Well, this is it everyone! Thanks to all of you who've read and reviewed this story. Special thanks to warinbabylon, kittenmommy, skyblaze, samantha2074, Mel, and drox.

"I can't believe you doubted me," he pouted.

"I've learned not to take anything for granted, Doc," she retorted. "Now, how about we go to phase two, you get this bloody collar off me, we go get Rina and Lils and get the hell out of here!"

"Patience, Tegan," he answered. "We need to wait a bit, it's time for the guards to make another round."

She blinked. "How long were you gone?"

"About an hour, give or take a few minutes."

"That's all? It felt like an eternity!"

"Well, time is relative, Tegan..."

"Doc, you can tell me about it til I'm blue in the face when we're on board the TARDIS. Right now please get this blasted thing off me!"

"And here I thought you were learning patience," he sighed with mock disappointment. He made an adjustment to the screwdriver, then went to work on her collar. When it came off, she drew a deep breath. "Free at last!"

"It does feel good," he agreed, stretching out on the bed with his arms folded under his head.

Tegan followed his lead. "You're so calm," she whispered.

"On the outside, yes. Inside I have a butterfly collection."

She chuckled. "I'd not really have suspected that."

"What, that a Time Lord could get nervous?"

"Yes."

"We do have emotions, Tegan. We're just used to keeping them at bay."

"You can say that again," she murmured.

"I would've thought you'd know differently by now." His voice was casual, but there was an edge to it she couldn't quite define.

"I suppose I do. You're not a typical Time Lord, thank goodness!"

"I second that completely," he said.

"I'm glad we're still able to agree on things," she teased.

"So am I, Tegan."

His voice was warm and made a shiver run through her. She realized with a start that if they got out, a lot of things would have to be sorted. A LOT. One thing at a time, Tegan, let's get out of here first. Then you and he can argue over the rest of it.

He sat up suddenly. "It's time," he whispered. "Come on."

She followed him to the door. "Keep behind me," he told her, "and keep your eyes and ears open."

"That's the most unnecessary thing you've said to me in months," she answered.

"Humor me," he sighed, and slowly cracked the door.

She waited, heart hammering in her chest, until he glanced back at her. "Come on."

Together they slipped out into the hallway.

So this is what it's like at night, Tegan thought. The halls were long and dark, with only a few intermittent lights giving off illumination. She could see fine, it was just... strange. She pulled herself out of her thoughts and focused on listening and watching. When they got to Rina and Lils door they stopped, and the Doctor quickly opened it. Tegan saw her friends grinning like maniacs as they entered, closing the door behind them.

"It really worked," Lils breathed.

The Doctor grunted and went to work on their collars. "Remember," he said as he freed them. "If we get separated, keep going. If we get captured, keep going. Even if we haven't made it to the ships yet, try and get outside and away. Someone has got to let the universe know what's going on here." He pressed the key into Rina's hand.

They murmured agreement, putting their collars down and standing behind Tegan as she moved behind the Doctor. He drew a deep breath. "All right, here we go."

Tegan wanted nothing more than to run, run as fast as she could. She forced herself to creep along, knowing that stealth and silence were called for. The Azim were very dependent on their hodgepodge technology, and now that the collars were off this was going to be an advantage. She was so intent on watching and listening she almost bumped into the Doctor when he stopped at the door that led to where their ships were kept.

Tegan repressed a shiver, remembering all too well the last time she and the Doctor had stood before a door to freedom. This time was different. He bent down and after a moment looked up with a smile. He pushed the door open and they went in. He closed the door back, and suddenly the high- pitched whine of an alarm resounded through the area.

"No," he whispered. "How! Not now, not this close..."

"Doctor!"

Tegan's scream got his attention. "We've got to find the TARDIS and get in before they get here!"

He nodded. Rina and Lils were already running through the hangar. "Thank you, Doctor!" Rina cried as they ran.

"Your ship!" he shouted, pausing.

"It can blast through here easy. Don't worry about us, just go!"

"Come on, Doctor!" Tegan shouted. She took off and he followed her.

"There's dozens of craft here!" Tegan exclaimed. She turned her head one way, then the other, madly searching as they ran.

Dimly the Doctor heard the main door open. "They're coming!"

"There's the TARDIS!" Tegan cried, pulling him around a corner.

They ran, the Doctor pulling off the key as he went. When they reached the TARDIS, he struggled with the lock. Tegan, watching behind them, saw the guards. They were carrying some sort of pipes, and as the Doctor got the door open, one of the guards blew something at him. Tegan knew what it was: a drug-laced dart, the same thing they'd originally been captured by.

"Doctor!" she cried, a second too late. It went into his arm.

She grabbed him and shoved him inside, rapidly closing the doors behind them. "Doctor, go!" she screamed.

