It was difficult to be precise but Kim Gideon reckoned she had been travelling with the Doctor for about two years. Two years being subjective time of course, such things having little meaning in the strange complex of the space/time vortex.

They had lived an itinerant life among the stars, bouncing from place to place and from time to time in the Doctor's, frankly, bonkers ship.

Kim could hardly recognise the woman she had once been. She had seen sights the like of which she could only have dreamed. Gaseous seas, quicksilver lakes, a city made from thought, a world in a bottle and yes, even a moon of blue cheese.

Beings aplenty, from the gentle, snail-like Quib to the militaristic, power-crazed Sontarans (who she nicknamed 'The Snots' – much to the Doctor's amusement).

Even more fascinating was her journeys to her own world. From its young vibrant beginnings when they had walked with dinosaurs, to the far flung future of the Warpwars, taking in Queen Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson and Buddy Holly on the way.

Their first first encounter with the Torchwood Institute in 1911 when they had been tracking a lost and frightened Draconian in the Malvern Hills. The first of several.

Then there was that time they had been stuck in a speck of dirt underneath someone's fingernail...

The Doctor was her friend, her guide, her rock. But she couldn't really say she knew that much about him. Although every so often he revealed a surprising, mischievous side to his nature.

Such as when he was arrested in Times Square 1928, for outraging public decency with his impromptu Elvis impression. That had backed up the traffic! Kim had literally wet herself laughing as he had been led away by two of New York's finest.

The 1970s disco evening they had shared in the Tardis, just the two of them. Burn baby burn...Disco inferno...

She treasured the memory of his sheer look of terror when Kim had suggested they ride a massive roller-coaster at Blackpool, and his succession of stammering excuses.

But....there were the other times.

The horrors of the Warsaw Uprising, the slaughter at Rorke's Drift; the terrible fate of the crew of the space station 'Obama' and, above all, the screams of the children on the human colony of Procyon III as they were slowly devoured by the Melt.

Two years.

Kim knew that the longer she stayed with the Doctor the greater the chance of more Procyon episodes. She could risk it, perhaps, greedily drinking in the agreeable experiences and blotting out the rest. But somewhere out there maybe someone else needed the Doctor's unique brand of medicine, just as much as she had two years ago.

And, of course, there was still her own greatest fear to be faced.

The time came when Kim woke from her recurring nightmare of the screaming Procyon children and she made the decision. If not now...

She dressed quickly and virtually ran into the Tardis control room.

The Doctor stood at the controls. He looked solemn. "The course is laid in, " he said quietly, before she could say anything. "Are you sure, Kim?"

She took a deep breath and nodded. She bit at her nails for the first time in ages.

She was going home.

.

Kim paused nervously at the little gate that opened into her front garden.

"Doctor, I'm scared..." She felt the old Kim Gideon bubbling up from deep inside.

There was a reassuring touch on her arm. It was all she needed. Breathing deeply she pushed the old Kim away, opened the gate and walked up the path, the Doctor trailing a few paces behind.

She frowned. The house looked different. Gone was the peeling dark paint. There was a new front door. The garden was neatly trimmed.

The door was ajar. As she pushed through it was clear that things had changed inside as well. The old hall was bright, redecorated. Vases of flowers proliferated. It was like walking into a summer's day. From somewhere came the rich aroma of freshly-ground coffee.

"Is this your doing?" she asked, turning to the Doctor who was leaning casually against the front door frame.

He shook his head and his gaze slid over Kim's left shoulder. She turned.

In the kitchen doorway stood a man. He was probably about her age, casually dressed. He was smiling rather nervously at her, wringing his hands. "Kim? Kim Gideon?"

Who the blazes - ?

She was about to ask him what the hell he was doing in her house when a faint spark of recognition kicked in. Her mind frantically searched for the answer and presented her with the image of a scruffy itinerant, begging in the cold streets. Unshaven, unkempt and smelling bad.

She looked at the man in the kitchen doorway. It can't be?

"Jim Knapp?"

The man smiled his relief. "I didn't think you would recognise me. It's been two years, near enough."

