The Parting Glass
Oh of all the money that ever I had
I spent it in good company
And of all the harm that ever I've done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night, and joy be with you all
– Irish folk song
The big blue wooden box stood, for the last time, in the front hall of the Tyler mansion, just ten minutes, or a day (depending on whether you were outside it or in), after it had whooshed away. The door opened, and six and a half travelers filed out, checking the clock and grinning.
The Doctor's eyes were shining, suspiciously damp. Before leaving Gallifrey, he had held the others back from the console, and walked by himself up the ramp. He leaned against the console and gently laid his hand on the Time Rotor. He reached out with his mind to the heart of the TARDIS, whispering, "Forgive me." For a long, long minute, he stood there, unanswered. Then, just as he took his hand away and turned towards the back, dejected, she answered him. The Time Rotor began to glow, and the console controls fired up. She forgave him, and let him pilot her back to Earth, the first time in twelve years he was at the controls.
Now back home, Corin turned to Jenny, "You said you had a way back to the other universe?"
She replied, "The same hole we got here through. I timed it up ahead, and we've got a three minute window to go back through. I bookmarked it exactly in the TARDIS time log."
"Well, then. This is goodbye, again, probably forever. Though that word does occasionally seem to lose its meaning around yonder box." He reached to give Jenny a hug, but she put her hand up.
"One thing first," she replied. "I have a confession. I didn't just hop straight from dropoff to pickup on Bora Bora. We went back up to John's time and got something for you. Just a sec." She dived back into the TARDIS for a moment and brought out a familiar box. It was the piece of TARDIS coral, still in its protective shell. "First, I didn't want to leave it around sending out whatever signal that was – who knows what might come crawling through next time. And second... I've fixed it. You were missing the gallinium it needed for its internal structure, like a vitamin. I fed it a bit we had in the TARDIS. And here," she went on, taking a second box from John, "is a bit more gallinium, with some other odds and ends you might need. And finally," pulling out a set of data sticks from the box, "I had the TARDIS write out everything she knew about her own controls. It's the best she could do for a maintenance and repair manual, since there doesn't seem to be one lying around."
Corin was speechless. He put the boxes down on the stairs and hugged Jenny tight, closing his eyes against the prickling tears. "Thank you," he finally managed to choke out.
Jenny hugged him back, cautioning him to shield the bit of coral in his hands against the younger now buried out under the summer house to avoid any new paradoxes, then turned to Rose and quickly hugged her, kissed Donna, and ducked away into the TARDIS before her threatened tears could start.
John stepped into her wake, shaking Corin's hand and kissing Rose on both cheeks, continental style. "Sir. My Lady. It was truly an honor, one I'll never forget." He made to step back, but Rose suddenly clutched his sleeve.
"I know I'm not supposed to ask," she began, then both Corin and the Doctor cut her off.
"No, you're NOT!" they said in unison. "Don't give her any spoilers, John," continued the Doctor.
John smiled at her, regretfully, and began to step back again, then suddenly leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "It's a very long journal!" He winked and ducked out of the way of the Doctor's pretended swipe. She smiled back at him, content with the hint.
The Doctor's Rose took opportunity of the distraction to slip to Corin's side. When he turned to her, she put her hand on his arm, tentatively. "Can you forgive me, for lying to you about how I felt?" She knew that he had worked it all out with her twin, that much was obvious, but still...
He smiled at her. "Did you really think I didn't know? Besides... would you have loved me, if you hadn't loved him first?"
She smiled at him, then, forgiven. She gave him a fierce hug. "I'll never, ever forget one moment. Thank you for five wonderful years. And I hope you have many, many more to come."
She turned then, to her twin. They simply smiled at each other; nothing to say that each didn't already think. The Doctor's Rose ducked her head to kiss Donna goodbye. Suddenly she gasped, realizing she was leaving both precious children forever, without even a chance to see her son one last time. She put a hand to her mouth, holding back tears. The Doctor put a comforting arm around her waist, and she pulled herself together with a deep breath. "Kiss the kids for me? But don't ever tell them why!"
"Are you kidding?" broke in Corin. "They'd be in therapy the rest of their lives! Ouch!" he winced from his wife's elbow.
"I'll kiss them both twice, every time, from now on, I promise!" she told her twin. The Doctor's Rose nodded and turned, dashing into the TARDIS before she lost it.
The Doctor kissed Donna's head, then leaned over to kiss Rose's cheek. As he straightened up, she told him "I do wish you had been able to meet Tyler."
"I did," he replied, nodding towards the TARDIS and his Rose, "in her memories. And he met me – in him," nodding this time towards Corin. He grinned at her. "Rose Tyler. The first woman in history to have her cake and eat it, too!" She laughed back at him, while Corin grinned beside her.
Sobering again, the Doctor looked at both of them. "I confess, I'm still just a little bit unsettled about leaving. What if...?"
Corin nodded at John, still standing by the door. "Check my journal again before you go back through the hole. If we ever need you for anything, I'll write a message on that page. That's why I left it blank!"
John was puzzled. "Wouldn't it already be there?"
"Not necessarily," said the Doctor. "You see..."
Rose cut him off. "Don't try to figure it out, John, you'll just give yourself a headache. Trust me!"
That settled, John turned and slipped into the TARDIS, leaving just the Doctor, Corin, and Corin's Rose.
The Doctor turned to face his twin, his human alter ego, for the final time. With nothing – and everything – left to say, he simply held out his hand.
Corin reached to shake it, then gave a small, ironic smile. "Don't take this the wrong way, Doctor, but I sincerely hope we never see you again!"
The Doctor smiled back, looking at them both. Then he turned, and walked into the TARDIS, softly closing the door behind him.
Two hundred and eighty-six years into the future, the TARDIS whooshed into the garden of John's mansion again. They had deliberately overshot the arrival window by three weeks – the three weeks that Jenny had stayed with John after the incident, while searching for the solution. He didn't want to live that over again. They would drop him off, about an hour after he and Jenny had left, and return to go through the window.
The door opened, and Jenny and John stepped outside. He looked at her, tenderly. "I don't suppose I could convince you to stay?"
She shook her head. "No more than I could convince you to come." She reached up, and pulled his head down for a kiss. "You're a good man, John Gallifrey. Don't lock your heart up forever. Find someone to share your life with again."
He smiled down at her. "No promises. But I'll look. I'll look."
They broke apart as the door opened again for the Doctor and Rose, who both elected to pretend not to notice.
Rose looked at the mansion and the back terrace. There were many visible differences, but it was still obviously the same place. She smiled, glad to know that her family lived on.
She went up to John and reached up to kiss his cheek. "Thank you. For everything."
He kept his head bent for a moment, as if expecting something else. Then he straightened up and laughed at himself. "I just realized. We just witnessed the genesis of another family tradition."
"What tradition is that?" Rose asked.
He leaned down again and kissed her right cheek, "For now..." and her left, "and forever." He straightened back up again and smiled down at her. "Your love lives on, my lady."
She grinned, the old imp back. "Lord Gallifrey. I do wish I knew how that happened!"
He shook his head, then reached to shake the Doctor's hand, but the other man said, "Did you check the journal?"
John opened the wooden box he held and found the ribbon marker, opening the ancient book to the same old half-blank page.
It was no longer half-blank.
Scrawled across it, in blotchy black letters, was a date, some sixteen years after the Night of the Miracle, and a time, 10 am, and three words, written as though with the blood of a broken heart.
FIND MY SON
To be continued
Rhapsody and Fugue in Who Major