A/N: (Feel free to skip my useless rambling) Aha! And we're back with the last chapter! This one was a lot of fun for me to write, I hope you guys like it as much as I do. I think I managed to tie up all the loose ends. I'm terribly horrible at endings because I hate ending stories - I always miss them terribly when I'm finished. Anyway, hopefully this one is satisfying enough for you guys. As for general housekeeping: special kudos to T.R. Meyers, Evenmoor, a random person, and admiraljoshhar for reviewing. As for admiraljoshhar's question: the Doctor's family wasn't actually based off of anyone, I decided that Susan looked much like the Doctor's wife did and that his son looked like a cross between Four and Ten, but that's about it. Ah, I must say, I'm not looking forward to this story being finished. I really enjoyed writing it, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end. I hope you guys enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. So, kick back, have a cup of tea and a jammy dodger, and read. I'll see you guys soon when I post a new story :) Thank you so much for all of your support, your constructive criticism, and generally for being absolutely the best readers on this site. You guys are awesome! Ah, and don't forget to leave a review on your way out - see you all soon, and thanks a bunch!
"Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect." - JK Rowling
It wasn't long before the pain inflicted on the Jabberwocky became too much. Yes, the Doctor had let go, but that didn't stop the damage he'd made. The Time Lord could only sit back and watch as the last echo of a world he'd lost began gasping and shuddering, eyes wide with pain and something akin to fear. It wasn't quite fear, not the fear of a being running from death, but a fear of having to leave, the same fear that stops a person from finishing a book because they aren't ready for it to end, the fear of someone realizing that they're out of time and they had just only begun to understand what the time given them was for. The raw ache of a song half finished, and the Doctor could only whisper "No."
He sank back against the sandy beach, fingertips brushing the Jabberwocky's trembling head, telling the creature that this was his fault, that he was sorry, that he was stupid, that he should have stopped. He was ready to let go of another regeneration, to mend the hurt, to fix it, but as golden light fled from his hand to the creature, the Jabberwocky didn't want to be helped.
The last strength he had was spent in hurling the Doctor away. A scream of frustration was ripped from the Time Lord's throat and with the Jabberwocky's last deep, rumbling, intake of breath, Gallifrey's remnants were once again down to two.
He kicked a stone into the water and fought when River pulled him into her arms. Another yell, a violent shove, and several hot tears later and he was slack against her, face buried in her shoulder, shoulders shaking in quiet sobs.
When he pulled back, he felt stupid all over again because River was shaking and he could see it was a battle for her to even remain upright. His eyes went wide at the wound on her stomach and he looked up at her, and she bit her lip.
"I'm not dying, so don't you dare use a regeneration on me, Doctor," River hissed, leaning heavily on him. "I'll be fine."
He scooped her up and carried her back across the fjord to the waiting SG team. River insisted on stopping so she could re-stitch herself up, but the Doctor wouldn't hear of her doing it herself, and he knelt there by the riverbank and did it for her with whispered words of encouragement and fingers that were surprisingly clever. When he was sure she was secure, he rewrapped her with a clean bandage and still insisted on helping her walk the distance back to the place where it had all began.
They stopped to rest in Aeonne's cave, at the reddened cliffs of Ydenia. The sun set and he held River while she slept, and Sam leaned her head on Jack's shoulder and Daniel fell asleep on his notebooks. Teal'c conversed with Aeone into the night, recounting what had happened, and all was as it should be.
Aeone returned with them to the city. A town meeting was called, in which the Doctor - Grandfather, and his River were introduced to the people who had waited so long to see them. It was announced that the Creature had a name, that he was called Jabberwocky, and that he was dead. By that afternoon, the city was lit up with a thousand lanterns, and bright banners were strung from every rooftop, and a festival began that the team and the Doctor and River were assured would last for days, and that they were all invited to.
It was difficult to explain to Daebla that the Doctor wanted to leave.
"You're our honored guest," she said, brow furrowed as she looked up at the tall, ridiculous man. "You must stay."
He took a breath, shoulders slumped, hands folded behind his back. His gaze found where River was reclined on a settee in the center of the roundhouse, Daniel sitting indian style next to her as they together recounted the Epic of Gilgamesh to a dozen or so eager listeners. His eyes then found the dance outside in the town square, the weave of the bodies, the flurry of colors, his ears picked up the happy folk tune that to him merely sounded like a dirge. He then turned back to Daebla and managed a small smile. It didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm sorry, but we really do have to go."
He didn't tell her that he had no interest in a party commemorating a death that was entirely his fault.
She searched his face, lips pursed, eyes sad, before giving him a small nod and a smile. "Of course."
