Epilogue – All's Well that Ends…or Does It?
Notes: At long last, the end of the adventure. Or IS it? I wanna thank Emery Board again for her excellent beta-work on all these chapters, and for continuing to inspire and poke me with sticks to keep writing, even when I get depressed about a few updates without reviews and fall into a everybody-hates-me funk.
"Thanks for your help," said Mel, slopping the soggy mop into the bucket of disinfectant soup. "I would've had a horrid time cleaning this place up. Since poor widdle Glitz is so invalid and wounded."
She glanced over her shoulder and pouted playfully at the man in question, who was leaned against the loading cart, his cast arm strung up against his stomach. Glitz smirked back at her in the way he always did, and she grinned a bit more sincerely. It was good to see him more or less back to normal.
Martha smiled wryly as she scrubbed at a particularly stubborn spot of dried slime plastered on the cargo hold floor. If she didn't know better, she'd have said Mel and Glitz…
"No trouble," she said, reining in her speculations. "This is nothing compared to what they made us doing back at the University Hospital. Mountains of bedpans, as far as the eye could see." She wrinkled her nose and sat back, stretching her back. "Anyways, after patching folks up, I'm not really much help. Jack's the technical one, when the Doctor lets him be."
"That was my area of expertise," Mel remarked, gaining a curious look from the dark-haired girl. "Computer programmer," she explained, leaning on the mop handle. "Not that I did much computer programming with the Doctor. When I first knew him, he could be a bit…"
"Arrogant?" Martha supplied helpfully. "High-and-mighty Time Lord with a stupid ape tagging along? He likes to insult species when he's grumpy," she hurriedly elaborated, noting Mel's surprised look. Mel and Glitz laughed.
"I was thinking more…bombastic and self-absorbed. He had an ego that liked heavy petting." The smuggler snorted in amusement, and waited for Mel and Martha to stop choking on their giggles. "He seemed to have mellowed out after his regeneration, when I saw him again on Iceworld."
"Oh that's a definate fact, there, Glitz," Mel affirmed, and she and Glitz busted into laughter again.
"Regeneration? What; like a mid-life crisis for Time Lords?" Martha asked naively, picking a piece of lettuce leaf off her borrowed coveralls.
Any explanation Mel would've given the young companion was halted as the wheezing groan of the TARDIS engines filtered into the open hold. The three turned around to watch the anachronistic Police Box fade into existence, nestled between a stack of crates and a pile of old engine parts. Mel grinned wistfully, closing her eyes to savor the sound for a moment before sloshing the mop across the floor again.
The door to the time-spaceship swung open, and the Doctor stepped out, giving the navy paintjob a fond pat as he shut the doors, and bounced up the loading ramp.
"Well, the stabilizer is fixed. And I found that part you needed for the navigation system, Glitz. Two spares, actually; lucky break there. Where's Jack?" He handed over the part and glanced around expectantly for the Time Agent. Martha shook her head, getting off the floor and dusting off her coveralls.
"He avoided my attempts to see to his leg for the better part of an hourafter I patched Glitz up, said something about seeing a lady about a spanner, and disappeared into town about half an hour ago."
"Good, good. I can have him fix this up to the systems before you take off," the Time Lord nodded absently, fiddling with the spare. Mel smiled knowingly.
"I can feel the itch in your feet, Doctor; you never did like sticking around after the fact."
The Doctor stopped fidgeting and looked guilty, as Jack came jogging up from the road, slowing to a halt with a concerned look. "Hey guys, they found L'tral's body last night in the bar. The medical officer's ruled it as poison, and pretty sophisticated stuff too. They reckon it's the stuff the Larias family likes to use."
The others looked at him with worry.
"If that's the case then maybe we otta get moving…" Glitz said, rising his feet with a stiff groan and walking down to join the group. "I doubt we'll be very popular around here, Mel my dear, if the Larias folk decide to get retribution for the loss of their diamond." He draped his good arm around her shoulders. She blinked innocently.
"Lost diamond? What lost diamond?"
"The Katseye. Y'know, the one you said got ejected and disint…egrated…Mel, you're hiding something from me, I can see it in your eyes." He narrowed his eyes at her cracking façade of aloofness.
"Ooooooh. You mean this diamond?" She flashed him a sweet, devious grin, and produced the crystal from a pocket on the inside of her jacket. Glitz gawped at her, somewhere between suitably impressed and infuriated, and at a loss for words in either case.
Jack grinned impishly at Mel. "You guys – I don't think I've seen a cuter couple, all snarking at each other when you've got an audience…" He wagged his eyebrows suggestively, grin only widening as Mel's eyes flashed in insult and Glitz hurriedly removed his arm, having a sudden, convenient cough to deal with. Martha hid a smile behind her hand.
