Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC. Apart from Maxie, and a few aliens.

Chapter 7

Martha was pacing the living room, the phone in her hand, when they got back. The TARDIS had landed smoothly back in the garden, and the Doctor had muttered something about needing to mend the hyperdrive before sending Maxie to face the music alone. She considered forcing him to come with her, but after a moment's thought decided it wasn't worth the bother.

"Hi, Mum," she said, at the living room door.

Martha spun on one foot and stared at her, then abruptly came across and gave her a crushing hug before standing away and folding her arms.

"If you think you're ever going to get any freedom again, young lady, you're severely mistaken."

Maxie held up her essay. "I finished my homework. And I'm back safe."

"You left, without telling me."

"Would you have let me go, if I had?"

"No."

"Well, then!" said Maxie. "Mum, I'm not a little kid. I can cope. I did cope. Did you ask Grandma, before going off with him?"

Martha put the phone back on its cradle. "No. But I was much older than you then. And anyway," she added, "I didn't have any choice about the Moon. That just happened."

"Maxie has a point, though," said the Doctor, appearing in the doorway. "I seem to remember your mother being very unhappy about me." A thought flickered across his face. "I wonder if it's something hormonal, a switch that clicks in when a woman has a child?"

"Mothers care for their children," said Martha, sharply. "That's human, Doctor."

"Not just human," he said. "It's universal. Multi-universal, in fact. Very few creatures anywhere that don't have that urge to protect their children. Apart from …"

"You're babbling," said Maxie, even as Martha held up her hand, suppressing a smile.

"All right, I get it," she said. "But Maxie, you know you're supposed to tell me before going out."

"I knew you'd say no," Maxie pointed out. "You say no half the time anyway, even when it's just town, so you'd definitely say no to travelling across space and time." She turned to the Doctor. "Thanks for a great evening. And the essay help."

"My pleasure," he said, one eyebrow up.

"Night," Maxie said, to the room at large, and went upstairs.

As she slowly undressed - her clothes felt sticky after all the running on Akatia - she heard her mother and the Doctor talking. Martha's voice rose and fell, her tone unmistakably annoyed; the Doctor's started quietly but grew louder as the discussion went on. Maxie wondered if they were still talking about her, and thought about creeping downstairs to listen. Instead, she turned into the bathroom and switched on the shower.

They had stopped talking by the time she came out, rubbing her hair with a towel. From her bedroom window she saw the Doctor cross the grass to the TARDIS and go inside, but the ship stayed where it was. Maxie closed the curtains thoughtfully.

She was packing her schoolbag, Jane Austen essay inside a folder, when there was a tap on the door.

"Can I come in?"

"I'm about to go to bed," said Maxie, still irritated with her mother. "Yeah."

The door opened, and Martha came in. "Hi."

"Hi." Maxie closed her bag and pulled back her duvet, sliding into bed. Martha sat on the edge, fiddling with her wedding ring.

"I'm sorry," she said, after a second. "I shouldn't have been angry with you."

"I get it," Maxie returned. "You're Mum, you're allowed to worry. But I am able to look after myself, you know? And it was only Jane Austen."

"And - where was it? Akatia?" Martha smiled at Maxie's aghast look. "I know how to get stuff out of the Doctor. He's only good at keeping his own secrets. He said you did well. Said you reminded him of me."

Maxie looked down at the covers. "I was terrified," she admitted, feeling grateful all of a sudden that her mother knew.

"I'd be more worried if you weren't," said Martha. "Am I too strict?"

Her mother looked so worried, that Maxie reached out for her hand. "No. Well, a bit. More than most parents."

"The Doctor said he thought I'd give you more freedom, because of what I'd seen," Martha said. "I told him he still didn't understand us, after all these years. If you know there's danger out there, why send your child into it? He seemed to think I'd want you to see the universe because of how wonderful it is."

"Don't you?"

Her mother sighed. "I do, but I want you safe more."

Maxie patted the pillows by her side, and Martha shifted to lean against them. Maxie curled into her warmth. "Mum?"

"Mmm?"

"Why did you stop travelling with him?"

There was a long silence. Martha stroked Maxie's arm, and Maxie decided not to press her.

"I had other people to look after. Other things to do," Martha said, eventually. "I knew I could either spend my life following him around, or I could get on with my own life. Qualify. Marry." She smiled. "It wasn't an easy decision. I nearly changed my mind once or twice."

"So you picked an ordinary life, over that?" Maxie gestured towards the window.

"Yes," her mother said. "Ordinary life isn't that bad, you know. The people who travel with him too long … I've met a couple of them, and they don't have ordinary lives. No kids. Problems with partners. I'm lucky, I have you, and your dad, and Mum and Dad and Tish and Leo."

"Do they all know about the Doctor too?" asked Maxie, thinking she had been left out of a huge family secret.

Her mother nodded. "Yes. Mum and Dad and Tish had to … they spent some time with him, when I wasn't there. Took Mum a while to trust him. She's still scared by him, but she knows now he wouldn't hurt us."

