Last chapter now, I'm afraid. I think it's time to wrap this up.
Chapter Eighteen – Going Home
The Doctor met Guan'dlak's gaze as the yautja prepared to strike him, determined to hold eye contact until the very last second. He didn't flinch as the yautja made a sudden, juddering move forward, before it suddenly stopped and went completely still. Guan'dlak seemed to sway slightly on the spot for a moment, and then dropped the spear and began to topple forward. The Doctor stepped to one side so that the yautja's body fell to the floor beside him, allowing him to see the hole from a concentrated plasma burst burned into the back of its head. The Doctor looked up to where Tevo was stood, still holding up the plasma gun. She'd come back for him. Again.
He grinned at her. "Nice timing, Captain."
She tucked the gun back into her belt and shrugged. "Well, given how things turned out the first time you said you were coming back, I thought it'd be best if I didn't go too far. Got half way to where you said the Tardis was and then realised you probably needed me," she said, returning his grin. She took a few steps towards him and stared down at where Guan'dlak's body was laying on the floor, before turning to frown at him slightly. "You don't mind that I killed it?"
He looked back at her, his expression suddenly sombre again. "Just this once, no," he replied, and then Tevo noticed the body of the xenomorph lying at the foot of the slope and raised an eyebrow at him.
"So what did you do to it, exactly?" she asked.
"Poisoned it," he said simply.
"Yes, poisoned it with a solution of aspirin and water. Aspirin's toxic to Time Lords, I just made sure it absorbed enough of the stuff to prevent it regenerating." He was still staring down at the xenomorph's body, looking rather regretful. "I wish there could have been some other way to do it, but there wasn't really much choice. It was an amazing creature, but still too dangerous to ever risk it getting off this planet."
Tevo looked from the xenomorph back to him. "You know, for once I agree with you," she said, but he still looked rather down about having had to kill it. She sighed, realising that no matter how much she disagreed with him she was never going to be able to change the way his mind worked. "Is it alright if we go now?" she asked, keen to get off this planet as soon as possible.
He looked back up at her, seeming to remember that they hadn't quite finished escaping yet. "Just one second," he said, before leaning down to wave his sonic screwdriver over the yautja's wrist console. "There, I've activated the self destruct sequence. All the yautja buildings on this planet are set to blow up in half an hour's time, just to make sure nobody can ever come back here and do what they've been doing again." Then he straightened up and began to walk away from the slope, and Tevo was glad to see his smile was back in place. "Right, now that that's sorted I've got to show you the Tardis."
As they approached the little blue box in the clearing the Doctor was delighted by the look of astonishment on Tevo's face. "But it's a blue box!" she kept saying, as if she couldn't quite believe it.
"I did tell you that," he pointed out as he walked to the door.
"I know, but it's a blue box," she said again, still unable to comprehend what she was seeing.
He flashed her a grin. "Just wait 'til you see inside," he said as he opened the door.
She followed him in and, as expected, her mouth fell open in surprise as she saw the interior. "It's…"
"Bigger on the inside," the Doctor finished.
"Not this big on the outside," Tevo said simultaneously.
They just stared at each other for a few seconds and then the Doctor laughed. "I like the way your mind works, Ailyn," he said, crossing over to the console, "Most people go with what I said. That was a refreshingly different way of saying the same thing."
She smiled at him and nodded. "Well, I guess I am just a bit different to most people."
He was still grinning. "I can't disagree with that," he said, pulling down a few levers on the console, "Right then, where should I take you to?"
"Well, away from here would be nice," she replied.
"I know, but where to exactly? Back to Basili?"
Her smile suddenly faltered and she frowned slightly. "I've just crashed one of the most prestigious ships in the galaxy and lost him millions of dollars worth of cargo. I don't think he'd be too pleased to see me right now."
The Doctor was still smiling. "Good," he said cheerily, "I hoped you'd say that, because I wouldn't have taken you back to him anyway. Can't have you keeping up this piracy thing."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "I take it you're not still going to hand me into the authorities?"
He grinned at her. "Captain Ailyn Tevo, slayer of yautja and xenomorphs? I don't think the authorities could handle you," he said mischievously, "But in all seriousness, I don't think there's any need to hand you in as long as you don't carry on with it. Which, I trust, you won't."
She nodded. "No, not if you don't want me to. You've just saved my life so I guess I owe it to you. And even if you didn't mind…well, I don't have a crew or a ship anymore, do I? How can I be a captain without either of those?"
"I suppose that's true," he said thoughtfully, "But there's still plenty of other stuff you could do. The Intergalactic Expeditionary Program is still recruiting, if you're interested. There's plenty of opportunities there."
