A/N: Oookay ridiculously long wait over! (It's a Christmas miracle... XD) Here's the final chapter. Let's hope I can remember everything that I planned to put in here. Oops...
I'll take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading! It's been a very, very long time writing this, but I hope everyone enjoyed the ride while it lasted.
On with the story!
Every individual onboard the TARDIS, human and non-human alike––with the possible exception of the Doctor––tensed when they felt the time-space ship touch down once again, a long bonging noise indicating the end of their trip.
Rose spoke for all the rest of them when she tentatively asked, "So...did we actually end up in the right place this time?"
The Doctor checked over the controls carefully before answering.
"Well...it's a bit difficult to tell in this universe. But she appears to be telling me that we're more or less back where we started, so...!" He flipped a switch dramatically, then turned to Rose with a roguish wink. "I'll just double-check, shall I?"
Skipping to the girl as though he had already completely forgotten what had happened in the last ten minutes, the Doctor threw open the door.
Only a second later, there was a triumphant shout.
"See? Told you so! Brilliant old TARDIS, never makes the same mistake twice."
Encouraged by this response, the others hurried to the TARDIS door to see that the Doctor had every reason to be proud of his landing: his vehicle was neatly parked at the end of the Cullens' driveway, looking absurdly as though it belonged there.
"Shall we?" the Doctor said, and they filed out after him.
As they approached the house, Esme hurried out, Carlisle following at a more sedate pace behind her. Rose, glancing out, thought she saw the flash of a pale face and long blonde at the window, and suspected Rosalie of not wanting to betray even the most casual of interests in what they were doing.
Esme, meanwhile, had gone straight up to her children and started talking at a mile a minute. "Well? How did it go? Is everyone safe? Did anything happen? Don't leave us in suspense, now!"
"Not much happened," Jasper said quietly, as Alice added in a quick "everyone's safe" and Edward muttered something about explaining once they were inside.
The next thing they all knew they were being ushered into the house to sit at the dining room table, and Esme was carefully preparing tea for the humans (and Time Lord) at the table.
The Doctor and the others (though, admittedly, mostly the Doctor) spent most of the next two hours regaling them with their tale, and then Edward sat down in a corner with the other vampires to hash out the technical details while Bella, Rose, and the Doctor made a valiant effort to finish off all the refreshments that Esme had insisted on making for them.
"So, Bella," Rose tried (and failed) to say primly around a mouthful of scone (which, while not British and not from her universe and not even prepared by a human, was still quite tasty), "how did you enjoy having an adventure?"
Bella flushed. "You make it sound as though I've never had an adventure before," she mumbled.
Rose swallowed her scone and grinned. "Not like that one, I bet," she said. "Go on, admit it. Looking for trouble isn't something your vampire beau over there approves of for you."
"Doesn't mean I haven't done it," Bella protested quietly, but at a quick but noticeable glance from Edward across the room, she subsided. "Probably nothing quite like this, though. It's not really the Cullens' style to go looking for trouble the way you two seem to."
Rose shrugged. "It's what makes life fun," she said in a roguish half-whisper. "And anyway, we were able to help, weren't we? That's what counts in the end, right, Doctor?"
The Doctor, who had been enjoying watching them and happened to have his mouth full of tea and scone at the moment Rose indicated him, nodded awkwardly. "'Course," he said around the scone. "Always here to help, that's us." He gave Bella a smug little smile, and she blushed.
"Doctor," Edward said at the exact same moment, "could you come over here for a second? I'd like you to try to explain everything that happened to Carlisle and the others."
The Doctor shrugged his assent and walked across the room to the others, sitting down shoulder to shoulder with the vampire coven without a care in the world.
Rose watched him fondly. "Just look at 'im go," she said, taking another bite of scone. "I swear, I could sit back and watch him talk people's ears off all day, if it weren't so much more fun running away from things."
"I'm not exactly sure that's what I'd call 'fun,'" Bella pointed out.
Rose shrugged. "To each her own," she said.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, for his part, was trying to explain to a coven of vampires what exactly he'd done to try to reconstruct the genetic blueprint of their species. He was fairly sure that Edward understood all the details that the Doctor himself did, being inside his head and all, and he thought that Carlisle understood almost as much. As for the others...well, you couldn't teach Time Lord science to anyone overnight, even if that someone was hyperintelligent and had an excellent––or indeed eidetic––memory. (Though admittedly he wouldn't have been surprised if Edward decided to try to teach at least Carlisle at some point. He wished the vampire luck; he'd never done too terribly well in the Academy, and knew there were gaps in both his understanding and his memory.)
Eventually, though, Emmett and Rosalie (and possibly Esme, Jasper, and Alice, even though the latter two had been there and the former was too polite to ever say so) got bored with the technical details and asked the Doctor for a basic understanding of what it is he thought he'd done to the monster buried beneath the city of Volterra.
"Actually..." The Doctor put one hand to the back of his head, slightly apologetic. "I can't be sure we've made all that much of a difference, to be perfectly honest. And if there is one, it'll probably only manifest over a rather long period of time."
