They stood before the central console, both taking in their new surroundings. One with pride, the other with a sense of wonder. “Well, what d’you think?”
The console room was much changed. Bigger, certainly. And the console itself had now replaced with something altogether different. Less streamlined, and the thing seemed to have an organic look to it. The whole room, in fact. Different, and yet pleasing to the eye. “Well, you’ve certainly made some changes this time, Doctor.”
The younger man beside him smiled. “You’ve got to move with the times, Alistair.”
The Brigadier had been rather sceptical at first when this stranger had arrived unannounced at his home. Understandable, as in recent times he had come to recognise the Time Lord from his dress sense, or lack of it in some instances. But now, dressed as he was in a leather jacket and v-necked shirt, the Doctor was now less likely to stand out from the crowd.
But he was eventually convinced by detailed knowledge of past adventures that only the Doctor could know of. And his return to the TARDIS confirmed that belief. “I haven’t seen you since that business in America with Miss Pollard,” he said, thinking back. “How is she, by the way?”
“Oh, Charley moved on a while ago,” the Doctor replied. “We said our goodbyes long before I regenerated.” There was sadness in his voice. “I miss her, you know?”
Alistair understood only too well how hard it was to say goodbye. He remembered Jo Grant’s farewell at Llanfairfach, and how the Doctor had been particularly sad at her leaving. He laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It’s always hard to let someone go.”
The Doctor smiled, though his eyes seemed troubled. “At least she’s happy. Well, I hope she is.”
“Miss Pollard struck me as being pretty resourceful,” Alistair assured him. “She’ll be fine.” He looked around. “So, travelling on your own this time?”
He nodded. “I’ve been back on Earth for a while. I suppose I missed the old place.”
“There’ve been one or two changes here,” Alistair remarked. “You certainly wouldn’t recognise UNIT from the old days.”
The Doctor shrugged. “Change comes to us all, Alistair.”
“To some more than most.” They both smiled at the joke. “So you’ll be around for a while, then?”
“Oh I think so,” the Doctor replied. “For the immediate future, anyway.”
“Then you’ve time to join me for a pint.” The old soldier led the Time Lord out of the TARDIS and into the fresh midday air. “I know a little place around here that serves a particularly good Ploughman’s lunch.”
The Doctor paused. “What about Doris?”
“She’s away at her sister’s,” came the reply. “She’ll be sad to have missed you, though.”
“And how do you know I won’t have already caught up with her in some alternative timeline?”
“Well, if you have, I daresay I’ll already know about it.” With that, Alistair steered his old friend in the direction of the local pub, both of them laughing and joking along the way.
Some things may change, but others, like friendship, will always stay the same.