"Hmm, I suppose," she said in response, but she didn't sound too enthusiastic.
He waited for her to tell him where he should take her, but when she didn't say anthing he tried prompting her again. "Alright, where do you want to go?"
"Well, where are you going?" she asked.
He frowned slightly at that. "Why does that matter?"
"Well, I was kind of wondering if I could come with you," she said, looking at him hopefully, and the Doctor felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he realised that she wanted to know if she could travel with him. That was one thing he really wished she hadn't asked. Even though part of him wanted her to come, he knew he couldn't say yes.
He studied her expression silently for a few moments without responding. His thoughts were drifting back to that time, quite recently for him, when he'd asked Donna to come with him. He still wasn't sure what had prompted him to ask her - impulse, a knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of being on his own again - but in the end he was glad she'd said no. He didn't want another companion, not really. What he wanted was Rose, but of course he would never travel with her again now.
A sad sigh escaped him as he remembered what Donna had said just before he'd gone, "Find somebody."
And what had his response been? "I don't need anybody."
That wasn't entirely true. He knew it wasn't, but he also knew that for now at least he was better off on his own. He just wasn't ready to travel with somebody again; not this soon after Rose. And especially not with Tevo: a trigger-happy, relentlessly argumentative space pirate. As much as he liked her, he just couldn't see that working. They'd drive each other mad.
His cheerful expression had faded somewhat, and although Tevo had noticed she didn't comment on it. She took his lack of response as a 'no', and even though she was disappointed she didn't really know what to say to him to change his mind. If he didn't want her to come with her after the number of times she'd already saved his life, then what could she possibly do to convince him?
"Tell you what," he said, still trying to act cheerfully, "Why don't I take you back to Alhena Three first? Your father's about to face one of the biggest challenges of his career and it's probably about time you made up with him."
That was clearly just a way to avoid answering the question, not really telling her whether he was going to let her come or not, but the fact he hadn't given her a straight answer spoke for itself. She couldn't help but feel disappointed by that, but then she tried to consider what he had actually suggested and wondered if it would be a good alternative. Part of her did want to go back: after all the times she'd almost died over the past couple of days she had found herself wishing she'd had chance to make up with her father. But still, it had been years since they'd last spoken, and she wasn't sure how she'd go about telling him how she was responsible for most of the pirate attacks on his ships. "I, er…I don't know about that."
"Come on," he said, "The lawsuit and the insurance payout are going to be massive. I think he'd be able to handle the stress much better if he knew he could stop worrying about his daughter on her way to some distant galaxy."
Tevo scowled slightly at that. Although she did wish there was a way to make things right with him, she wasn't convinced that anything was going to work. "But it's kind of my fault, isn't it? The lawsuit and all that?"
"All the more reason to say sorry," he said, pulling down a few more levers on the console and setting the Tardis in motion. A few seconds later the whooshing noise of the engine had gone silent again and the Doctor gestured towards the door. "There you are," he said, "Alhena Three, your dad's house is just out there."
"He lives in a castle."
"Well, castle then. You know what I mean."
Tevo just continued to look at him uncertainly.
"Oh, come on," he said, "That's your home out there, isn't it? You could go back and make things right again. Think about it, Ailyn. After all that experience you've gained from being a pirate, perhaps now you could do something helpful for your dad's company instead of Basili. How about a counter-piracy unit? Something within the law? I'm pretty sure he'd appreciate it."
Tevo chewed her lip for a moment and then nodded. "Alright," she said, "I guess I could talk to him, but no guarantees this is going anywhere. All I'm doing is letting him know I'm still in the galaxy and seeing if he wants to talk, but if he doesn't I'm coming straight back. Then you can take me somewhere else, I'm not staying here any longer than I have to." She crossed to the door and then paused for a second to look back at the Doctor, frowning slightly as if a thought had just occurred to her. "You're not going to be here when I get back, are you?"
He held her gaze for a few moments, and then decided he couldn't lie to her. "No, I'm not."
She looked a little hurt and confused once he'd said that. "Do you mind telling me why?"
He gave a long, sad sigh before answering. "I just…I don't travel with people anymore, Ailyn. It's nothing personal, I just…don't."
She just continued to look at him in silence for a few moments. "Alright," she said, her disappointment evident, "I'm not going to ask why again because it's obvious you don't want to tell me, but this isn't going to be the last time I ever see you, is it?"
He suddenly grinned at her again. "Course not. I'll have to come and check up on you at some point, make sure you've not slipped back into the old ways of piracy."
She grinned back. "Good," she said, walking away from the door and crossing over to him. "In that case, I'll say thank you now, until next time."
She held out a hand, apparently for him to shake, and he looked down at it in disappointment. "A handshake? Is that all I'm getting?"