He had already moved to the console, frantically operating switches and buttons. There was pounding on the door. Tegan went to his side, watching in horror as his hands shook and he started to sway. She stood behind him, holding him up, supporting him. "Doctor, come on!"

"I'm trying... almost..." his hands reached for the dematerialization switch. He felt the control under his fingers, heard Tegan crying, pleading with him, felt something warm and strong grip his hand...

That was the last thing he knew before darkness claimed him.

"Welcome back, Doc."

The Doctor groaned, forcing his eyes to open, and found himself staring up at the very welcome sight of Tegan grinning at him. She knelt beside him and brushed his hair away from his face. He heard the soothing hum of TARDIS, saw the glare of the stark white walls, and knew they were safe.

"What happened?" he croaked.

"I put my hand over yours to help you with the lever," she told him. "None too soon to suit me, let me tell you."

"So we're..."

"In the vortex? At least that's where I guessed you sent us."

He nodded. "Yes. Thank you, Tegan."

"For what?"

"For helping me work the controls. If you hadn't..."

She gave him an inscrutable glance. "I'd have to have been pretty stupid not too, Doctor."

He noticed the change in her address of him and nodded. "You're right, Tegan. I didn't mean to be insulting. I'm just... thankful you were with me."

She accepted the olive branch with a slight smile. "Are you all right?"

He nodded. "It was the same drug, it seems. I'm fine."

"Well, I suppose the next order of business will be to go fetch Nyssa. She must be insanely worried by now."

"Very concerned, at the least," he agreed. "I'll attempt to arrive when we'd originally planned." Now it was his turn to fix her with an unreadable look. "But I think we should stay in the vortex for a bit first."

"Why?"

"Because we've just been through a long and painful ordeal, Tegan. We need to heal, and equally importantly, we need to talk."

"But Nyssa..." she began.

"...Will still be on Elysia, and I still plan on returning us within a week of when we left her. I think you and I need to take care of this before she comes back on board." He raised his brows. "Do you disagree?"

"It's not that I disagree—"

"—That's extraordinary," he interjected wryly.

"I just..."

"Yes?"

"Now that we're back, safe and sound... I've been thinking while you were passed out."

She stopped and looked down with a faint frown. He waited. When she didn't continue he sat up. "And?"

"No," she whispered, getting to her feet. "Not now." She turned as if to leave.

He jumped up and grabbed her around the waist, shocking her into stopping. "Don't do this, Tegan. Don't run away from me now. Not after everything we've been through."

She shook her head. "Don't worry, Doc, I don't hold you to anything."

She'd never seen that look on his face before: a look of complete bewilderment, disbelief, pain. "Don't hold me to anything? Tegan, what the devil do you mean?"

"It wasn't you," she cried. "It was the situation, Doc, it's called hostage syndrome, I understand that..." her voice gave out as she drew a ragged breath.

"Is that what you think?" he whispered. "That everything I said to you, everything that happened between us, was the result of psychological stress?"

"Doc..."

"Didn't anything I said reach you? Tegan, when I told you I have had feelings for you for a while now, I meant that! When I said I'd wanted you on some level for Rassilon knows how long, I meant that! It wasn't all just brought on by being prisoners; it wasn't all caused by the forced intimacy. And if you think those feelings have magically evaporated now that we're back on the TARDIS, you're very much mistaken!"

"This is too much for me to handle right now!" She closed her eyes, squeezing them tight in an effort to stem the tide of tears, then opened them again to stare into his. "Please, Doc, I need some time alone to sort myself out. Please understand."

"I do understand, Tegan," he sighed. "It will do me some good as well." He released her. "All right, I'll let you come to me when you're ready. You know where to find me."

"I do?"

"You do... if you're still my brave heart," he smiled.

He turned and left without another word. And with his absence, Tegan felt two emotions she hated: confusion and loss.

************************************************************************

It was two days before she went to him. She'd spent all that time either pacing her room, curled up on her bed, or pacing the corridor outside her room. She'd eaten little and probably not slept much. At least it didn't feel like she had. Finally, on the evening of the second day, she'd made enough peace within herself that she was ready. Instinct told her where to find him, and as she approached the cloisters, she smiled to see that both her instincts and his faith in her were well placed. But she was surprised at the changes he'd made.

There were flowers everywhere. Of every imaginable color and shape. They filled ornate marble planters, stood in crystal vases, curled around white wooden arches. In the center of all this was a white wooden gazebo with a bench on each side. More flowers covered the roof and twined along the sides. The light was soft violet and reminded Tegan of the sunset on Danarus. There was music in the background, so quiet she could barely hear it, a sweet chorus of voices singing acapella in a language she didn't understand.

