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A Taste of Home

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Sarah watched as the Doctor checked a reading on the TARDIS console, then adjusted some controls. "The signal from the psionic beam isn't coming from UNIT HQ," he announced. "The Brigadier is calling us to Scotland. I wonder why?"

"Maybe he thought we could do with a holiday?" asked Sarah mischievously. "A stroll down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh? A boat ride on Loch Ness?"

"I don't think either of those are very likely, Sarah," said Harry.

"According to these readings, we'll be materializing very near Loch Ness," said the Doctor, looking up and grinning at her.

"There, you see?" exclaimed Sarah. "The Brigadier has booked us a relaxing boat ride."

"It shouldn't be too relaxing," said the Doctor. "I told him that he was only to use the psionic beam to call us back in an emergency."

"An exciting boat ride, then," said Sarah. "While being chased by a giant owl!"

The Doctor rolled his eyes at her and returned his attention to the console.

"A giant owl?!" said Harry. "Honestly, Sarah, where do you come up with these things?"

"What's wrong with a giant owl?" asked Sarah. "I like owls."

"I don't think you'd like being chased by a giant one," said Harry.

"It depends on how friendly it is," she answered with a grin.

"Well, just as long as we're back on Earth," said Harry. "Somewhere with the chance of a cup of tea in between all the running."

"Ooh, yes," said Sarah. "I could murder a cup of tea. And I wouldn't say no to some fish and chips, either."

"Fish and chips!" said Harry. "I say, that would hit the spot."

"Wouldn't it just?" agreed Sarah. "I never thought I could be so excited by the idea of plain old fish and chips," she said, laughing. Harry laughed with her, but the Doctor remained silent. She tried to catch his eye, but he avoided her gaze. "Doctor?" she asked.

"Hmm? What?" he replied, still busying himself with the TARDIS. Sarah watched him flip the same switch forward and back three times, and wondered if he really thought he was fooling her.

"Is there anywhere else in the galaxy where you can get fish and chips besides Earth?"

"Anywhere else?" asked the Doctor, straightening up. "Anywhere else in the entire galaxy? Of course there's somewhere else. The galaxy is full of planets, and those planets are full of people, and some of those people eat fish and chips. And that's not even counting time travel. In the years to come, people from Earth are going to expand into space, and they'll bring their food with them. Why, there's one colony I know of in the 51st century that lives on a water planet -- no land at all -- and they make a marvelous fish and chips."

"No land at all?" asked Harry. "How do they grow the potatoes?"

The Doctor blinked at him. "You know, I never asked," he said. "But they're quite good at managing without land. Have you ever been to a water planet, Sarah?"

"Yes, dozens of times," she said.

"Then you know if you have a system of boats, you can . . . " the Doctor trailed off. "Dozens of times? When?"

Sarah couldn't help but laugh at the expression on his face. "Doctor, believe it or not, you're the only one who's ever taken me traveling through outer space, and since you've never taken me to a water planet, the answer is no, I've never been to a water planet."

"Ah," said the Doctor. "Well, perhaps we can visit one sometime."

"Perhaps we can," said Sarah. He was smiling now, so she couldn't resist one last tease. "Assuming you can manage to steer the TARDIS, of course."

She expected another roll of his eyes, but instead he took off his hat and placed it on her head. At the same moment, she felt a jolt and almost lost her balance.

"We've landed," said the Doctor, still smiling at her. He took off his scarf and handed it to Harry, then somehow conjured a Scottish tam o'shanter and a tartan scarf out of his pocket and put them on. Finally he pulled the lever on the console and opened the door.

"Scotland," the Doctor announced. "Do I look the part?" He stood there, framed against the Scottish highlands, the tam o'shanter jammed on his head and the red tartan scarf cheerfully clashing with his coat. Sarah thought he looked like a mad escapee from a tartan factory.

"Well, it certainly says 'Scotland,' ventured Harry, still holding the Doctor's usual long scarf awkwardly in his arms.

"You look smashing," said Sarah, stifling a giggle. As they left the TARDIS, she exchanged an amused look with Harry. She couldn't wait until the Brigadier saw the Doctor's new outfit. And while she was glad to be back on Earth, she realized she was even gladder to be back on Earth with him.

* * *

Sarah ran to catch up with the Doctor as he led her, Harry, the Brigadier, and the Duke of Forgill through the trees. Finally they reached the spot where they had begun their adventure with the Zygons.

