Brenda’s people treated The Doctor and Rose like royalty. He found it deeply embarrassing, the more there on Tiboran than he did at SangC’lune. The simple, trusting people of that planet knew no other way, and he didn’t mind being their Living God. But the Tiborans were an advanced civilisation with hyper-space travel and trade and political communication with other planets. It was, he thought, ridiculous that such people fell to their knees in supplication when he appeared before them. He was nobody’s God, and he was nobody’s Lord, and he wished as he had never wished before that he was not the only Time Lord of Gallifrey left. He would gladly hand on the ‘honours’ conferred on him to any other candidate.

And as if being a Lord of Time wasn’t enough, he was also a hero to them for rescuing Brenda, not once, but three times; from the curse of ‘Edgar’, from being lost on the hidden Earth, and from the pirates that had waylaid them. The story of all three incidents became legend within the few hours they were there on the planet and The Doctor knew if he never returned for a century they would still be telling the story.

“I’ll miss Brenda though,” he sighed as they finally set off from Tiboran, just the two of them again. “She was a sweet girl – reminded me of Susan a little. And Vicki… and Dodo.…” His voice trailed off as he thought about some of the young people who had shared his adventures over the years. Then he looked and saw Rose, watching him with a half smile. She had no reason to be jealous, of course. She knew that those thoughts were no more than that. SHE was real. She was the one he dreamt of making his wife. He smiled at her and she smiled back brightly. His hearts skipped a beat.

“Where are we headed now?” she asked as she took the drive controls and prepared to move them from temporal orbit into the vortex.

“I think… I want to be with family. Let’s go see Susan. I want to see how my boys are doing anyway. They’ve been telling me about their temporal experiments.”

“Fine by me,” Rose said. And she programmed the co-ordinate easily. She had used that one often enough before. The Doctor sat down on the command chair and watched her. He was proud to see her skilfully and confidently handling the controls. Proud of her, proud of himself, and proud of the TARDIS for accepting her so completely that it allowed her to do it. Technically, he was the only one who should be able to operate anything more than peripheral controls. That was a safety measure built into all TARDIS’s. They could only be operated by the Time Lord they belonged to, that they had an unbreakable symbiotic relationship with. But he and Rose were all but symbiotic themselves, and the TARDIS had accepted her as an extension of himself, responding to her hand at the controls.

He smiled happily and let his daydreams wander to a future possibility, when she would be his wife and they would travel the universe together in the TARDIS that loved and cherished them both. If they couldn’t be blessed with children, then at least they would have the freedom of space and time together.

They had that now, of course, he told himself. But how much sweeter it would be if their wanderings, their adventures, were punctuated by the consummated love of a man and woman.

One day, he told himself. One day, for sure. And meantime the wish was enough to keep her by his side.

“Fasten your seatbelt for landing,” Rose said looking at him lounging so comfortably there and letting her do the piloting. She smiled happily. She loved feeling that she COULD pilot the TARDIS, if only to co-ordinates she knew well like this one and home to the flats.

“I’ll give you seatbelt,” he said, jumping up, suddenly awake and animated. “It’s easy enough taking the TARDIS into a preset materialisation. But you don’t know how to make her REALLY move.” He stood behind her and guided her hands skilfully as he brought the TARDIS out of the time vortex into orbit above Earth. “This is the way to land her.” Rose gasped as they went into a fast descent. She saw the British Isles racing towards them, at first just a green outline in the blue of the Atlantic, and then in increasing detail. As they honed in on Greater London she could see streets and whole buildings. They levelled out at the treeline and followed the Thames, skimming over the famous bridges until they reached Richmond-upon-Thames. Only then did they slow down and he let her complete the materialisation under the car port of Susan’s house.

“How did we do that?” she asked as they stepped out of the TARDIS. “How can the TARDIS fly like that? It was like being in a jet plane. But… I mean look at it… it’s a rectangle box. It’s not even aerodynamic.”

“You always forget - that’s just what the TARDIS looks like,” he told her. “It’s not what she is. She can be aerodynamic if she wants to be.”

“What does it REALLY look like, then?” she asked.

“In default form, a plain grey rectangular box,” he admitted. “I haven’t seen it that way for centuries, though. I love it as a police box. Wouldn’t have it as anything else.”

He had no more to say about it then. He was distracted by the shrieks of joy from Chris and Davie as they ran to him. He held out his arms to them and they hugged him affectionately for a long time, both talking at once and he hardly able to keep up with them both. They both hung on his arm as they stepped into the house and he was greeted equally joyfully by Susan, and by Sukie, who ran to him on her unsteady two year old legs to be lifted into his arms.