He bounced lightly on the balls of his feet and clapped, all at once that grim demeanor fading away and a bright, childish grin replacing it. "Don't worry, we'll come back - I'm sure. How could we keep away?"
Daebla couldn't help but let her smile widen at that. "Just... try to return a bit more quickly, this time?"
Scratching the top of his head, he nodded. "Ah, yes, that. Sorry about that." He vowed to return soon enough that she would see him again in a timely fashion.
The Doctor let River and Daniel finish their story before he pulled her out so they could leave. Jack seemed ready to leave as well, with the muttered: "As much as I love a party, we gotta go."
Daebla and Aeone saw to it that the town sent them off in one last hurrah, with drumrolls and singing and flower wreaths that Daniel and Sam seemed to enjoy much more than Teal'c did - though the multi-colored flowers did look quite pretty on his clean-shaven head (according to local women).
They walked back into the forest and SG-1 was confused to see a blue box standing out among the trees. The Doctor gave them an ecstatic smile and opened the door. "Come on in!"
Teal'c looked at Daniel, and Daniel looked at Sam, and Sam looked at Jack, who felt quite a lot of pressure because he felt as if they were all looking at him now. Jack blinked at the Doctor. "I don't think we'll fit."
"Oh, you will, trust me," he grinned and went inside, and River gave them a smirk and followed.
Sam went in first. She figured, what harm could it do? Well, her jaw very nearly hit the floor as she saw the console room. "Oh my god."
The Doctor giggled as he walked around the control panel. "Yeah?"
Jack was the second, he walked in, looking skeptical, before his eyes went wide and he let out a loud, "Whoah."
Daniel's mouth dropped open when he walked in with the Jaffa. Teal'c remained unfazed. If he was amazed, his reaction was only shown through one lifted eyebrow and an even: "It appears to be bigger on the inside."
Jack gave him a look, "No, really?"
"This is impossible," Sam breathed, "I mean, we have theories about bubble dimensions - but we never dreamed that..." she looked at the Doctor, "How does it work?" she demanded.
While the Doctor went through all of the scientific lingo with Sam, Jack and Daniel and Teal'c got the simple explanation from River. She came out with two boxes, a big one, and a little one, then placed the big one farther away.
"Now, going only by perspective, which one looks bigger?" she asked Jack.
Jack pointed toward the small box closest to them.
River smiled. "Exactly. So from this perspective, you could fit the bigger box inside the smaller one, couldn't you?"
Jack still didn't get it.
The Doctor let Sam fly the TARDIS with him and River, and they landed in just a few seconds just outside the Stargate. With a laugh, the Doctor spun on his heels and flung open the door, but the smile faded when he realized it was time to let them go.
SG-1 filed out of the TARDIS, Sam still taking notes on the TARDIS and Daniel gratefully accepting River's notebook on Gallifreyan. Teal'c went to go dial up the Gate, and the roar of it filled the quiet air.
"You'll come and visit, won't you?" Daniel asked River, "I could use some help with all the new information in the lab - and Sam'll probably have destroyed hers trying to replicate the TARDIS technology."
River couldn't help but laugh at that. "Of course we will."
The gate opened with the tell-tale woosh, and they knew that their time was up. Teal'c waited patiently on the stone steps while Sam told River to take care of herself and then went up to join him. Daniel followed soon after, shoving the notebook into his backpack. Jack was the last to go.
They looked each other up and down, the Colonel and the Time Lord, man of war and man of peace, and gave each other a nod. Jack extended his hand, and the Doctor took it in a firm shake, and then he suddenly threw his arms around him and whispered, "Jack? Thank you."
The Colonel coughed once, hugging him back tightly. "You're welcome. You're not a bad guy, Doctor. You just need a kick in the pants sometimes."
He laughed. "Sounds painful."
Jack shook his head, chuckling. "Figure of speech." He was about to say goodbye when the Doctor shook his head, and simply let go of him. Jack got the message and turned walking up the steps and giving him a small salute before stepping through the wormhole with his team.
The Doctor heaved a small sigh, and River asked, "You alright?"
He looked at her, eyeing her bruised face and shaking his head. "You're asking me?"
"I'm fine," she replied, brushing it off with a small smile. "Though that notebook is going to be a pain to replicate."
He laughed at that and took her hand, giving her a grin and tugging her back into the TARDIS. He began to run around the console, pushing buttons and pulling levers as the console whizzed to life and the floor hummed beneath their feet. River got that familiar feeling, that taste of adventure in her mouth as she smiled and walked up to help him. "Where are we going?"
He looked up at her from across the expanse of buttons. "Earth, Cheyenne Mountain, of course, where do you think?"
River grinned and raced him to the flight-lever.