OK folks, this is the final chapter of my story – more of an epilogue, really, I suppose :0)
The rest, as they say in the classics, is another story and shall be told another time!
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this (apart from a few rough patches in the middle) and I would like to thank every single person who took the time to write me a review (especially people like Omniac and Strange and Sad Angel who reviewed nearly every chapter!) I doubt I would have finished it without all of you, so thanks so much!
It would be great if people could write me one last review now that it is all finished, especially the people who have been silently following – I would love to know if you enjoyed it!
Off now to write a bit more on my Doctor Who/Life on Mars crossover fic, Visiting Mars, which I have been sadly neglecting. So ciao for now!
Gwen Cooper stirred sleepily and slowly opened her eyes. Expecting to find herself in her own comfortable bed, she was completely disoriented for a moment. Instead of her soft pillow, a hard glossy surface supported her head.
With a start, she sat bolt upright, realising that she was sitting at her kitchen table, still littered with the remnants of a half-eaten breakfast. Her husband, Rhys, was seated beside her, his body still slumped across the surface of the table, his head mere inches from his congealing plate of cold toast, the handle of his coffee mug still in his hand. The sound of low, gentle snores rumbled serenely from deep in his chest.
The long shadows of afternoon stretched languorously across the tiled kitchen floor, softly beginning to blur into the half-light of dusk.
What on Earth...? It had been nine thirty in the morning. Surely they couldn't both have fallen asleep?
Suddenly, a piercing wail erupted from the tiny nursery.
Oh God, the baby!
Throwing back her chair, she raced into her daughter's room. The baby was sitting up in her cot, her mouth wide open, ready for another scream. However, when she saw her mother's worried face appear over the railing, she gave an adorable, toothless grin and lifted her arms, waiting to be picked up. Gwen seized her and frantically checked her from head to toe. Apart from being ravenously hungry, she appeared to be OK. In fact, she was better than OK – the slight fever and runny nose which had been evident when Gwen had put her down for her nap seemed to have disappeared, leaving her healthy and happy and rosy.
Holding her close, Gwen realised that she also felt better than she had for a long, long time. She felt completely rested and somehow at peace, as though all the grief and pain she had been harbouring since the 456 had come to Earth had been released.
What the hell had happened?
She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 7.30pm. Jack was going to kill her – she had been due on duty at the Hub over three hours ago. That was another strange thing. Where was Jack? Normally, if she was this late to work without contacting him, he would be here kicking the door down.
Hurrying back out to the kitchen, she shook Rhys by the shoulder until he stirred.
"Rhys! Rhys! Wake up! It's nearly dark!"
Rhys sat up, blinking in a confused manner. "What happened?"
"I don't know. For some reason, we fell asleep," Gwen answered tersely. "Something strange is going on. Here, take the baby while I ring Jack."
Tucking her mobile under her ear, she dialled Jack's number while quickly heating a bottle for the baby. There was no reply – apparently Jack's phone was out of range.
Rhys was standing now, still a little befuddled as he looked out the window, the baby cuddled securely in his arms.
"Gwen...look at the sky!"
Abandoning the unanswered phone, Gwen came to stand beside him. Outside, the sun was setting, a blazing ball of fire slowly sinking into Cardiff Bay. But there was no sign of the customary blue and pink and purple and orange sunset palette which usually streaked the Cardiff sky on a summer's evening. Instead, the heavens rippled with pure, molten, gleaming gold - a celestial firmament of haunting, unearthly beauty, stretching on for what seemed like eternity.
Gwen caught her breath in awe and wonder, feeling as though she had miraculously been given a glimpse of paradise.
Rhys looked at her, a beatific look on his face, drawing in a deep, contented breath.
"Some days, it's just good to be alive, isn't it?" he whispered, slipping his arm around her and drawing her close.
Wilfred Mott was seated on his bed in his room, changing his shirt before tea, when a handful of small, sharp gravel unexpectedly rattled against the window pane. Startled, Wilf jumped to his feet and moved to the window, peering cautiously out between the curtains. Down below on the shadowy street, he saw a slender feminine figure with long, dark hair, standing close to a nearby bus shelter which hadn't been there before.
"Tejana!" he whispered in surprise.
Sylvia, Donna and Shaun were all downstairs in the front room, laughing raucously at the television. Hurriedly, he sneaked down the stairs and slipped out the front door before any of them could spot him.