“You have grown,” he told her, kissing her gladly. “Sukie, my little love, you were just a tiny thing when I first set eyes on you, and now look at you. A little lady.” The little girl laughed and chattered at him in her baby language which he seemed to understand so well.

The twins, ousted from their great-granddad’s affections by their little sister came to Rose and took her hands as they all came to the drawing room. David, reading in his armchair, got up and shook hands with The Doctor warmly. They disagreed on a lot of issues, especially about how and what the twins ought to be learning. But they respected each other all the same.

“Come on, children,” Susan said. “Let your granddad sit down, now.” She took Sukie from him and sent the boys back to the table where they had been working before his arrival. At last he had a chance to breathe. “I’m glad to see you, grandfather,” Susan said. “As always. Can you stay long?”

The question was always asked. He glanced at Rose and she squeezed his hand in answer.

“We don’t need to be anywhere else right now,” he said. “I can do domestic for a couple of days.” Susan smiled joyfully. David was satisfied with what made her happy. The boys were delighted and asked him to see their experiment. He joined them at the dining table, bringing Sukie with him. How much more domestic could he get, he thought. And he loved it.

The experiment caught his attention at once. The boys had built a temporal accelerator. He looked at them. They were ten years old, another five months to their eleventh birthday, and they had built, from ordinary components from a computer repair shop, a temporal accelerator. He had not managed that until he was seventy, and even then he took another ten years to make it work satisfactorily. But the boys had figured it out. They really WERE going to be better than him when they had learned all they needed to know. He wondered how much he COULD teach them, before they started to teach him.

He watched without comment as they put a cherry stone into a small pot of compost and pointed the accelerator at it. In a matter of seconds shoots were poking up through the soil and sprouting leaves, and in a minute a small tree was growing - growing by the minute until it was a few feet tall and the roots cracked the pot. They stopped the accelerator and he gasped in astonishment.

“You’ve stabilised it.”

Creating a temporal field and making something grow was not difficult. The problem was that outside of the field it reverted to the original state. But the cherry sapling remained when they switched it off. They had worked out the advanced part – the sapling had grown and it would stay grown.

“That is incredible,” he said. “Well done, both of you. But…” He looked at them both and he reached out and touched their hands. “Right now, I want your solemn promise – as Gallifreyans bound by the Oath of Rassilon – that you will never, ever, use this on any living creature – not even the smallest insect. Not even an egg from the fridge. Plant life, yes. But never animal life. We don’t cause things pain. And temporal acceleration is one of the most painful things you can do to anything capable of feeling pain.”

The boys looked at him for a long moment and he wondered if they were going to argue. Then they solemnly and sincerely promised him they would never do such a thing. David, coming to see what it was about, added his own fatherly injunction to The Doctor’s, but there was no need. They understood, and if they could be mischievous, as children are, they were NOT cruel and they would not break the promise they had given to the one man, besides their father, whose opinion of them they cherished.

“Dad, can we take it outside and finish it?” Chris asked and David gave his assent providing it was well away from his roses. THEY grew the way nature intended them to grow. Davie took the sapling, Chris the accelerator and the whole family followed them out. With something like reverence, the cherry sapling was transplanted to a bare patch of soil. Chris told everyone to stand back in an imperious tone that instantly reminded everyone of The Doctor. Even he obeyed the command immediately. Chris turned on the accelerator and they watched as the sapling grew higher and spread itself into a full grown cherry tree. They watched it blossom and cherries ripen before he turned the accelerator off. Rose reached out and plucked a handful of cherries. They looked normal. She ate one and smiled.

“It looks so pretty, too,” Susan said, picking some of the fruit. “Though it’s only May, a bit early for cherries.”

The boys looked positively smug at their achievement. The Doctor looked at the tree thoughtfully and then reached in his pocket. He looked at the dried up cúl nut that had been in his pocket ever since they breakfasted on them in the illusion of Gallifrey that the TARDIS had created for him and Rose for one night only.

“See if this will grow,” he said to the boys and gave them the nut. They looked at it and asked what it was, but he just said “try it and see.” They planted it in a pot of compost on David’s workbench first, and as with the cherry stone, a few minutes produced a sapling ready for transplanting. The Doctor chose a spot, not too bright, with a little shade, the way they grew best, and planted the sapling. Then he stood well back and let the boys work. As the tree rose up and blossomed and then fruited he felt an emotional lump in his throat. When they were done he stepped forward and picked one of the newly grown nuts. He gave it to Susan and asked her if she remembered what it was. She peeled it and tasted it and her eyes widened.

