Characters/Pairings- 4/II, 5/II, glimpses of Team Fivey
Summary- What if K-9 had stayed in E-Space, but Romana didn't? Goodbyes, it seems, are inescapable, no matter how much we wish otherwise. But... perhaps hellos are, too.
A/N- Because I'm fully convinced that Five was basically just born loving Romana.
Also, I would like to point out that I suck at writing Four. He always comes across way too angsty... then again, I suspect that the Doctor's internal monologue has been angsty since he was about eighty. It's just the surface reflection thereof that varies. *sigh*
"Way up high, or down low
I'll go wherever you will go,
And maybe I'll find out
A way to make it back someday..."
The Doctor disappeared inside the TARDIS where Adric was already waiting. Romana hesitated, looking toward Lazlo. The leonine man's eyes were understanding as she hesitated on the TARDIS threshold. The Tharils needed someone with intimate knowledge of Time mechanics... how could she possibly leave them? Waiting for her back in N-Space was a cadre of Time Lords... and probably very angry Time Lords at that. What kind of existence was that to return to, a lifetime trapped on Gallifrey and sucked right back into the political machinations her people were so terribly fond of? After all she had seen and done in these short few decades with the Doctor, she wasn't entirely sure who she was anymore. But one thing she knew for certain was that Romanadvoratrelundar was no one's puppet.
Except... then there was the Doctor. How could she leave him? He had stolen into her carefully regulated, compartmentalized world and slammed down every single protective wall she had ever built around herself. In a matter of months, he had broken through a century's-worth of ice and she had never felt more real than she did right this very moment, standing here with him in a place that the Academy could never have prepared her for.
This was it. This, now was what she was meant for, traveling the universe with the Doctor and living in each exact second of existence. All the same, Lazlo did need her. All the Tharils did.
Or... did they? They needed someone with an intimate knowledge of Time mechanics. Time sense itself probably wasn't necessary to their cause, all things considered. But within K-9's memory banks was a veritable library of information about the TARDIS, and about the causal nexus. And beyond the mirrors, the damage to his circuits would be nullified...
It would work. Of that she was sure. K-9 could go with Lazlo and give him the knowledge of Time he needed to save his people, and she could stay with the Doctor, for as far as the pair of them could run. Quickly, she leaned around the door of the TARDIS and picked up K-9's unnaturally silent form and crossed back to where Lazlo was standing, watching her.
"Take K-9," she said. "His data banks should provide you with the tools to help your people."
"Thank you, Miss Romana," Lazlo said somberly, taking K-9 from her with a care and reverence that made her sure she had made the right choice.
The Doctor poked his head out the TARDIS door. "Romana, what's keeping you! We have to be going!"
"Just a parting gift for Lazlo," she said brightly, and bounded into the TARDIS with a cheeky grin on her face.
"So we're really going to Gallifrey?" Adric asked, excited, and obviously oblivious to the other tensions in the room.
"Just for a moment," the Doctor said, not looking at his new young friend, eyes fixed on the obstinate Time Lady before him. "Just long enough to drop Romana off and then we'll be on our way again.
"Doctor, please! Couldn't we just, I don't know, keep going? If they track us down we could say we got lost. With your driving, it's not an unbelievable story!" Romana pleaded.
He sighed, shaking his head sadly. "I told you... you can't fight Time Lords, Romana."
He looked at her, standing there in her vermilion jumper, with her blonde hair splaying across her shoulders and her grey eyes wide. She was... oh lord, she was his Romana, the noblest woman he had ever had the good fortune to meet. She was the one who had restored his faith in Time Lords, because if the society of Gallifrey could create someone like her, there had to be some good there. He remembered that first day they met, and had to laugh- a little bitterly- at how far they had come. From fiercest rivals to the best of friends, and perhaps a little bit mo-
But no, he wouldn't think that. He couldn't. Not if he wanted to be able to do this.
It broke both his hearts to do it. She was just like him, really. She wasn't meant for Gallifrey. She was too good for them, all of them, and he wanted her here, in the TARDIS, by his side. But the fact was, he would rather send her away than subject her to the fury the Supreme Council was guaranteed to rain down on her if she failed to obey their orders.
And so he hit the materialization switch.
He leaned his head out the door and ascertained that they were in the security levels below the Panopticon. "Well, this is it," he said with false brightness. "Gallifrey. Home sweet home!"
"Barely," he thought he heard her mutter.
At that exact moment, a delegation of Time Lords, among whom he recognized Flavia, entered the room in which they had landed.
"Welcome home, Romanadvoratrelundar. Greetings, Doctor," the Time Lady said stiffly, but with a smile tucked far back in her eyes despite her proud demeanor. Flavia always had held a soft spot for him, he suspected, despite his disgrace to the family...
Romana stepped out of the TARDIS fully, facing the Time Lords who had come to collect her with a blank face. She took a deep breath and turned to face him, and he could have sworn her eyes were damp. "Well, I suppose this is goodbye, isn't it?"
"So it is," he agreed.
"You won't come back to Gallifrey often, I suppose?"
"Probably not," he said. "I'm not particularly welcome, I suspect." He shot a brief glance at Flavia, who looked like she was trying very hard not to smirk, before turning his gaze back to Romana. "I shall miss you. You were the noblest Romana of them all!"
"Goodbye, Doctor." She smiled, and he really did think there were tears in her eyes this time. How extraordinary! He was sure she would never have been this overtly emotional not terribly long ago...
