The sun was quite bright over head as the small car slowed and stopped. It was on a slight bluff overlooking a small village below. The green grass looked warm and inviting against the white and light gray of the small cottages. A few, Tegan noted with a smile, were thatched. It was quite quaint and peaceful. "That's Stockbridge?"
"What?" The Doctor climbed from the car, leaving the door open. He walked to the edge of the slight bluff and gazed down at the collection of houses. "It hasn't changed; not one iota. Still as peaceful as night. I always loved this place." He slipped his hands into his pockets and leaned forward, squinting from underneath the brim of his hat.
Tegan had rolled down the window and sat on the door. When the Doctor continued to reminisce, she leaned forward on the roof of the car with her arms folded.
"I came here after you left us at Heathrow and I left Nyssa at the Institute for Higher Learning on Lourin 4…needed a bit of rest and relaxation. It was wonderful for a time." He shook his head with a wide smile. After a moment, he realized that Tegan had asked him a question." Hmm? Did you say something?"
She rolled her eyes.
"Oh, yes..yes…that is Stockbridge, Tegan. One of the loveliest villages this side of Gallifrey," he answered, turning back to smile widely at her.
"I dare say Turlough will be heartbroken to have missed this…" she muttered, frowning. It didn't last long; she smiled at his sigh of frustration. A little louder, she asked: "You want to eat there, don't you?"
"That was rather the purpose of coming here, Tegan," the Doctor answered, and walked back toward car. He waved her back into the passenger seat. "And as for Turlough, he wanted to stay in Little Hobcolm. I am surprised that you decided to accompany me."
"Well…I love grandfather, but sometimes that little village is just too small for me," she said, sliding back into the passenger seat as he closed the driver's side door.
"So you traded one village for another," he pointed out logically. He put the car in drive and smiled over at Tegan as she leaned back, her head half out the window. "You are a city girl?"
"Of course not," she scoffed. "Well not entirely. I would have never thought you a country boy, though."
"Oh Tegan!" He lifted his hand from the steering wheel to gesture to his clothes. She nearly laughed. It was true, although she had never thought of it in that manner. He was a cricketeer; his personality and bearing nearly reeked of country afternoons and lawn teas and pick up games.
"I stand corrected," she answered and leaned forward as the car crept down the enbankment and onto the main road leading into the village. "I will give you this, Doc, it is a beautiful village."
"Well thank goodness for some faith in my opinions," he answered, turning down the hill and into the main road into town. "Up ahead is the Inn, and beyond that the Green Dragon…has excellent toast. Toast of the Town so to speak. And then there is the Village Green…the bridge to Overlook…I dare say there will be a game of cricket this afternoon."
"Here's to hope," Tegan said, making a large show of crossing her fingers.
The Doctor frowned, but didn't answer, leading the car into a parking space below the Inn. It was a compact and easily fit into the space. Before Tegan could unfold her legs from the seat, the Doctor was bounding out of the car to stand next to it. With a show of boyish enthusiasm, he held his arms wide. "Stockbridge, Tegan!"
She climbed out and leaned on the roof. She was smiling, more at his attitude than his words. "Should I clap?"
"…is my strong point," she concluded. With a grin aimed at disarming him, she stepped to his side and took his arm. "But that aside, Doc, are you going to give me the grand tour?"
"Show me where you lived, ate…the like?" Tegan answered.
"Do you really want to see? Or would you rather just eat and leave?" he asked, glancing down at her. He slapped his hat on his head.
Tegan frowned, dropped his arm and turned away from him. "I do want to know about my friends, you know. Is that what you really think of me? After all this time?"
He sighed and rolled his eyes before he snagged his hat off his head and dropped it on hers. "Miss Tegan…you will be the regeneration of me. Come on." He offered his arm again.
She thought about giving him what-for, but settled for taking his arm again.
The Doctor pulled out a chair and let Tegan slide into the seat. It was a cozy table nestled under window. As Tegan settled in the chair, she glanced up at the curtains. They were white eyelet and were lovely against the dark wood. The window itself overlooked the Village Green, the beginning of Cook's Forest and a bend of Littlebend Creek. In the sunlight of the brilliant Spring day, it looked like home. Brisbane at the height of the growing season. Home: the farm.
The Doctor thanked the girl for the menus and handed Tegan one. With a sigh, she took it.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "You look deep in thought."
"Memories is more like it, Doc," she answered.
"Ah…well then…whilest you are tripping down memory lane, I would recommend the salmon…it is excellent. Of course, if breakfast is more to your liking, I would say that the eggs benedict is wonderful to have."
Tegan glanced up at the waitress as she appeared. "I'll have a salad, please, with chicken and tea."
The Doctor shook his head and ordered the salmon. As the waitress left, he leaned across the table. "Really, Tegan…I take you all over the universe, show you the wonders that the Mutter's Spiral has to offer, and you opt for a salad at dinner."