“I haven’t tasted one of these since…. Well, not a real one since I was about four. We grew them in the garden. You used to pick them for me. You made the TARDIS’s food synthesiser copy them because I loved the taste, but they were never quite as good as the real thing.” She picked another cúl nut and peeled it and gave it to Sukie, who chewed it happily.

“A piece of Gallifrey exists again,” The Doctor said and he blinked away the bittersweet tears. He looked at Susan. She was standing under the tree, her hand on its trunk. She, too, was close to tears. She turned and hugged her grandfather. For the moment, nothing and nobody else existed except him and her and this tree, between them the last remnants of their dead world, thriving against the odds, on a planet a million light years away from where they were born. “I want to go home,” she said. “I want to see our own moon, our own sun, again.”

“But you can’t, Susan,” David told her, taking her from The Doctor’s arms and holding her. He had felt, for a moment, a strange pang of jealousy when she said that. Forty-four years before, he had offered her the chance to put down roots, instead of the roving life she had with her grandfather, a life that she loved, but at the same time she longed to change. She had told him many times about the beautiful but stultifyingly bureaucratic world she came from and the reasons for their exile from it. As a veteran of the resistance movement that had fought the Dalek invasion of his own world, he certainly didn’t blame The Doctor for his one man rebellion. He understood that, and had admired his courage – a courage he had given his granddaughter in abundance, too.

But The Doctor had been gone for so long, and Susan HAD put down roots on Earth. Except when he held her close and he felt that double heartbeat, or odd occasions when she had cut herself and orange blood had flowed briefly before her body mended itself, he had been able to forget for most of their married life that she WAS an alien from another planet. Susan forgot it most of the time and lived as a Human. When she finally, after long years of trying, fell pregnant and the twins took sixteen long months to be born, and when they turned out to be orange blooded aliens with two hearts, he’d had a lot to come to terms with. But he loved his wife, and their beautiful children who just happened to have the strangest DNA on planet Earth.

He had come to terms with the fact that his sons were different. And that HE could do nothing to help them come to terms with their difference. He welcomed what The Doctor could do for them in his own way. It broke his heart, too. He tried not to be jealous of the love his boys had for a man who only came into their lives two years ago. As for the idea that his sons would be Time Lords one day – he wavered between fear and pride. His sons had the potential to be the most powerful beings in the universe. And that meant that they would be hated by so many beings – including those Daleks he had fought so hard against.

He shivered as he recalled that part of his young manhood. Half of the Human race had been dead, including his whole family. Most of the survivors were enslaved. A few of them hung on. But they were fighting a losing battle until…

...Until The Doctor arrived. An old man whose memory faltered and whose body was weakening, but he had been the catalyst that spelled the end for the Daleks and the new beginning for Earth and Humanity. And had either remembered him? Susan and he were probably the only ones who did remember what he had done, although that dark period of Earth’s history was still in the living memory of its oldest citizens and was taught to the children as history. By rights, there ought to be plaques, statues, streets and public buildings in his honour.

Instead, his legacy was….

….was Chris and Davie, David realised. That was how The Doctor would be remembered by posterity. Through his great-grandchildren. Suddenly it all made sense to David. He looked at The Doctor. He was a different looking man than the one he had met all those years before. But the same spirit was in him. This WAS the man who had saved Humanity and continued to save it all his long life. He had suffered for Humanity time and again. They all owed him a lot. HE owed him a lot. At the least, he owed him for the loving family he had.

“Doctor…” he said. “You said that the TARDIS ‘created’ an illusion of Gallifrey for you.”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s where the nut came from. I haven’t kept that in my pocket for the past couple of hundred years.”

“Could it do it again… for us?” He felt Susan gasp and look up at him, astonished that he had asked. He had always been the down to earth element in her life. He had no time for dreams. The stars were simply lights in the sky to him. And she had loved that in him. The steady certainty, the feet firmly on the ground. But he was willing to let her have one dream if it made her happy.

“Yes. It could. Come on.” He picked up Sukie in his arms and reached with his free hand for Rose, as he always did when they went ANYWHERE. The twins hung at his side, and David and Susan followed as he headed to the car port where the TARDIS was ‘parked’.

Through the double doors by the coke machine, they found themselves in an illusion that made those who had not seen it happen before gasp in astonishment. Susan’s reaction was the most extreme. She burst into tears.

