Hand in hand, Barbara and Ian made their way to the edge of the river, glancing up at the sky of 1965— not the swirling purple sky of another world, or the grim smoke-filled sky of a future Earth, simply the cloudy and mundane one they’d left behind two year earlier.
“Smells the same,” Ian said as he sniffed the air. “The smell of rain that’s been.”
“Feels the same too,” Barbara said, sighing, as her shoes became wedged in clumps of wet mud.
“It gives me a shiver now, thinking about that future.”
“Me too. And think, Susan could be at this exact spot, in her own time, walking along here at exactly the same time as us.”
Ian squeezed Barbara’s hand tighter. “She’ll be alright, you know? She’s a resourceful young lady.”
“Ah yes, but the Doctor left her without her shoes.”
“But at least she found her…sole mate.”
They both laughed together before they fell silent into contemplation. They’d only been home for less than a day and in that time, they’d had some fun in the city and gone back to see Barbara’s mother. It had been an emotional reunion and Ian had given them space as she attempted any kind of explanation as to their whereabouts for two whole years. How could they explain to anyone the lives they had led? They were alone.
“How’s your mum this morning?”
“Still in a state of shock, I should think.”
“I’m glad she has you back. People are really a lot worse off without you, Barbara.”
She shook him away. “Oh Ian. I really feel guilty leaving her to come here. She held me so tight, afraid to let me go again, I suppose.”
“Don’t worry,” Ian nudged her. “I assured her I’d get you back safely.”
“And you did.”
“Get me home safely. You said you were someone to rely on and trust and you were right.”
“Did you doubt it before?”
“I didn’t know you as well then.”
“Well, it was the same for me, Barbara. I wouldn’t be here safely either if it weren’t for you.”
“And the Doctor.”
Ian smirked. “Him too.”
They both smiled as they thought about them both, picturing their faces, hearing their voices echo in their minds. If only they could see them again someday.
“Wonder where they are now?” Barbara said. “If I know Vicki, she’ll be dragging him all over the universe without time to take a breath.”
“Wherever they are, no doubt they’ll be in trouble. I hope they’ll find someone else, someone else to share in their adventures with. It’s a shame that chap Steven didn’t make it. He seemed just the sort of man the Doctor needs around.”
Barbara bit her lip as a tear escaped her and rolled down her cheek. “That poor man.”
“Yes, we’ve seen many people…” He forced a smile. “Well, never mind that now. We should be celebrating the fact that we’re home. It’s not changed too much has it?” He looked around, taking in the sights, smells and sounds of their beloved home.
“Still as busy as ever.”
Ian suddenly chuckled. “Hey, there is one thing missing.”
“There’s no poster telling us not to dump bodies in the river.”
“Thank goodness!” Barbara replied.
“Although, Barbara,” he teased, gently shoving her, suddenly grabbing her around the waist. “It can be arranged.”
Barbara let out a scream. “Ian! No! Don’t you dare!”
But Ian laughed loudly and led her toward the water. “Sure you don’t want a dip?”
“This is like the villa fountain all over again! No, I don’t want a dip, thank you.”
“I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Barbara sighed and raised her free hand to her face, placing it over her mouth. “This order can not be countermanded. You will do as I say. Let me go at once!”
“I obey!” Ian let go of her immediately. He grabbed a pebble and tossed it into the water, watching as it rippled outwards. “No, we can’t change things anymore. We’re firmly in the present now.”
“I’m rather glad, Ian. All that changing history, it felt too much a burden and a power.”
“Well, you were a goddess, that’s got to sting a bit, falling down from your pedestal.”
She slapped him on the arm. “You know I have no ego. And anyway, what about you, Sir Ian?”
“Oh that. What’s a knighthood between friends, you can still call me Ian if you like?”
“Oh can I? How humble of you.”
They both laughed for a few moments.
Ian’s laughter stopped finally and he sighed. “Suppose we should get going home.”
“Yes, but where is home?”
Ian reached out his hand. “Wherever you are, Barbara, wherever you are.”
Taking his hand again, Barbara smiled and let the wind tickle her hair. She didn’t need to say anything. They were home. They had each other and the rest… well, they couldn’t see the future, they’d just have to figure it out as each day passed just the same as everybody else.