They find Martha outside their doorstep a week after Mr Saxon kills the American President. “You haven't changed,” they all say at once, and then Barbara and Ian laugh and Martha bursts into tears. They usher her into the kitchen and feed her tea and wait for her to tell them everything. They know a little of what happened, what they can guess at, after seeing her and the Doctor on the telly, but they can tell there is much more to it. Her eyes are haunted.
“I left the Doctor,” she says finally, twisting Barbara's handkerchief into knots. “I needed to. I... I wanted to. And my family needs me here. But I don't know how to do it. How to go back to a normal life, where the moments fall in line in exactly the order they're supposed to.”
She looks at them again with those haunted eyes and again they wonder what she hasn't told them yet. It's a good thing they have a lot of practice with this.
Ian pats her hand. “You'll figure it out. It just takes a little time. What's the saying, 'the journey, not the destination?'”
“Moments are just that,” says Barbara. “Steps in a journey. Together they make up a lifetime.”
First was Johnny and then came Gilly not much later, but Susie was the last and the little one, the unexpected but no less loved for it. She plans on reading history when she goes off to Oxford next term—takes after Barbara, Ian says, before teasing her about how she must really hate them if she's going off to Oxford of all places. Susie endures this all with equanimity and when she holds her head just so, Ian can see that she looks very much like her mother must have at seventeen.
Gilly took after him, of course, at least in the sense that she was for the sciences—studied chemistry and physics under the great Liz Shaw, then went off to join UNIT. Most of her letters home are filled with black censor lines, but she says she's happy. Ian hopes she's happy.
If Johnny took after anyone, it was Susan—the first Susan, the Doctor's Susan—the odd moods, the dreaminess, the fascination with and love of music. He even made a career out of the music for a while, though he says he's never going to do that again. He's in Australia, now, with his wife, campaigning for aboriginal rights. They met almost twenty-five years ago while she was staying with Ian and Barbara after they found her wandering the streets of London.
“Our new neighbor's an alien,” Susie says, her mouth full of cornflakes.
“Susie,” Barbara chides. “Manners.”
Susie swallows. “She is, though. I've never seen a human that shade of pink.”
Ian looks at Barbara and smiles. “Well,” he says. “We'll just have to go over and talk to her, then.”
“Aberdeen,” Ian mutters. “He couldn't have given us anything more specific than Aberdeen?”
“He wrote down the TARDIS co-ordinates,” said Barbara. “Give me a minute—it's been ten years since I've had to figure these things out.” She stares a little longer at the piece of paper in her hand, then points off into the distance. “There. I think.”
And sure enough, there's the familiar grinding noise as the familiar blue box fades first in and then out of reality, leaving a girl in Andy Pandy overalls, just as the note describes. Ian stops the car, Barbara gets out to greet her, and together they pack her armful of possessions into the boot.
Barbara claims, laughing, to have seen a police box in the corner of the screen. Ian isn't sure if she's serious or not—but it would be very much like the Doctor, after all. They hold each other after the moon landing, talking of futures that suddenly seem close enough to touch again and of past moments that are never far behind—whispering memories into each other's skin.
Everyone thinks they eloped. In a way, it's true. One day not too long after the Aztecs, the Doctor asked if Barbara wanted to move her things from the room she shared with Susan to Ian's room—if the Doctor had his own room, they didn't know where it was—and Susan had squeaked loudly and asked if they were going to have kittens now, because she was pretty sure she remembered seeing a portable loom in one of the cupboards and Barbara had gently explained that human children were called babies, not kittens, and you didn't weave them, and Ian had gotten all fierce and blustery and growled “what kind of man do you think I am?”
And then it turned out that the Doctor's and Susan's people—whatever they were—didn't actually get married, but the Doctor would be very happy to marry the two of them anyway, because he was closest thing to captain of the TARDIS. They took him up on the offer a few days later.
(They always thought of Rome as a delayed honeymoon.)
They have to lie about the rest of it, of course, but reality makes the lies a little easier. It certainly helps explain the gaps in their CV. It was Friday when they stepped into the Police Box and it was on Saturday that the Headmaster died—heart attack, people say—and the science lab blew up and the RAF shut the school down until the end of term. Half the staff had quit by the time the school re-opened.
And Ian and Barbara are good teachers. It isn't hard for them to find new positions. Sometimes they talk of going back to university together to do post-graduate work, but there's so much for them to do here. And Barbara's writing a book and to Ian it almost seems like she's giving birth to a new universe with her typewriter.
The royalties from the book are enough to send them to New York for a week during the summer hols. They ride up to the top of the Empire State Building and hold hands, remembering.
They meet him again, of course, though he never looks the same.
In 1967, they visit the seaside in winter. A man in leather, with close-cropped hair, startles Barbara, making her drop her ice cream. Her offers to pay for a new one, calls her “my dear,” and somehow Barbara knows.
In 1981, watching cricket in the park. Susie is napping in her pram beside the picnic blanket, Barbara is leaning up against Ian, probably napping too. A ball nearly hits her—Ian catches it in time. One of the fielders, young and fair-haired, jogs over to retrieve the ball. “Nice catch, Chesterton,” he says. It takes Ian three years to figure that one out.
In 2001, at an academic conference, five years after they move to Cambridge. One of the other guests—a woman in her fifties, who once upon a time was one of Barbara's very first students, and isn't that the perfect way to make her feel old—introduces her to a curly-haired man in a truly obnoxious suit, telling him how Dr Chesterton—but of course she was Miss Wright back them—was the one who inspired her to become a historian. The man smiles at her. “We're old friends,” he says.
1969, the doorbell rings in the middle of the night and they find a spiky-haired man in a pinstripe suit, jabbering excitedly to the black girl next to him. “My teachers,” he explains to her, smiling widely, much too old to be either of their students, and that tells them who he is even more than the girl's anachronistic clothing.
1965, two hours since they've been back, and they're in a pub together, reminiscing. Ian brings up the time when the Doctor made them break into the post office to retrieve an anachronistic stamp, while he went and got himself into a drinking contest with the local blacksmith. They're laughing about it when Ian feels a tap on his shoulder. “To be fair,” the long-haired young man in the tweed jacket says, “the blacksmith was an alien.”
The bus driver gives them funny looks, but they don't notice. Pockets full of change, almost none of it any good in this time and place. Ian and Barbara don't care. They're home.
The moon and sun are eternal travelers.
Even the years wander on.
A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age
leading a tired horse into the years,
every day is a journey,
and the journey itself is home.