The Parting Glass

So fill to me the parting glass
Good night, and joy be with you all
– Irish folk song

The big blue wooden box stood again in the garden of the eleventh Lord Gallifrey, three weeks (in real time) after it had first landed there in Pete's World. He didn't want to relive the three weeks he and Jenny had spent looking for the solution to the crisis, so she and the Doctor were dropping him off (about an hour after they had left for the past) before they returned to their three-minute departure window.

The final goodbyes between the various groups had been short, both by necessity and desire. Necessity because they'd returned very late Sunday evening, rather than the promised ten minutes after they left, to avoid messing up everyone's circadian rhythms since they had spent most of a day on Gallifrey. Desire because nobody wanted to drag them out. Everything that needed saying had already been said this time, and the word "forever" kept looming over all their shoulders. "Although that word tends to lose it's meaning at times around yonder box," mused Corin.

The Doctor grinned. "It certainly does. I've lost count... Anyway. I'll be checking your journal up ahead before we go back through the rabbit hole. If you ever need me for anything, just put the date and time on that page." Corin nodded, and the two Time Lords shook hands one last time, able finally to part as friends.

Now John was opening the journal in its wooden box again, for the final check, and he smiled a little wistfully at the cheerfully blank page. "Ah, well, all good things must end, I suppose."

"I heard what you told Rose back there," the Doctor said. "'It's a very long journal.' How long is it?"

John's wistful look became even more sorrowful, as he asked in reply, "You can't do anything about cancer, can you?"

"No." came the quiet reply. "Him or her?"

"Her. She battled it for several years, an especially pernicious variation. It kept metastasizing and attacking different organs, almost as if it were alive. When it finally reached her brain..." He shook his head. "Two weeks after their sixty-third wedding anniversary, the family story goes, he woke up in the middle of the night to check on her, as he always did, and found that she'd... passed on. He got out the bottle of medicines he'd squirreled away – he'd stolen a single pill out of every bottle that had come in the door during the last rounds – and swallowed every one. Then he lay down beside her again. They found them the next morning."

The trio stood silently for a long moment, paying tribute to an eternal love. The Doctor murmured wonderingly, "Sixty-three years..."

"They had a very long time together, didn't they? They were famously devoted to each other. He used to introduce the two of them as 'Mr and Mrs Deliriously Happy.'"

Jenny put in, "I've got to ask. Was he the first Lord Gallifrey?"

John burst out laughing, then leaned in with a delighted grin. "Nope. She was. The title is passed to the eldest child of either sex in our line."

"What did she do?"

"Saved the Earth from an alien invasion, almost single-handedly."

The Doctor smiled, hugely satisfied. "Yup. That's Rose. Defender of the Earth." He reached out to shake John's hand for the last time, glancing down at the journal, still open in the latter's hand, as he did so.

And stopped. The cheerfully blank page was no longer blank.

Scrawled hastily across it, in shaky black letters, was a date, some sixty-three years after the Night of the Miracle - obviously the night of Corin's and Rose's deaths - and a final message from his twin, written as though with the blood of a broken heart. The Doctor caught his breath at the words, however, the contents so contrary to the setting: a final benediction from the man who knew him best, bestowing at last the freedom to continue living, as only the Doctor could.

Good bye,
and good luck.

Author's Note: (December 2013) I initially ended this re-do the same way as the original story, and invited readers to vote on which version to stick with going forward. The result (at this point) is obvious: they liked the twin Roses and an unregeneratable Tenth Doctor better. So, with this round of slight rewrites, I've changed the ending of this one to tie it off, instead.