"Safety with familiarity, I always say. I have one word for you, Doc…Rigas 3."
"That is two words, Tegan. And Rigas 3 was an exception, not the rule," he held up his finger, his voice raised.
"You were sick for days."
"And you took great pleasure in beating a down man," he answered back, leaning forward on the table. "I remember that. You experimented with the architectural reconfiguration. The swimming pool, as I remember it, was hidden in the library."
She frowned, but answered him back without a breath: "But my room was finally free of that horrid Art Deco."
He sighed. His blue eyes looked tired as he glanced back at her. "Tegan…"
"Look, I didn't come here to argue about the TARDIS. Remember? You promised to live a quiet, peaceful life for a couple of weeks. A break, remember?" she asked. The conversation broke off as a pair of drinks were delivered to the table.
"And I kept it…we are here. We haven't left. As I recall," he sat back in the chair and smiled at her. "As I recall, we haven't left Little Hobcolm at all. You have had a good time, haven't you?"
"Yes, but I have the feeling that you want to move on."
He glanced out the window, quiet before he nodded slowly. "I do, in some respects. I have never been in one place very long, Tegan, not of free choice. Stockbridge and your Little Hobcolm are jewels, but, they are not rich enough to make me want to stay here."
"Will you ever stop running?" Tegan asked, honest but harsh. "I mean…look, Doc, you are rather mature of age…sometimes you remind me of a teenager with his license and no curfew."
"I don't run, Tegan," he said, haughtily. "I explore. But yes, I have thought about when I stop touring."
"And…" she leaned forward to sip at her tea. "And where are you going to end up? Earth? Eye of Orion?"
"Oh…that. Probably Gallifrey," he answered, sipping at his drink as well. "It is still home, you know, even after all this time. But that is still a couple of lifetimes away, I hope. I am rather in my prime and quite happy with my current circumstances."
"Are you? You remind me of an incorrigible little boy more than a Time Lord," she answered, smiling.
She continued to smile innocently and he tried to maintain a frown, ending up chuckling as their food was brought to the table.
"It is all in good ribbing, Doc. You should know that by now. We have been traveling together for some time."
"Ah yes…some time," he agreed. "And yes, I know it is all in a good ribbing." He picked up his fork and glanced out the window before he took a bite. "It is on that line of thought that I have a question to ask to you."
Tegan stopped chewing and swallowed quickly. "The TARDIS needs another overhaul in interior decorating; I think Turlough should find some other clothes and I think you need to have more vacations."
The Doctor smiled. "We have been together for some time, Tegan. Since my regeneration, with a couple of side trips, until now. And since I have managed to get you somewhere remotely familiar to you."
"Yes, quite…for once." He lowered his eyes. "I was wondering if you would be leaving…"
Tegan stopped eating and lowered her fork to the table. She stared at him in disbelief. "You want me to leave?"
"Heavens no," he laid his fork down as well. "No. I don’t WANT you to leave, but I had rather thought that since you are with family and you are in England and you are in your time period that I should expect for you to leave."
"Well…Tegan…you did make my life a problem for quite sometime about getting you home."
"And you never did until I decided to stay," she pointed out.
"Yes, well…that is not the point….the point is…"
"You want to know if I am staying on Earth this time," she stated almost emotionlessly.
"Well you do have a life to live here too, Tegan. And traveling around the universe, although quite an accomplishment for most individuals, is not something that you can put on your resume on Earth, at least not this century. Or the next one," he said, thoughtfully.
"I want to continue on with you, Doc."
The Doctor leaned forward and stared earnestly into her eyes. "Are you sure?"
"You should know me by now, Doc. If I didn't want to be somewhere, you would hear it."
"I have often."
"But not recently."
"No, not recently."
They both lapsed into silence and ate. When the food was gone, some time later, Tegan leaned back and glanced at her friend. "Really, Doc."
"I don't doubt you. And I would rather miss you."
Tegan sighed and glanced out the window. The sun was beginning to slide on the downside across the sky. She nodded to it. "If you want to make Little Hobcolm sometime tonight and still give me that tour, Doc, we had better get started." She pressed back from the table and stood. The Doctor reached into his pockets and paid for the meal with a flourish.
She waited until he was done and then grabbed his hand, hurrying him to the door. He followed, a bemused look on his face. They burst out the door into a late afternoon and stood, acclimating to the sun. She grinned: "Show me this village of yours, Doc. And then lets go back home."
"To Little Hobcolm?" he asked, squinting.
"To the TARDIS. We have been away from it far too long. Let's see Stockbridge. Give me a day to say goodbye to Grandfather and then…we can continue to run."
The Doctor smiled, the grin reaching his eyes, and he released her hand. With a flourish, he offered his arm. "Miss Tegan. Have I ever offered to take you to Hidran 6?"
"Well, I think I just did."