"I don't think he would," Maxie said, feeling safe and warm in her mother's arms. "He's kind of crazy, though."

"He's a genius," said Martha. "All his people were geniuses." They fell silent. The room was dark, but the glow of the TARDIS came in faintly through the curtains. "If he asks you to go with him, say no," Martha said, suddenly.

"Will he?"

"Ask?" Martha shrugged. "He might do. I don't know how long he's been alone. He … he gets lonely. I think he likes having someone around to show off to. But it's dangerous, sweetheart, and I don't want to lose you. And you ought to finish school."

"He's a time traveller," Maxie pointed out.

Martha untangled herself from their embrace, and stood up. "My first trip ended up being longer than planned," she said, "a bit like yours. We did Shakespeare, and then New New York, and then somehow we ended up in our New York before coming home. And he landed me the morning after I'd left with him. I felt like I'd been away months - like a completely different person - and I remember seeing Mum again that evening. It was amazing to see her, and she thought I'd just said goodbye to her at the pub the night before. I'd changed in a day. Nothing was ever the same again. Finishing medical school was the hardest thing I ever did, because of him." She went to the door, and opened it. "Please, for me - at least ask him to wait until you've done your baccalaureate. At least? Preferably university too."

Maxie snuggled into her duvet and yawned. "I suppose for him he could come back then and it'd be like tomorrow. All right. Anyway, he might not ask."

"He might not. Sleep well, darling."

"Night, Mum."

Martha closed the door gently, and Maxie closed her eyes, drifting quickly off to sleep after the unexpected length of the day. In the middle of the night she awoke to the sound of the TARDIS, and in the morning there was just a square of flattened grass to show where it had stood. She almost wondered if the whole affair had been an odd dream, but there was her essay, and in her jacket pocket a bent hairpin.

Downstairs there was silence, and a note for Maxie by the cereal boxes on the kitchen worktop informing her her mother had gone to work, not absconded in the TARDIS. She crumpled the paper and threw it away, ignored the cereal, and went thoughtfully off to school.

14 months later

The school entrance hall was full of parents and teenagers crouching round computer screens or examining print outs. The atmosphere was broken at intervals by squeals of joy or tears of disappointment.

"Well, I'm astonished," said Tom Milligan, holding his daughter's results. "You did extraordinarily well."

Maxie thumped him lightly. "Thanks for the vote of confidence." She looked at the numbers again, and beamed. "But yeah, I'm surprised too."

"I'm not," said Martha, giving Maxie a hug. "I knew you'd do well."

"I'm free!" exclaimed Maxie, bouncing a bit. "No more school!"

"University, next term," Tom said.

"Holiday first," said Maxie. "Em and I thought we might go camping."

It took them some time to leave, because of having to find out how Maxie's friends had done, but finally they were out in the summer sun and arguing over where to have a celebratory lunch and how long Maxie could stay out that night.

"Midnight," Tom suggested.

"But everyone else will be out longer," Maxie protested. "I'll get a taxi home. With Em. 2am."

"One," said Martha. "And no later."

"If we're celebrating," said a voice, "then I propose the seventh moon of Yanis in the Gamma System. They do a great fizzy wine. And a sort of cake thing, difficult to explain. Good to eat."

The Milligans exchanged glances, and Maxie felt her already-bubbling excitement rise up into a whoop.

"Doctor!" said Martha, stepping forward and hugging him.

"Doctors Jones and Milligan," the Doctor returned, shaking hands with Tom. "Miss Milligan." He grinned at Maxie. "Well? Fizzy wine and cake? And I hear congratulations are in order."

"How did you know we'd be here?" Maxie asked. "And how do you know how I did?"

The Doctor rubbed his eyebrow with a finger. "Ah. That's what you'd call a cheap trick. Strictly illegal timeline crossing. Worth it, though." He shared a look with Martha. "Cake!"

"I'll pass," said Tom.

Maxie turned to him. "Dad!"

He gripped her shoulder, briefly. "It's all right, love."

"Your dad doesn't think time travel's quite right," the Doctor put in. "But Martha? Maxie? Do I need to point out again there will be cake, and fizzy wine?"

Maxie nodded. "Cake. Let us eat cake!"

"She never said that, you know," said the Doctor. "Said something else entirely - I should know."

Martha folded her arms. "I don't know. I mean, I …"

The Doctor looked at Maxie. Maxie looked at the Doctor. They exchanged nods, and both seized one of Martha's hands.

"We're going for cake and fizzy wine on the ..."

"Seventh moon," the Doctor supplied, towing them both along a sidestreet.

"Of wherever it was in the Gamma System," said Maxie. "You two can tell me more stories, and then we can get back in time for lunch with Dad. One o'clock this afternoon, at the Italian."

Martha began to laugh. "All right. You win, both of you."

"I always do," the Doctor said smugly. "Off we go!" He opened the door of the TARDIS, and stood back to let them both inside.

A short while later the TARDIS dematerialised, leaving Tom Milligan staring at an empty space.

THE END