The crystal globe sat in the middle of the table. Various bills lay open next to an age old journal. A mug of cooling coffee rested in a slender hand. The lights were turned down low so as to not wake any of the other occupants of the apartment. But Tegan was wide awake. She hadn't thought that she would be so used to sleeping next to the Doctor that sleeping without him was virtually impossible.
With a wistful smile, she imagined what his reaction would be to her insomnia. His blue eyes would darken just slightly, his brows would knit together, his hands would slide into his pockets, he would rock forward on his toes and give her a mock severe glare. That would last as long as it took them to greet each other and then he would be mollified. It was as it had been for the last year. And their greeting would be as it had been for the past three months.
Deep in her heart, she reckoned she had always known the Doctor was a romantic. Although she supposed she had thought that he was more of the epic type of romantic, chasing after windmills than the type that enthusiastically embraced love, she wasn't going to complain. With a sigh, she sipped at her lukewarm coffee and glanced back down at her journal.
It was open to the last entry she had made on the TARDIS when she and the Doctor had been trying to get back to Frontios. Of course, it had been the last time she had had the opportunity to write and she had left it on the ship when she ran from it. The Doctor had given it back to her the afternoon before.
With a grin, she looked down to read what she had written.
Cripes, I don't know how to properly write in this thing as I don't have a clue in hell what the actual date is, but I'll just continue as I have already in this journal. It's after Frontios. We just left Tranax Seven. I had those thoughts about him again. And when you read this, Tegan-girl, sometime in later life…you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I still don't know why he took me there, but I'm not complaining. I loved it. It was beautiful…in that stained glass in the church window type way. And the sounds….Lord….it was incredible.
If he were just a man, if he were anything less than what he is, I might be able to make him love me someday. But he isn't. I think I've finally gotten that through my head. I've been thankful daily that my run over mouth hasn't just blurted it out to him. I think he would have dropped me off on Earth so quickly, my head would spin. Believe it or not, journal, I'm just glad to be here. With him. With Turlough. In the TARDIS. I might not like everywhere we end up, but if I'm with my friends, I can survive anything.
Oh, blast. He's calling. Apparently, he's found Frontios. I didn't know it was lost. Righto, better get a move on…he sounds manic again. Will write again soon.
She nearly laughed. She had been such a silly girl. Somewhere along the line she had realized that love wasn't something that you made someone do. It was a gift you exchanged.
Before she shut the journal, she saw a heavier, broader script written on the back of the page. Thinking that perhaps Peri had written on it, she turned the page. And was thoroughly surprised…
I suppose you'll find this whenever you sit down to read the journal, Tegan. And I know you will tell me, loudly and longly, about what you think of me reading something personal. To reassure you, I'll say first: Brave Heart. And tell you that I only found this when I was taking Peri back to her own time before I was to return to you and our family.
Yes, you did just read that right, Tegan: our family. I consider your children to be like my own. I want to raise them with you. I want to see them grow and mature. I want to do you proud, do Tom proud by being the most attentive parental type I can. I don't know what will become of this, Tegan. I don't know how the dynamics between us will play out; we may hate each other, Rassilon forbid, by the time this is through. I certainly hope not, however.
Yes, I did know that you have romantic designs on me, Tegan, all those years ago. It was the wrong time. You were the wrong age and I was a naïve Time Lord in many ways. I'm glad I've been given this second chance with you and that our friendship is strong. No matter what, as one of my dear friends said, you can survive anything as long as your friends are around.
I might not have known love and I'm not quite sure I understand it all now, Tegan. But I do know that I care for you, deeply. I know I can't be a father to your children without being your mate, your spouse; whatever it is that humans prefer to use. It's not a trade-off; it's not a sacrifice; a means to an end. Know that I am here for you as much if not a bit more than I am for you children. And in the future, I think I'll be using the words and so I will try them out here. It seems to remove the embarrassment from the situation: I love you.
Anyway, yes, maybe I was a bit wrong about the removal of the embarrassment, but I'm sure you get the idea. I'll see you soon. Kiss the children for me.
Tegan gasped and covered her mouth. He was right, she thought, she was going to give him whatfor for reading her journal right before she kissed him senseless. With a teary grin, she got up to fill her coffee cup again and heard a small, almost timid, knock on the door.
Ecstatic, she turned, putting down the mug on the now cluttered table top. In three steps she was to the door and opened it. "Oh thank bloody God, and you're earl-"
She stopped speaking as she saw a large man standing on the other side of the door jam. He wore the most outrageous coat: a patchwork mess of bright colors. His legs were encased in striped trousers, bright polished wing tipped shoes were on his feet. His head was a riot of blond curls. She didn't know him from Adam, but the look in his blue eyes, even the blue of his irises struck a cord of familiarity.
"Tegan, my dear," the man said in bass tones. "Tegan?"