"That's the TARDIS?" asked the Duke of Forgill.

"Yes, that's the TARDIS," said the Doctor. "And I'm going to pilot it all the way to London. I can be there five minutes ago."

"Just a minute, Doctor," exclaimed Sarah. "I thought you couldn't do that!"

"Of course I can," replied the Doctor, unlocking the TARDIS door. "Coming?"

The Doctor looked first at the Brigadier, who quickly declined. Harry was next, and he too refused the invitation. "Sarah?" asked the Doctor, turning to her with an expression of hope on his face.

She hesitated. It wasn't that she didn't want to travel with him again, but she had intended to take a break first. It was nice to be back on Earth.

The Doctor saw her hesitation, and his face dropped. "No?" he asked, and she didn't know how he managed it, but somehow his expression was as mournful and as irresistible as that of a begging puppy.

"All right," she said. "Providing we do go straight back to London."

"Oh yes," said the Doctor with conviction. His face beamed with happiness. "Oh, we will. I promise."

She knew he wouldn't keep that promise. She knew it. In fact, not only would they not go to London, but she wouldn't be surprised if they didn't even wind up on Earth. But what could she do? She gave Harry a shrug, then went to the TARDIS. The Doctor grinned at her, and as she grinned back, she was suddenly excited to discover where they were going next.

"How long does it take to travel to five minutes ago?" she asked as the Doctor set the TARDIS in motion.

"Oh, not long," he answered distractedly.

"Less than five minutes?" she asked. "Longer? Shorter?" She raised an eyebrow at him, wondering how long it would take him to admit they weren't actually going to London.

He didn't respond, and instead busied himself with the controls. Just when she was about to give up and go find something to eat, he looked up and suddenly said, "I have something for you."

"You do?" she said, surprised. "What is it?"

He produced a shopping bag and gave it to her. "I saw it while we were waiting for the train back to Scotland."

She glanced at him questioningly, then opened the bag. Inside was a toy stuffed owl. She drew it out and looked at it in amazement.

"I thought you might like it," he said. "It's not a giant owl, and it won't chase you, but it's to remind you of our time at Loch Ness." He paused, then cocked his head, peering at her from under the brim of his hat. "I would have given you a toy Zygon, but they didn't have any in the shop."

She had to laugh at that. "Just as well," she said, "or I'd be afraid it would turn into something else in the middle of the night." She examined the owl more closely. It was brown and fuzzy, with big wide eyes, and it rather reminded her of the Doctor. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "I love it."

He smiled, then turned away to flip a switch. "Are you hungry?" he asked without looking at her. "It will take some time to navigate the vortex. I could make something for us to eat if you'd like."

"As a matter of fact," said Sarah, "I am hungry. What did you have in mind?"

He turned to face her again, and his smile was now big and wide. "Well," he said, "as it happens, I'm pretty good at making fish and chips."

Sarah pretended to consider. " Are they as good as the ones made by the colony on that water planet you know?"

"Of course they are," said the Doctor. "Where do you think they got the recipe?"

He led the way through the TARDIS corridors towards the kitchen. Sarah followed him, carrying her precious owl.

"Any chance of a cup of tea as well?" she asked cheekily.

"Now tea," said the Doctor, stopping suddenly, "I can definitely manage. I have a whole selection from this little planet I know. They're rather backwards technologically, but they make amazing tea."

"Really?" asked Sarah, intrigued. "What planet is that?"

"It's called Earth," said the Doctor. "You've probably never heard of it . . ."

He began walking again, leaving Sarah standing in the corridor. By the time she caught up with him, he was laughing, and then she was laughing, too. Soon she was settled in a comfortable chair with a steaming cup of English Breakfast tea in front of her. As she watched the Doctor get the batter and fish ready, she thought how amazing it was that she was here, on an alien spaceship, with an alien, traveling through time and space. And yet she was drinking a cup of tea, and soon there would be fish and chips. She looked at her owl, which she had already decided to name Owlie, and then back at the Doctor. She knew he was giving her a taste of home because that's what she'd said she missed, but she didn't miss it, not really. She had everything she needed right here, with the Doctor. This was where she belonged.

Of course, that didn't mean she wouldn't still tease him about getting to London five minutes ago, she vowed. She smiled again at him, then ate the fish and chips he placed before her.

They were like nothing she'd ever tasted before.

They were the best she'd ever had.