The Doctor whistled and tugged out his black-rimmed glasses, pushing them onto his nose and leaning in to inspect the sparkling gem. "Blimey, I can see why some might want to kill for this thing. It's absolutely perfect. Jack," he waved a hand at his companion absently, removing his glasses and tucking them back into his jacket pocket, "take a look at this, all the facets are perfectly cut. Not a scratch, not a scrape, not a side out of place."
"Go on and keep it, Doctor." Mel held it out to him, smiling at his confused look. Glitz made a funny sort of strangled noise.
"Mel you can't be serious! Y'know how many grotzits that thing's worth?"
"Yes, Glitz. Exactly why I want you to take it, Doctor; it's too much of a temptation for Glitz, too much of a prize for us to keep. There'd be a lot more folks then just the Larias family after our blood if they got wind of the diamond's continued existence. Take it, hide it a cave at the end of time or something. Make sure it's safe."
The Doctor grinned knowingly, and nodded, taking the crystal from his old friend's hand. He hesitated, the briefest of curious looks going unnoticed across his face before he slipped the diamond into his pocket.
"I guess this is…goodbye, then." He smiled sadly, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Rassilon, I hate that word, goodbye; it's too final for me. Au revoir, now that's a good one, means farewell. Or maybe-" He hesitated, and then stopped, looking sheepish at the bemused looks he was getting all around. "Sorry." He looked at Mel. "Sure I can't tempt you, one more spin around the galaxy? The old girl's changed quite a bit since you left…"
Mel, for a moment, gazed at the TARDIS, the desire sparkling in her eyes, old memories rising to the surface. Then, she shook her head, looping an arm through Glitz's. "No, Doctor. If I stepped through those doors again, I don't think I could come back. And someone needs to look after this lump." She thumped Glitz's arm gently with a watery smile. "I'm glad I got to see you again…for what it's worth."
"Oh Mel, it's worth more then all the treasure of the universe." He grinned brashly. She chuckled and stepped forward, the two old friends embracing in a fierce hug.
"Take care of yourself, Melanie Bush," he whispered into her hair, giving her one last squeeze.
"You too, you old dog," She murmured back, fighting tears as she released him. Glitz took her arm gently, and led her back towards the Striker. As they stepped inside the cargo doors, she turned around, and smiled a wry grin, raising a hand in farewell as the doors slowly groaned shut. The Doctor raised a hand in mirror, and smiled.
"Au revoir, old friend."
The wind whipped up around them and Martha shielded her eyes against the dust as the Star-Striker's engines powered up, lifting the ship gracefully from the ground. Then, with a booming roar, the retro burners fired, and the craft soared into the clouds, spiraling away like a gossamer bird of prey.
"Mel really is a good pilot," Martha remarked, watching it disappear into the sky. "Probably wasn't you she learned her skills from, then."
She expected an affronted but good-natured retort to the teasing remark, but the Doctor was silent. She glanced at him curiously, and was taken aback.
The Doctor was looking down at his pocket with an expression somewhere between confusion and disbelief –as though he wasn't sure if he was remembering something right.
Moving with almost clumsy haste, the Doctor pulled the diamond from his pocket, and held it close to his face. Without moving his gaze from the jewel, his other hand pulled out his glasses again and swung them around in front of his eyes.
"Doctor," said Jack slowly. "Is everything alright?"
The Doctor's face had gone almost completely white, his freckles standing out in shocking contrast.
"It can't be," he muttered.
"Can't be what?" asked Martha, staring in a mixture of alarm and awe. "What's going on?"
Her question went unanswered. With reverential fingers, the Doctor rotated the diamond. It caught the sunlight as it turned, and seemed to illuminate with a dazzling glow.
"It's so beautiful," she breathed.
"I'll say," confirmed Jack. "What's going on, Doctor?"
When the Doctor finally spoke, his voice was hushed, and almost hoarse. "I knew I felt…never thought I'd see…never thought I'd hold…what are the odds…"
"Odds to what, Doctor?" asked Martha, completely exasperated now. She couldn't see what he was so incredulous over –it was just was just a diamond after all.
Okay, a spectacular, perfect diamond that seemed to be glowing even as it left the perfect refraction point he had held it in. But still, just a diamond.
The Doctor blinked, and noticed for the first time Martha and Jack's worried expressions.
He smiled, and Martha thought it didn't look like his usual smile at all. It was a mad grin that seemed to fill his entire face, showing a world of possibilities.
"I never thought I'd see one of these again," he said, and there was something in his voice that was both awed and nostalgic, as though he was looking back into the past. He held the gem up to catch the light again, and it glowed even brighter.
"Martha Jones, Jack Harkness," he paused, taking a deep breath, as though unable to believe what he was about to say.
"This…is a piece of the Key to Time..."
-TO BE CONTINUED in Part 2: The Relic of Niveus Astrum-
Coming Soon to your local Teaspoon…