She thought back to the time she had given her house keys to him. Right at the start of her travels with the Doctor. She could almost feel the icy rain of that grim evening.

"Have you been living here all this time?"

Jim smiled. "No. I stayed about six weeks. Managed to get a council flat. Pulled myself together. Kicked the bottle. But I've always kept an eye on this place. Done it up a bit. Hope you don't mind. I'm a painter-decorator by trade. It's the least I could do."

"N-no. Not at all. It looks great."

Jim looked around him. "It needed it. It was like something out of Dickens when I first came. Miss Haversham's place."

"Oh. You've read 'Great Expectations'."

"My favourite book," smiled Jim.

"Mine too," said Kim, in a very small voice.

Jim fumbled in his back pocket and pulled out a set of keys.

As she took them their hands touched and didn't part.

"Back in the playground, when we were kids, I was horrible to you," he said. "You had every right to hate me. Yet you saved my life that night, Kim. Thank you."

She looked into his eyes for a long moment before finding her voice.

"N-no problem. How did you know I would be here today."

Jim looked across the hall. "I had a message."

She turned. The Doctor tried to look nonchalant but his mouth twitched at the corners and his eyes twinkled. His crazy T-shirt was now sporting a huge smiley-face motif. He straightened up in the doorway.

"You're about to embark on another adventure, Kim. The greatest adventure of them all." He nodded towards Jim.

She looked at the man who was holding her hand. Deep in the pit of her stomach there was a tingle. Her mind went back in an instant to the library, a lifetime ago, when it was the Doctor holding her hand. She turned back to say something to him.

But the Doctor had gone.

EPILOGUE

The woman wearing the big round '60' badge came out through the double doors and into the light of the hotel lobby, leaving the loud music and strobe lighting behind her. She flopped into the nearest leather chair.

"I think I'm getting too old for that," she said to no one in particular.

The man in the next seat lowered his newspaper. "But they're all here for you aren't they? Many happy returns, Kim."

She cried as she threw her arms around the Doctor. She clutched him to her for a very long time. Eventually she held him at arms length.

"It's been nearly twenty years." she said at last.

"For you, perhaps. Time flies."

"You should know," she laughed. "You haven't changed a bit. But look at me! The big Six-O!"

"That's why I'm here. Just passing through. I thought I'd drop by and say hello to Kim Gideon on her big day."

"That's just my professional name now. I'm Mrs Kim Knapp actually."

The Doctor smiled. "And Jim?"

She thumbed at the double doors. "In there. Dancing badly. It's a joint celebration really. Our daughter is eighteen next week...Oh God." Kim held up a hand to her mouth. "You haven't come to take her have you?"

"Naw. That's not due for another five years." Kim's eyes remained wide until the Doctor winked. She punched his arm.

"So, what's all this 'professional name' business?" he asked.

"I write children's books. 'The Adventures of Kimbo'. A rabbit who travels about in a space rocket."

"I wonder where you got that idea?"

They shared a smile. "Not doing too bad actually. There's even talk of a TV series."

"So you never went back to the library?"

"No. Nothing wrong with libraries. Some of my best customers, in fact. I'm just...different... now. What about you?"

"Same old life."

"Alone?"

"No. I left her shopping in Harrods. A lifetime ambition of hers apparently." He looked at his watch. "She should be here to meet me in a couple of minutes."

Kim took his hand. "Doctor...I've always wanted to know. When we first met you said you saw my future. Did you see all this?"

He looked uncomfortable. "As I told you. There are always various paths. I didn't see this one exactly but if you hadn't come with me...."

"What?"

He sighed. "I saw you alone. In bed. In the big empty house. You were stone cold. An empty tablet bottle at your side..." His words trailed off.

Kims eyes filled again. "Oh, you wonderful man...."

Embarrassed, he stood quickly and looked over to the hotel entrance where a red-haired girl festooned with Harrods bags waved to him.

"Ah. There's River now. Time to go."

"River? Unusual name."

"Unusual person."

"Another destiny to shape?"

"I sometimes think she is the one doing the shaping."

For the first and only time in her life, Kim kissed the Doctor.

"Thank you for shaping mine."

THE END