“That’s a beautiful house,” David said looking at the three story mansion of warm cream coloured stone with wide sweeping steps and what he would call an ionic portico over its front door. A formal garden with a fountain lay to the right of it and the driveway they stood upon ended at the edge of a deciduous forest that included numerous cúl nut trees.

“Who does it belong to?” Rose asked. She looked at The Doctor and knew that was a stupid question.

“It’s our house,” Susan said tearfully. I was born here.”

“So was I,” The Doctor said, in a choked up voice that matched Susan’s. “This…IS the House of Lœngbærrow.” He watched as Susan walked up the steps to the front door. He was not surprised when the door opened and she stepped inside. When they lived there, of course, a uniformed butler would have opened it, but now he knew it was just the TARDIS reacting to her. He wished he COULD recreate the people as well as the things. The servants had been like family. Most of them had served the Lœngbærrows all their life – all his life, from his childhood, to when he brought Julia there as his wife, to when it was just himself and Susan living a rather socially isolated existence together. The house was usually a happy place, though it had known its tragedies. It had rung with the laughter of children often enough - Susan the last of them. The house had been left empty after his exile. His half-brother had lived elsewhere.

But the TARDIS had not recreated the empty, neglected house he had seen the last few times he had returned to Gallifrey since his banishment was lifted. It had restored it as Susan remembered it. And given that she was a little more than four years old when she last saw it, the recreation was perfect. He walked through the rooms as if in a nice dream. He was almost unaware of the others. Even Rose had to seek him out.

She found him in what was clearly a child’s bedroom.

“Susan’s room?” she asked.

“Yes,” he smiled. “And before her… it was Christopher’s. A long time back, it was mine. We’re creatures of habit.” He took her by the hand and they carried on exploring the silent house. It felt like walking around a museum or a stately home, not somewhere that somebody lived.

They came to a very beautiful library with hundreds of books lining the walls. The Doctor sighed as he ran his hand along the shelves looking at the titles. Most, as far as Rose could see were books about law or economics. Nothing she could imagine feeling nostalgic for.

“Is it really a good idea you being here?”

“In this room?”

“In this house.”

“Susan needed to see it. It’s her illusion, not mine. Feels odd to be here, but I’m not unhappy. Sort of… I don’t know… regretful. I wish I could offer you the lifestyle I lived here. But this is all gone. And however we live… in the future… it won’t be like this.”

“I don’t think I would want all this. It’s too grand. Servants… all of that. I’m a girl from a council estate. This isn’t me. I’m more likely to BE one of the servants.”

“You’re my Lady Rose,” he told her. “If… if it was different, this WOULD be the house I would bring you to as my wife. And you WOULD have servants to tend to your needs. You would be the mistress of this household.”

“And ‘pureblood’ snobs blanking me because I’m not one of them?” she asked. “No thanks.”

“You would refuse to marry me if I was still a high ranking Gallifreyan?”

“You wouldn’t know me if you were still that person.”

“Probably not. And I’d be the worst for it. On the whole, I’d rather have you.” He took her hand and drew her near, meaning to kiss her, but the door opened and Susan came in.

“Coming to tea?” she asked.

“What?” The Doctor looked at her. She was smiling though he thought she might have cried a bit too.

“I thought as we walked around it would be nice for us all to have tea in the dining room - like we used to do when guests came around. And when I looked… the TARDIS knew exactly what I wanted. And... Oh, come on. It would be so nice, just once…”

“I didn’t think you remembered so much of it,” The Doctor said as he took Rose and Susan by the hand and headed instinctively to the dining room.

“Neither did I. But it must all be in my head somewhere. It feels nice to be here... just for a little while.”

They stepped into the dining room. The rest of the family were already there. David and the boys and Sukie. A glorious high tea was laid out on the table and a huge silver teapot steamed on the sideboard. The Doctor went to the head of the table and Rose and Susan either side of him; his promised one, as Brenda had put it, and his granddaughter, the two women most precious to him. Sukie sat next to her mother on several cushions to raise her up to the table and Susan and The Doctor shared a smile that told that they both remembered doing the same for her when she was that age. David sat next to his daughter and the twins opposite him.

The Doctor looked at them all and smiled and invited them to eat at his table. Rose knew from past experience that the food was as real as it was possible to be. The fruits they picked the last time the illusion had been created and the picnic in the cave were real. So, too, was the meal before them. It was perfect.