"So what sort of differences are we talking about?" Rosalie asked, suspicious and impatient.
"Well...a possible drop in bloodlust, for one," the Doctor. "I don't know if it'll work, but we were trying to make 'newborns,' as you call them, more tractable and less dangerous in the early stages of their development. Hopefully," he said, throwing Bella a knowing glance, "it might help make some people's lives easier in the future.
"Though, Edward..." He turned to the vampire, who regarded him curiously. "I'm sure you've taken this from my mind already, but if you can ever get the Volturi to make their peace with you, I want you to try continuing where we left off. Only if possible, of course."
"Of course," Edward said simply, looking the Doctor in the eye with an even, piercing stare. "I think I've gotten about everything out of your head that I might hypothetically need."
"Good to hear!" The Doctor said, grinning like a maniac and a second later reaching deep into a coat pocket. He pulled out a pocket watch, examined whatever was inside (it didn't look like a traditional timing device of any Earth sort), snapped it shut again, and returned it to his pocket. "Well, that was interesting."
Edward gave the Doctor a look that made Rose suspect that that particular set of actions had had no bearing on the current happenings around him whatsoever.
"Anyway," the Doctor said, carefully avoiding Edward's gaze, "I believe that Rose and I should be going soon."
Esme frowned. "Ah, really? You're welcome to stay as long as you like."
Despite the glower on Rosalie's face and the generally awkward expression on Emmett's, it seemed that Esme really did mean the invitation sincerely, and that if they were to agree to stay, the rest of the family would go along with Esme's wishes...but that didn't make it any less of a good time to go.
In fact, if anything, it was a sign that it was a good idea to leave sooner rather than later.
The Doctor, Rose reflected as they left amid a cluster of vampires and a lone human, was very good at fun––if not smooth––goodbyes.
It had, she suspected, something to do with the way that he never stopped talking as he departed. He'd jump from topic to topic like a child jumping from stone to stone in a river. He could give a long string of reminders to the people he was leaving behind without sounding like he was nagging, or jump forward to places he wanted to go in the future with innocent exuberance––and somehow, at last 90% of the time, managed to avoid sounding rude.
Rose, for her part, did what she usually did: followed in his footsteps and grinned, allowing to show on her face the joy that she always felt, joy about both waht she'd done and what she was leaving to do. She never wanted to stop traveling with the Doctor. No overprotective, romantic vampires for her; no permanent problems or permanent locations or permanent anything but continual change, shift, movement. Sometimes she dreamed of what would happen if she ever burnt out, but usually she just dreamed of where she and the Doctor might go tomorrow, or revisited fond memories of past adventures.
That was, when she had the energy to dream at all. Usually, she didn't: reality was too distracting.
She hoped that Bella would be happy with her future. It took a very determined person to live with those who were not human, and in that way, she could not help but feel a certain amount of kinship with the human girl surrounded by a coven of vampires.
Then again, she could never be a Time Lord, she reflected as she climbed into the TARDIS after the Doctor. And someday, Bella might end up joining the coven that currently protected her...
She shook her head quietly to herself, beginning to push her thoughts of Bella back from the present into the back of her mind, along with countless other questions that would always go unanswered, dilemmas that would go forever unresolved. It was part of the price that came with living with the Doctor, but while she doubted that she would ever hold it cheaply, there was also very little chance that the price would ever become one that she would be reluctant to pay.
And even as she thought of this, she noted absently that there was still a grin on her face.
"Goodbye!" she called over her shoulder, waving a cheerful hand, and watched seven subtly shiny hands and one pale, dull human one rise in response.
Behind her, the Doctor was off on another spiel, checking the TARDIS over, discussing where they'd go next.
"So I'm thinking not Barcelona at the moment, call me superstitious but I'm almost tempted at this point to start to take a hint. There's all sort of other places to go, though, but first, how's the TARDIS? All systems functioning normally? Or at least not blowing up, not blowing up is always a good start. Display's almost working, don't worry, soon as we're back in our proper universe everything should be back to normal..."
Rose shut the TARDIS door behind her as the familiar whooshing started up, echoes of it bouncing off the trees in the damp air.
Meanwhile, in the land of vampires, the Cullens and Bella watched the Doctor go, and a strange shadow passed over Alice's face as, from within the rapidly vanishing TARDIS, the Doctor's last audible words rang out:
A/N: I feel like my grasp of the style for these characters has slipped during my long hiatus, but then again...I've also matured by like four years since starting this fic, so I suppose there's the possibility that that's made up for it?
(By the way, did anyone notice the subtle out I planted as to why Bella's first days as a vampire went so smoothly? Anyone? No? ...I love fiddling quietly around with continuity.)
Thanks to all of you for reading! I doubt I'll be doing any more fic in either of these fandoms for a while, if ever, to be perfectly honest, but I hope you enjoyed this one while it lasted. Thanks for spending your time with me. ;)