She looked at him for a few moments and then said, "No, you're right," before wrapping her arms around him, and he returned the hug enthusiastically.
They pulled apart after a few seconds and he smiled at her. "That's more like it. After all those times I saved your life I think I deserve a bit more than a handshake. Although I probably ought to say thank you too; you did save my life quite a few times as well."
"I think we about broke even in the end, didn't we?" she said, turning away from him with a smile as she headed back towards the door.
"Yeah, I guess we did," he responded, but as she reached the door she paused again to look back at him.
"What about you? Have you got a home to go to now?" She seemed slightly concerned, as if she was worried about leaving him on his own.
He hesitated for a moment before answering, not really sure what he should say to that, but then decided on, "Something like that, yeah."
"Oh," she said, smiling slightly as she seemed to be satisfied with that answer. "Well, good. I guess I'll be seeing you then." With that she opened the door and turned to leave.
He watched the door swing shut behind her and stared at the space where she'd been standing for a few seconds, wondering why he'd decided to answer like that. He didn't really have a home anymore, not outside the Tardis at any rate, but he supposed there was one place in the universe he could perhaps consider to be home more than any other. Twenty-first century Earth: ever since meeting Rose that was the place he'd always gone back to. Every time he'd taken her home he'd gone with her too, and it had begun to feel like a sort of adoptive home for him as well. At first he'd thought that feeling would fade, now that she was gone and the Earth of this world wasn't her home anymore, but strangely it hadn't. Every time he'd felt certain he was going to die over the past couple of days Earth had been the main place he'd wished he'd have chance to see again. Even though he knew Rose wasn't there any more he still wanted to go back. Strangely, he did seem to think of it as a kind of home now. Of course it would never replace Gallifrey, but it was still somewhere he always wanted to return to after travelling across the universe.
He turned back to the console, and then grimaced slightly as he felt a throb of pain in his chest from the aftermath of the xenomorph being there. It was still aching slightly, but he knew that it wouldn't be bothering for him much longer. He pulled down one of the levers on the console so that the Tardis began to make its signature whooshing noise as it transported him back to twenty-first century Earth. He felt he was ready to go back. He'd had his adventure now – it had perhaps been a bit too adventurous, in fact, far too many near death experiences to really be considered fun – and now he thought he'd rather like to go back to something a bit more familiar.
He flicked a few more switches on the console to do a scan of the area as he realised he was approaching London, hoping he would find something interesting to keep him entertained. Nothing dangerous this time, just something interesting. He'd had enough of trouble for now.
One of the screens beeped at him and as he read the message displayed on it he broke into a grin. "Unexplained plasma coils around the Royal Hope Hospital!" he exclaimed, "Excellent! That looks pretty non-dangerous and interesting. Much better than a sinister sounding distress signal, I don't want any more of those for a while. So, what could be causing that then?"
The whooshing noise of the engines faded as the Tardis materialised, and just as the Doctor was about to head to the door he realised he was still wearing the clothes that had been torn up by the yautja and his coat was covered in dirt. "Ah, hold that thought," he said, speaking to himself as he disappeared into the Tardis' wardrobe room.
He reappeared a few minutes later wearing a blue suit with a dark red tie, with a huge grin on his face to complete the look as he bounded towards the door. "Alright, let's see what all that's about," he said, already beginning to forget all about the yautja and the xenomorphs as he stepped out into the London street.
There we are, finally come to an end (leading into the start of Smith and Jones). I hope I've left it open ended enough that I might be able to come back to it and do a sequel at a later date, as although I don't have one planned at the moment I don't want to rule it out.
Extra special thanks to Blackadder VII for all his reviews and for keeping me going through the writer's block, and thank you to everybody else who's reviewed or added this story to their favourites/alerts. I must say I've thoroughly enjoyed writing this and I'm going to miss it, and I hope you've all enjoyed it as much as I have.
Update 17/7/11: I've just started working on a banner to go with this story. I was thinking about doing it digitally and in colour, but since my computer really doesn't like Photoshop and runs slowly every time I try and use it, I've decided to stick with what I know I'm best at and do it in pencil. It might take me a while to finish as I want to make it as detailed as possible and I'm doing it on A2 paper, but it's going to be my summer project and I'm hoping to get it finished before I start university. I'll post a link to it on my profile page when I'm done.
Update: 11/8/11: This fic now has a video to go with it. Link is on my profile page if you'd like to watch it.
Update: 17/8/11: The banner is still a long way off being finished. I had planned to get it done by the end of summer, but that doesn't seem likely to happen now. I've decided I'm going to upload work-in-progress versions on DeviantART if anyone wants to see how it's progressing, so the link's on my profile page.