Tejana watched him cross the road towards her, marvelling that it had only been that morning when she sat with him in the cafe, listening to the unknown, intangible summons in her mind. It had truly been one hell of a day.
"Is everything all right?" he puffed as he drew level with her. "Only, Donna and Shaun are here for tea. She can't see you, she might remember!"
"It's OK, Wilf," she said soothingly. "I'll only be a minute. I promised you I'd come back and I always try to keep my promises. So...I've come to say goodbye."
"Goodbye? What do you mean, goodbye?"
"I'm leaving Earth," she replied calmly. "I'm going to travel the stars again."
Wilf's face brightened. "But that's wonderful! Does that mean you and the Doctor...?"
But at that moment, he got a closer look at her face in the dim light of the street lamp and his voice faltered. The fever-bright eyes, the flushed cheeks, the kiss-bruised lips, the usually-neat hair tumbling around her shoulders – Wilf was an old man and had been around the block a few times. He knew exactly what he was seeing.
"No...not the Doctor..." he said slowly, his shrewd old mind putting it all together. "It's him, isn't it? The Master. That's what it was all about this morning in the cafe. He came back after all, just like that Cult of Saxon said."
"Yes, he came back," she admitted.
"Is he here with you right now?" he asked warily.
Unsure why he was asking, she gave a hesitant nod. "Yes."
Wilf glanced around and raised his voice. "Where are you then? Stop hiding like a coward and show yourself!"
A second dark figure detached itself from the shadows surrounding the bus shelter and came to stand close beside Tejana. Wilfred had no difficulty in recognising the black-clad Time Lord.
"So it's true," he said heavily. "It really is you."
"We meet again, Granddad," the Master drawled sardonically.
"My name's Wilfred Mott – that's Mr Mott to you!" Wilf retorted fiercely. "I want a word with you!"
"Oh yeah?" the Master sneered. "What could you possibly have to say to me?"
"You know what I think of you. You're nothing but a monster, a complete swine. You're not fit to lick Tejana's boots!" Wilf answered bravely. "But for whatever reason, she's chosen to go with you and the Doctor's not here to say it, so I'm going to. You harm one hair on her head, you hurt her in any way and you'll have me to deal with, understand?"
Tejana cringed inwardly at the well-meant but foolhardy threat, fully expecting the Master to mockingly crush the courageous old soldier with some of his trademark acid sarcasm.
Instead, to her surprise, he merely narrowed his eyes and said evenly, "I'll keep it in mind, old man."
Hastily, before things could escalate any further, she brushed her lips against Wilfred's cheek.
"Goodbye, Wilf. Thanks for everything."
"Goodbye, Tejana," he replied sadly. "You take care now."
As he watched, the two Time Lords vanished back into the darkness. Before long, there came the unmistakable noise of a TARDIS de-materialising and the out-of-place bus shelter began to fade in and out, prior to disappearing altogether. Belatedly, Wilf realised that it had been the Master's TARDIS all along.
Dejectedly, he made his way back across the road to his own front door. But before he could reach it, a young woman with bright red hair threw it open, calling to him in a loud, strident voice.
"Oi, Gramps! What are you doing out here in the dark? Your tea's on the table and that space show you like is on the telly. Load of old rubbish, I reckon, space aliens and such, but whatever floats your boat, I always say!"
Her grandfather smiled at her fondly. "Coming, Donna, my love."
"Well, hurry up then, your pork chops will get cold," she answered over her shoulder, retreating back into the warmly-lighted living room.
Wilf took one last glance at the twinkling night sky, thinking of the two TARDISes spinning around up there, in the endless reaches of space and time. He had always said a little prayer for the Doctor whenever he looked up at the stars. Now he would say one for Tejana too.
"I hope you know what you're doing, sweetheart," he murmured fervently.
With a sigh, he went inside to his family and closed the heavy front door.
Far, far above, the empty Psionic ship finally exploded into a billion flaming fragments, falling and falling until they impacted with the Earth's atmosphere, sending a spectacular spray of beautiful shooting stars cascading across the darkness, only to fade into nothing, leaving the song of the Universe undisturbed.
For the sequel to this fic, please read "So Many Things Should Have Been Different".
SUMMARY: Tejana is now travelling with the Master, despite the odds stacked against them. But when they are forced to return to Earth, the past comes back to haunt them. Will it destroy their future...or does the Universe even still have a future?