A/N: Oh, don't bother re-reading this, for heaven's sake. I'm only changing one word - changing the name of Rose's son from Jamie to Davey, as I had originally intended. Don't know where my mind was when I wrote that.
"Oh, thank goodness! This is cutting it just too close!"
"Hey, Tiger!" Pete scooped up four-year-old Davey and tossed him up, catching him again and swinging him around before holding him close. "Oh, I'm going to miss you!" He shook himself before he could get maudlin, and set the boy down. He picked up the large briefcase he'd set on the ground and carried it over to Rose. "Here you go, sweetheart; I finally managed to get the rest of it."
She ignored the case, and instead threw her arms around her father. "I knew you'd come through for us; you always do." Tears threatening, she hugged him even tighter, hanging on for a few precious, precious seconds.
John walked over then and took the case from Pete so he could hug her back with both arms, and carried it into the TARDIS, stashing it under the console floor with the other two. The three of them were packed with jewelry, the total value equaling the value of their farmhouse. Pete was officially purchasing it from the foursome, paying them in the only manner they could think of that would also hold value in the other universe, as stocks, bonds, bank cheques, even cash (as the bills themselves were markedly different) would all be only so much paper. But the jewelry, when sold, would give them all a good start on their new life.
"Can you forgive me, sweetheart?" Pete asked.
"For the half of me that hopes that tomorrow I get to start selling that jewelry off again."
She gave a strange half-laugh, half-sob. "Of course I can." She leaned back, then, to look up at him. "Dad.... " So much to say. And in the end, no need. It was all summed up in that one name.
"I know." One final squeeze, and then she had to let go and scurry about, gathering the final bits and pieces, making sure that all the kids were safely on board the TARDIS.
They'd had a time getting the blue box out of the Tyler basement, since they couldn't whoosh it out – the storm doors just weren't quite big enough, and the stairs at a bad angle. In the end, they'd had to bring in some workmen to widen the entryway and rebuild the doors after. Jackie had obstinately threatened to stop the whole thing, banning him (she refused to even say "the Doctor", let alone refer to him by his chosen human name of John) from her home completely. Pete had finally solved that problem by the simple expedient of whisking his wife and son away to Switzerland for two weeks. So the TARDIS was carefully removed, and trucked up to the farmhouse without a hitch.
Rose had said her goodbyes to her Mum and brother the day before, a scene she never wanted to repeat, and refused to describe to the others. John had simply held her while she cried for hours that night, but didn't try to dissuade her from her course. They'd talked about it for months, years; they were all going back, and that was that.
He'd done what he could, though. He'd taken the piece of TARDIS coral he'd carefully teased off to give to his twin that day on the beach and grown it into a "radio", which could send and receive signals from the TARDIS itself. He wasn't certain it would work across dimensions, but he'd done the best he could. They'd have to test it once they made the jump. Even if all they got were emails, that would be so much more than what he'd had before, when Rose was first trapped here. (He'd made absolutely certain, though, that the coral bit had stopped growing, and would never become a full TARDIS. The last thing he wanted to do was leave an organic time machine lying around for centuries.)
Pete managed to snag everybody one last time as they walked back and forth, saying goodbye to all, including the redheaded twins Loren and Lyra, and planting a smooch on baby Lucy's head – and then, one for her Mum Donna, too, of course. He didn't smooch the men, though a good hard hug was certainly in order.
Finally, finally, the moment arrived, after five long years of planning and waiting and tinkering and anticipation, when the TARDIS circuits and all the stars and planets and energy fields in both universes were aligned perfectly. Every child was strapped into a seat in a new, padded playroom in the TARDIS, and their four parents stood around the console, holding their breath and each other's hands.
Pete stood back, by the car, tears already starting. For a long, long moment, nothing happened, and he flashed back to the beach at Bad Wolf Bay, waiting with Jackie for the TARDIS to disappear. That time, it hadn't.
This time, it did.
As John and Mike carefully fed the last bits of reserve power to the time rotor, the living TARDIS reached out through the crack that opened for a nanosecond along the fault lines in the universes created by the Cthlariel Cycle, back to her home universe, and latched on to the base harmonic frequency there. Then, with an audible sigh, she whooshed herself back home.
Pete stood, staring at the now-empty spot through his tears, for a very, very long time. Then he wiped his face, got in his car, and headed home to his wife and son.
It had been a very long, and very interesting, three months since the incredible events of the past July, when the sun and moon had been replaced in the sky with twenty-six planets for a full day. Of course, many people had simply decided it was a case of universal mass hysteria, that nothing had really happened. Others decided to believe this or that part of it, and dismiss the rest. The most often ignored piece was that the planet had actually been moved to a completely different part of the galaxy, then returned to its orbit around Sol – that was simply too much for any sane, rational person to take.
At the other extreme, religious mania had risen to an all-time peak in most parts of the world, notably the USA, where Christian evangelicals and other end-timers were moving en masse to swell militia compounds far past capacity, causing a massive headache for law enforcement from local cops to the FBI. The President had issued emergency orders to bring the entire armed forces back from the Middle East to deal with the crisis, which threatened to blow up into another Civil War. The rest of the world watched just a bit smugly before returning to their own problems.
One problem that was so far up in the air as to be not even worth talking about was Global Climate Change. It done changed, all right, spectacularly. Climate scientists all over the world kept saying it would take years for new stable weather patterns to emerge; till then, all anyone could do was just take one day at a time. At least they were finally able to determine that the Earth had been returned to the same place in its orbit, the same angle to the orbital plane (and right side up), and only 7.56 hours ahead of where it should have been in its rotation. It took three weeks for everybody to get their clocks back in synch worldwide.
Wilf Mott wished, as he did every day approximately once every five minutes or so, that the Doctor had returned immediately after the crisis was past, to set the record straight, to help with the cleanup, and most importantly, to bring his granddaughter back home. The longer it took, the more worried he got. Yes, the Earth was fine and would eventually recover, but what had happened to Donna? To the Doctor? To that lovely blonde, Rose, who had stayed with them for a short time during the crisis, before taking off to look for the other two? He hadn't even been able to get in touch with the others he'd seen on the computer that night, since he'd never caught their names, other than Harriet Jones, and she'd been found dead in her home a day or so later. (He was sorry about that; he really had voted for her. She was a good woman, doing the right thing right up to the end.)
He was just finishing up breakfast one Tuesday morning, preparing to settle down for his usual morning routine of keeping one eye on CNN while searching on the internet for any sign of the Doctor. Sylvia was giving him her usual lecture about not straining his eyes or hurting his back in that awful computer chair as she prepared to leave for work. He ignored her, as he always did; he knew she was simply masking her own anxiety about her missing daughter.
Suddenly, he thought he heard something. He barked at Sylvia to be quiet, and hit the TV mute button. And there it came again, the one sound he most wanted to hear in all the world: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
He flew to the door and yanked it open, Sylvia, bewildered, just behind him. There, just swimming into view across the street, was that beautiful, wonderful, fantastic, brilliant blue police call box.
The door opened, and his granddaughter came running out, stumbling to a stop with her hands over her mouth, staring at her family as though she hadn't seen them in years. Wilf and Sylvia started to run to her, but then stopped again, staring as not one, but TWO Doctors came out behind her. And several children. And Rose. All the grownups were grinning ear to ear.
One of the Doctors, carrying a baby, leaned over and whispered something in Donna's ear. She nodded, and then simply ran to her Mum and Granddad, arms outstretched.
Explanations could wait.