll stay with you until that's done."

"There is no point-"

"There is every point!" he shouted. He calmed a bit, and when he spoke again his voice was softer, but no less intense. "I left you once, fifty of your years ago, and told you I'd return," he said. His eyes were haunted. "And I never did. I broke my word to you, whether it was my fault or not. A Time Lord's word is sacred, Parthenope. No matter who is to blame, I won't risk that again. I, too, must put what I have done back to rights."

She sighed. "Days ago, you wanted nothing more than to be gone."

"But not without you."

"And now you are offering to stay with me willingly. Why?"

"Because," he said slowly, "I understand now the importance of trusting someone you once thought you couldn't, of having faith in someone despite all odds. And that is what you have taught me."

"It would seem that we have learned from each other, then," she said.

"Yes," he said, rising from his chair and coming to stand by her side. "Yes, we have."

She stood as well, gazing at him with those hypnotic green eyes. "So... now what?" she asked.

"Well, now you start getting things lively again on all those planets," he answered.

She shook her head. "I meant... with us."

"Ah." He took a step back and reached up a hand to gently touch her cheek. "I'm not good at this sort of thing, you know," he said quietly. "Not used to it."

She nodded. "It may take months to complete this work," she said, capturing his hand in one of hers and pressing a kiss to his palm.

He felt a slight shiver. "Yes, it very well could," he answered, his voice not entirely steady.

"Doctor..."

"Yes, Parthenope?"

"This... sort of thing," she said, planting more tiny moist kisses along his hand. "Is it... something you could get used to?"

"Well, I'm not really sure," he said with a broad grin, pulling her close to him, his lips inches away from hers. "But do you know... I think I could get used to trying to find out."