“You gave up so much when you left here, Doctor,” David said, coming to the point that was in all of their thoughts. “I never realised before what it must have meant to you both to leave your home and become exiles.”

“These are JUST material things,” The Doctor said, looking at the silver cutlery and fine china before him, the crystal chandelier over their heads and silver inlaid mirrors on the walls. “They don’t matter. I took the most precious thing I had with me… Susan.” He looked at David for a moment. “And when I left her in your care, I knew you would think her equally precious.”

“That I do,” David said with a smile at his wife. “And yet... would you both have been happier in the end staying put?”

“We’d both be dead by now, like everyone else on the planet.” Susan said.

“Maybe not,” The Doctor mused. “The only reason the Daleks even knew Gallifrey and the Time Lords existed was because I was there to defeat them every time they tried to conquer another planet. They might never have attacked Gallifrey but for me.”

“NO!” Rose gasped in horror that he could even think about it in that way – that Gallifrey was attacked as the Dalek revenge on him for being their nemesis at every turn. Did he really carry that guilty feeling in his hearts? But what else could he have done? It was because he could not stand by and let tyranny have free reign in the universe that he had given up this life of luxury and wealth and become a homeless exile. It was an act of courage, of… Rose searched her vocabulary for the right word. Nobility…. That was it - in the old fashioned sense of the word like the Knights of the Round Table who gave up home and family and love to be the defenders of right and truth and justice….

And she stopped before it became the trailer to a superhero television show, but she knew what she meant.

“If you hadn’t defeated the Daleks on Earth I would be dead by now,” David said. “We WERE losing until you came along.”

“Our planet died… but so many others survived,” Susan said. “Especially Earth.”

“They never would give up trying to take Earth,” The Doctor said. “In every one of my lives I’ve had to face them. Ka Faraq Gatri…. The Oncoming Storm. I scared them enough to be a part of their legends. And I faced them again - when they finally came for my own world. And that time the price was the highest of all.”

“What happened exactly?” Susan asked. “In the Time War?” But as soon as she said it, she knew it was a mistake.

“Don’t ask me that,” he said. He blinked hard to push away tears. “I didn’t come out of it unscathed. It’s the reason I had to regenerate into the body I have now. And my memory of it was dislocated – shattered. All I have is pieces like a broken mirror, vague and unconnected. But even if I could remember it…. I couldn’t tell anyone. Not even those closest to me. So please, don’t ask… don’t any of you ask what happened, or why or… or what my part in it was. Because I can’t or I won’t, and that’s all there is to it.”

“I’m sorry, Grandfather,” Susan said, putting her hand on his. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“You didn’t,” he said. “THEY did. The most evil creatures in the universe. They destroyed our world. They hurt us. As they have hurt so many. THEY are to blame for it all. The ONLY good thing to come out of their evil is you two… and these beautiful children of yours.”

He smiled then and made a little joke in Gallifreyan that Susan laughed at and something else in plain English that set a smile on every other face as they continued their unusual tea in pleasant talk and tried not to reflect on what could not be undone.

Afterwards they watched the sun set and the moon rise. Susan cried again in remembrance of both. The moon had been full the night they left. Its brightness was one of her most vivid memories. Seeing it again, even in illusion, meant so much.

And it was enough. It satisfied the longing awoken in her. She was ready to return to real life now. She told her grandfather. He nodded and agreed. He called everyone together into a tight huddle, holding hands. “Don’t look,” he said. “It feels less of a wrench that way. Close your eyes.” He closed his and thanked the TARDIS for its love and generosity, for the power it took to make all this real, and told it to let go now. And a moment later they were standing in the corridor by the coke machine. Susan laughed at the ordinariness of that place compared to the wonder they had just experienced. And together they walked out of the TARDIS, into the early evening of an Earth summer, warm, sweetly scented with roses, with the dark shadows of a cherry tree and a cúl tree laden with its alien fruits reminding them of what began this strange but sweet day. They all looked up at the Earth moon, bright and full above them.

“Earth is our home now,” The Doctor said. “For all of us, even me. When, one day in the future, I give up the life I live now, among the stars, this IS where I am coming back to end my days. It IS a beautiful planet and I love its people. David, I don’t care that not one Human has ever properly realised how often I have struggled for this planet – that I’ve died for it more than once – I’m just happy that it IS here. Humans are fantastic. This planet is fantastic. And I love it as much as I ever loved Gallifrey.” He put his arms about the woman who he loved most from among the people of Earth and felt a rare moment of absolute content.