The Doctor sat on one of the long benches, leaning back, eyes closed. He was totally enraptured by the music. His expression was so peaceful, Tegan hesitated to enter. He'd changed into a cricketing outfit minus jacket and panama hat, and the sight of him looking so much like his old self gave her pause as well.

"A flower garden is best shared with another person, Tegan, especially when the person is partly the reason you created the garden to begin with," he said. He opened his eyes and gave her a gentle teasing glance.

She slowly entered, breathing in the fragrances as she walked towards him, feeling relaxed despite herself. She wore a simple white dress and sandals, having wanted to get away from anything brown and drab after wearing that prison uniform for months. Her hair, like his, was longer, and fell in loose curls around her shoulders. She saw him studying her with a faint gleam in his eyes: what was that look? Appreciation? Speculation? She wasn't sure. But it made her feel very warm inside.

He moved over and she sat down next to him. "Very nice, Doc," she said. "Very peaceful."

He nodded. "Good. That's what I wanted."

"You did this for me?"

"For us," he clarified.

"It's almost romantic," she said without thinking.

He raised both brows at her but didn't comment. "I gather you're feeling better now?" he asked.

"Yes." She studied him. "Are you?"

"Yes."

She nodded, feeling nervous suddenly, wondering how they were going to handle the next bit.

"Better is not, however, synonymous with different," he said quietly.

"Meaning what?" she whispered.

"Meaning my feelings for you haven't changed."

"Oh, Doc..."

"Have yours?" he asked suddenly, sharper than he meant to. "Do you no longer..."

"Love you?" she asked. "No, Doc, my feelings for you haven't changed, either. They wouldn't. I've felt this way about you for a while now."

"It's the same for me, Tegan, even though that's hard for you to accept."

"I guess I'm just afraid to accept it."

"Why?"

She glanced down.

"Are we back to that business of 'You're a Time Lord and I'm a lowly human' again? Because if we are, Tegan Jovanka, I am going to bite your nose."

She couldn't help but laugh. "I'd like to see you try!" Then she sobered. "It's not exactly that, though I guess that is a part of it. I just..."

"It still bothers you how it happened between us," he ventured.

She nodded. "And knowing that if it wasn't for what happened, we might never have been having this conversation."

"I had a similar discussion with Rina at one point," he said.

"You did?"

He nodded. "I told her I was confused, that it all seemed so overwhelming, that I didn't know how to separate what I'd felt for you before with what I felt for you now."

"What did she say?"

"That it wasn't important, that what mattered was how I felt in my heart."

"Hearts, in your case," Tegan quipped.

He nodded again. "And there's no mystery there. I feel happy, Tegan. I'm happy when I'm with you."

"But that doesn't mean..."

"It isn't the same happiness that I get from being around Nyssa, or going to a new planet, or solving Rassilon spatial equations. It's a happiness from touching you, listening to you, laughing with you." He stopped and sighed. "I told you, on your world, it would probably be called love. Time Lords don't normally get emotional enough with anyone to fall in love with them. We don't have a word that compares with it."

"That's grand," she said, rolling her eyes.

"But I feel this," he persisted, taking her warm hands in his cool ones. "I'm not sorry for it, and I don't want to ignore it."

"Your life would be easier if you did," she said, half-joking.

"That may be true. But it would also be very lonely and empty."

"We'll still fight, you know."

"I've no doubt of that."

"It won't be easy."

"Nothing worth having ever really is."

She burst into laughter, and he smiled. "Are you quite finished with your warnings? I had hoped after we resolved this we could do something more enjoyable."

"Ho, did you now?" she grinned. "So sure I'd succumb to your boyish charm, were you?"

His expression was unfathomable. "Let's just say I thought the odds were in my favor."

"I'd not have pictured you for a gambling man," she teased, running her fingers through his silky hair."

"I am when the odds are good," he replied.

"So... what did you have in mind?"

"A vacation, of sorts."

"Now?"

"Why not? Well, we'll go get Nyssa first of course. I'm sure she'll find plenty of things to do during times you and I want to be alone."

"And just where did you plan for this little vacation to be?"

"I didn't, actually. You did."

"Me? What are you talking about?" Tegan asked, mystified.

"Italy, Tegan. You said you wanted me to take you to Italy."

She looked confused, then astonished. "Doc, I said that to you partly in jest months ago!"

"Did you think I'd forget?"

"I didn't even remember at first!"

He smiled, drawing her close and kissing her lightly on the lips. "But I did."

She pulled him back to her mouth, kissing him eagerly with all the happiness she felt. When it was over, she smiled. "Double points for you, Doc."

"Double? Really?" He rose, taking one of her hands in his and pulling her to her feet. "That's awfully generous."

"I feel generous at the moment. Enjoy it while it lasts."

"I was afraid you'd say that," he sighed teasingly.

She curled her fingers around his, and together they walked out of the cloisters and into the promise of a shared future.