A/N: Well, here we are at last! The end of the story. This chapter happens right before the next serial 'Time Flight'. Please, please, please, review and let me know what you think (especially you lurkers out there ;) ). I hope that you have enjoyed the story and that you enjoy it's conclusion. Tigerlily124 signing out for now.
A short while later, the Doctor marched determinedly through the halls of the TARDIS in search of Adric. He noted with amusement that the TARDIS had rerouted the halls to make the journey shorter. He raised an eyebrow and nodded his thanks. Evidently the TARDIS wanted him to know in no uncertain terms that she approved of what he was doing. He halted in front of the door and, raising his hand, knocked firmly. A half inaudible mumble reached his ears inviting him in and the Doctor wasted no further time.
Adric's room was full of an assortment of unrelated objects, star charts, a microscope, countless books on mathematics, and many objects from their travels such as the death mask of the Terileptil android and a Kinda necklace. Glancing around the room, the Doctor was reminded forcefully once again just how young Adric was. His breath caught just slightly as he thought how close they had come to losing him this time.
Adric sat miserably on the edge of the bed, quite unwilling to make eye contact with the Doctor, his entire bearing radiating intense shame. The Doctor sighed to himself and moved to sit next to Adric. He cleared his throat somewhat uncomfortably and gingerly placed one hand on Adric's shoulder.
"Adric?" the Doctor said softly, trying to bring the boy's eyes up to meet his own. When Adric remained hunched miserably the Doctor sighed again and used his other hand to gently turn Adric's face toward his own. Now that he was sitting here looking into Adric's guilt ridden features, all of his carefully formulated arguments went out the window. His heart (well hearts) told him that there was nothing that he could say at the moment that would be heard. He could think of only one thing to do. Telling himself firmly that now was not the time for his emotional constipation the Doctor released all of his logical arguments, reached around Adric and gently pulled him to himself. At first, he was resisted, but then the gentle comfort the Doctor offered penetrated through Adric's defenses and he began to cry like a heartbroken child.
The Doctor rubbed Adric's back and spoke soothingly to him, his earlier awkwardness forgotten. Adric cried desolately into the time lord's chest, heedless of the words spoken to him, cognizant only that he was being held and comforted. At last, Adric began to calm slightly, soothed by the steady beating of the Doctor's hearts beneath his ear. When Adric's crying had reduced to spasmodic shudders and he was reasonably confident that he would heed his words, the Doctor began to speak at last, his hand continuing to rub Adric's back supportively.
Though he knew quite well the reason for Adric's dismay, he wanted to hear it explained in Adric's own words. "Adric," he asked gently, "whatever is the matter?" Adric sucked in a tremulous breath but remained silent. "Adric?" the Doctor tried again.
Adric's response came out slightly muffled, spoken as it was into the Doctor's chest, but to the Doctor, it sounded as clear as a bell, "Almost got you killed," he whimpered, "All my fault".
The Doctor leaned back slightly, keeping one arm around Adric's shoulders. With his free hand, he brought Adric's eyes up to meet his own. "Adric," he said firmly, "did you intend to be trapped on board the freighter?"
"And when you became trapped, did you ask for me to rescue you?"
"Then I fail to see how this was 'all your fault'." He told him gently.
Adric looked up at him with wide miserable eyes, "But I just had to show off. I had to go back on board the ship so that I could try to solve that last equation. If it weren't for my own pride, you wouldn't have had to rescue me." He mumbled something under his breath that even the Doctor's superior hearing barely detected, "And I'm not worth that. I'm not worth..."
A spark of anger flickered deep within the Doctor's eyes and he halted Adric with a sharp gesture, palm out. "And what in the wide universe has convinced you that you're not worth saving?" he asked seriously. Adric looked ready to protest and so the Doctor huffed in mild exasperation and pulled him back into his chest, holding him fiercely. He raised the volume of his voice slightly, "Yes Adric, going back to the control panel was probably a mistake, but we're all only mortals and as such we all make mistakes. Yes, I almost died, but Adric, I did survive. And now, more than anything else, there is one thing that I wish to make crystal clear..." Here he began punctuating his words with slight but firm shakes of Adric's shoulders. "I never, ever, want to hear you suggest that you're not worth it again. Is that perfectly clear?"