He returned the smile, and turned away, determined to make it through this with his usual savoir faire, but something stopped him. He turned and looked back at her. "Oh, Romana?" She looked very small among the formally attired Time Lords that filled the room, but when he spoke her name she seemed taller than any of them.
"You'll be superb."
With that, he turned away, and scuttled unceremoniously into the TARDIS and back to Adric.
One week later, he lay dying beneath the radiotelescope on Earth, and as he drew his last breath, his mind turned to her.
In his post-regenerative confusion, his memories jumbled, he couldn't understand why she wasn't there. Where had his Romana gone? Later, he would kick himself for that.
Sometimes, Adric tried to talk about her. The Doctor couldn't help it- he snapped at the boy whenever Romana's name was brought up. If he didn't have a reason to, he invented one. He just didn't want the reminders.
Nyssa reminded him of her a little bit. With her courage in the face of extreme peril, her conviction about her beliefs, her calm demeanor and her rational mind, she was rather like what he imagined Romana must have been like as a young woman. (Well... younger woman. Sometimes it was hard to remember that Romana was only midway through her second century. She always seemed so much older.) He grew very attached to Nyssa.
He'd gotten good at missing people. His friends always left much sooner than he would like. But Romana got under his skin in a way he's never felt before. Maybe it was just that she was a Time Lady. Somehow, though, the Doctor couldn't bring himself to believe that.
"What's that?" Nyssa asked, indicating the large box Tegan was holding.
Tegan grinned. "It's our fancy dress!" She turned to Lady Cranleigh. "Do you really mean it? We can keep them?"
"Of course!" Ann Talbot answered in her mother-in-law's stead.
Lady Cranleigh handed the Doctor a leather-bound book. "And there's something I'd like you to have," she said.
The Doctor looked at what she had given him: a copy of her recently deceased son's book. "Thank you," he said warmly. "I shall treasure it." It had been a very stressful two days, for something that ought to have been a nice game of cricket and a party, but all things considered, it had turned out as well as could have been hoped.
As Ann and her in-laws turned and walked back into Cranleigh Manor, though, the Doctor heard a most unexpected sound- the unmistakeable wheezing song of a TARDIS materializing. He whirled around and found a rather impressive magnolia tree appearing in the middle of the lawn before his eyes.
A door in the trunk of the tree opened, and out stepped a wonderfully familiar woman, wearing the clothes of an Earth woman and with merriment in her eyes. "Hello, Doctor!" she exclaimed brightly, almost sprinting across the distance between them, her long blonde tresses shining in the sun.
The Doctor was stuck for words.
"Romana!" Adric exclaimed happily.
She bounced to a halt in front of them, a huge grin on her face. "Hello, Adric! Doctor, I see you've gone and regenerated on me."
He let out an uncomfortable sort of laugh. "Yes, I suppose I have, haven't I? Had a rather unfortunate accident, you see."
"I suspected as much. You do have a reputation for carelessness," she said.
He felt like making a comment about having no room to talk in the realms of frivolous regenerations, but decided against it, which gave her time to say, "I also see you've made some new friends."
Something resembling manners kicked in automatically. "Uh, yes, Romana, this is Tegan, and Nyssa of Traken. Tegan, Nyssa, this is my friend- er, my... this is Romana."
Tegan shook Romana's hand, and Nyssa made a little curtsy, both of them trying very hard to look like they weren't completely confused.
And now he had to ask. "Romana, what are you doing here? How can you be here?"
She kept her face suspiciously straight as she said airily, "Oh, well, there weren't any abandoned Type 40's lying around just waiting to be hijacked, but I managed to- ah- commandeer a lovely little Type 53. She handles marvelously, and I doubt Braxiatel will miss her for at least another week. I must say though, Doctor, you make it very difficult to find yourself! I've been tracking you for ages!"
The words she was saying belied the things she wasn't saying, but the Doctor could read between the lines well enough: I couldn't stand another day on Gallifrey. For some insane reason, I decided to emulate you, and doom myself to the life of a renegade... but I don't care. I made my choice and there's no changing it now. I found my way back to you. That implication, above all else, was sitting wonderfully well in his mind and his hearts. She had the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere in the known universe and at least three others, but of all the possibilities open to her... she had come back to him.
Unable to keep the impulse away any longer, the Doctor crossed the distance between them in a rush. Not caring that they were in plain view of any number of people, not caring about propriety or the usual Time Lord tendency to be reserved in these matters, he gathered her up in his arms and kissed her with abandon. She responded quickly, fiercely, wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging to him. And together, they stretched Time out, just for a little while, on the front lawn of a wealthy estate on Earth in the early twentieth century.
When they broke apart, he was breathless and she was grinning and neither of them really needed to say a thing. They just looked at each other for a moment; then they extricated themselves from the various ways in which they had become entwined. He settled for holding her hand, and leading her back into his TARDIS. As they passed his companions, he noticed that Adric had a smug grin on his face, Nyssa was smiling gently, and Tegan just looked confused. He flashed them a wide smile worthy of his last regeneration, and together he and Romana entered the TARDIS.
He knew, instinctively, that she didn't care at all about the vehicle she had borrowed; his oh-so-charming elder brother could have it back as soon as he could find it, as far as the pair of them were concerned. It was just this that mattered. The Doctor and Romana, rebel Time Lords, with all the universe before them and the past behind them.
The Supreme Council could do what it would, he decided. The feeling in his hearts as Romana smiled at him was worth any price Gallifrey would try to make them pay.