She didn't hear anything else and the world faded to darkness as she slipped dead away in a faint.
Christmas, seven months later
The Doctor sat beside her on the couch, quiet as children milled around him trying to get to the cookies. Tegan gave him a teasing glance and muttered. "Thete, if you let him eat the cookies, it'll be up to you to put him to bed, you know."
The Time Lord caught the lad about the waist and hefted him off of his lap and put him down on the ground with a tap to his bottom. "Grab Bear," he said, the words falling off his tongue with a definite Liverpudlian accent. "We'll get his stocking up on the mantel."
Amy ran through the living room with her stocking and bounced excitedly on her feet. "Uncle Thete? I can't reach."
"Well, of course you can't," the Doctor said with a flourish and jumped to his feet. He approached the mantel and stared at his, his hands resting on his waist. "No, no, no…I think your height is all wrong for the job. What would you say to me lifting you, Amy?"
"Momma says I'm too old to get picked up."
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder at Tegan, flicking his long chestnut curls out of the way as he did so. "Yes, I suppose she would say that. Tegan?! I'm picking up your daughter…"
Tegan stood and walked through the house towards the kitchen. "Just don't let me see it," she joked.
She filled the mugs with wassail and waited until she heard both children squeal with the Doctor lifting them to put their stockings on their nails. Then there was a moment of giggling and the telly switched on to Christmas Eve specials.
He joined her a minute later.
"I like this new body of yours," she said suggestively as he smiled and reached out for his mug of wassail.
"Not as much as I do, Tegan. It's wonderful to be young again. And even if you had designs on me," he waggled his eyebrows suggestively, "I think that Mark would have something to say."
Tegan laughed and nodded. "Very true. But he does like you a great deal, surprisingly. Where did you get those jeans?"
"In the TARDIS. The Old Girl seems to be adapting to my new bodies quicker than I am," he laughed. "The house?"
"Is wonderful. Not too big, not too small," she gave a nod around at the kitchen which she was still unpacking when she had the chance. "And the Brigadier had me pass on his love to you."
"In the two days I've been here, you just now remembered that?" he asked with a large smile. Then he sobered and gave her a soulful stare. "I haven't thanked you for letting me join you and the children…"
Tegan nodded back her tears. "You're always welcome here. I'm still mourning you and I think what we did was best for the children. They would have never understood not at their age. Maybe if they were older…"
He put down his mug and opened his arms. She was well practiced enough in the last two days to know that he was willingly and openly offering his comfort. She stepped quickly into his arms and gave him a quick embrace. Her voice was muffled in the wool of his sweater as she continued. "I'm sorry that…that we couldn't…that it wasn't the same…that…" She sighed hard. "Rabbits! I know how much they mean to you…in any incarnation. I said I would never take that away from you. I just hope you truly understand about…"
"Mark?" he asked. He put his chin down on the crown of her head and nodded slowly. "I do. It's not the same as it was as 'your' Doctor, Tegan. I care for you and could let it grow into love, but…it would never be the same as it was with 'him'. He loved you. I know what the emotion is now, Tegan. I can say that he felt a very strong, very healthy love for you. It wouldn't be the same for you or for me. No, I'm not upset about Mark. I think he's good for you, for the children. He'll be a wonderful father. And I think he's head over heels in love with you."
"I've only been dating him a month…" she laughed. "And I care about him, but God I wish…"
The Doctor eased her away from his chest and shook his head, shaking his finger back and forth in front of her face. "No, Tegan. No regrets."
Tegan nodded tearily.
"Happy Christmas," he wished to her, quietly. "Uncle Thete, indeed," he joked.
Through her tears she laughed and picked up the kid sized cups to carry them out of the kitchen. "Well, I had to think of something…"
"I should have never told you that was my name," he said, his hands on his hips again. "And being here still means more to me than you could ever guess, Tegan. It's still home."
She stopped at the door and turned back to face him. She gave him her pirate smile and shook her head. "And you're still a dear friend, Doc. You are welcome here any time. Anywhere we are. And I'm glad that you can be here on days like this…Christmas, birthdays. And just remember, no matter what happens, that'll always remain the same."
He gave her a wide smile and watched as she entered the living room again. With a light step, he walked to the corner and leaned against the doorjam. A large part of him felt an emptiness and had always felt it since he regenerated on Androzani Major. He had known that his possibility of being part of Tegan's life had disintegrated with his old body. The children would not have understood and she was quite within her rights to have them not know of Time Lords and time travel. But he still loved them and seeing them was a balm on his soul.
Even after two hundred years, he still returned to see her. And probably would until his last life, as long as she could continue to come up with names for the children to call him. He would continue to come. It helped dull that ache in his hearts. Seeing her sad smile, he forced a grin to his lips and strode into the living room, throwing his arms wide.