The Doctor sighed deeply and adjusted his grip on Adric slightly. "In this body," he murmured, "perhaps I have been less...adept at expressing the way I feel. But Adric...when I realized that you were still on board that freighter, when I realized..." The Doctor's voice sounded oddly thick and on glancing up, Adric was shocked to see his eyes sparkling with tears. "Oh Adric," he half choked, "my hearts nearly stopped."
The Doctor took a slow, calming breath and deliberately met Adric's eyes with his own, allowing him to see his tears. "When I couldn't save you...I" The Doctor fought for composure for a moment. "You are my family Adric - you, Tegan, and Nyssa - and if I could have" he continued with absolute sincerity, "I would have traded places with you in a heartsbeat." The Doctor cupped Adric's face with a gentle hand, "You are worth that Adric and so much more." He concluded softly.
The Doctor hugged Adric fiercely and Adric returned his embrace just as firmly. He was awed and deeply touched to realize just what he meant to the Doctor. All of the perceived distance, all the arguments were just a front and now that veil was rent, allowing Adric a clear glimpse into his friend's heart. He felt honored and a little humbled to hold such a place in it.
The Doctor sat Adric back and searched his face for a moment. "Now," he said gruffly, "if you're quite finished being ridiculous, we should go find the girls." The sternness of his words, however, was belied by the amused twitching of the time lord's lips. He reached out and ruffled Adric's hair affectionately as he stood. The twitching of the Doctor's lips widened into a true (and slightly mischievous) smile, "We had better go see what trouble Tegan's getting into now, hmm?" Adric grinned and preceded the time lord to the door snickering all the way.
Elsewhere, the consciousness of the TARDIS hummed atonally to herself, content that all was as it should be. Well done my time lord, she thought, well done.
All resolved between them, the Doctor and Adric reached the console room, finding both girls waiting for them. Nyssa and Tegan quickly came over, all smiles, and Tegan stood on her tiptoes to kiss the Doctor on the cheek. One hand came up to the side of his face and Tegan was amused to see the Doctor flush slightly. He cleared his throat, covering his embarrassment and then moved, over enthusiastically, to the console.
Tegan smirked, one eyebrow raised in amusement - she was going to have fun with this.
The Doctor darted around the console, flicking switches and preparing the TARDIS for the next journey. He paused before setting the coordinates, turned to his companions and smiled, "Where shall we go this time?" he asked.
Tegan laughed right out loud, shaking her head in amusement, "As if you have any control over where we'll end up next," she guffawed.
The Doctor drew himself up to his full height (trying and failing to hide the amused smirk working its way onto his face). "I'll have you know, young lady" he said with deliberately exaggerated dignity, "I am in complete control."
There were sniggers from several different directions this time and the Doctor treated them all to stink eye (slightly marred by an amused twinkle). He grinned at them all, "Care to bet?" he challenged.
Tegan smiled, "Why not?" she shrugged, confident of victory.
The Doctor bowed to her humorously, "Where to my lady?" he asked, gently mocking.
Tegan tapped her chin with one finger, giving an exaggerated show of thinking it over. "How about," she said, "London, Heathrow, my time." She looked at the Doctor, not missing the dimming of his enthusiasm, the slight hurt in his eyes. Correctly interpreting it, she marched forward and swatted his arm playfully, "I'm not leaving, you dolt." she told him.
The Doctor's energy increased exponentially, "Well in that case," he smiled and turned his attention back to the console. His three companions watched as his fingers practically blurred over the controls, muttering all the while under his breath.
The Doctor ran a series of complex calculations in his mind. This time, he figured that they were all in for a surprise. With the influx of extra artron energy, he was almost positive that they would in fact reach their target destination. His hand stopped, hovering over the dematerialization switch. He smirked mischievously. His companions were about to learn yet another rule of traveling with him: never bet against the Doctor for he will never bet on anything less than a sure thing. His grin widened. Here we go, he thought, and flicked the switch.
Within the vortex, a wheezing and groaning sound accompanied the TARDIS as she faded out of existence. Four reunited companions and their battered old police box were on their way to the next adventure.