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The Journey Itself (Is Home), PG, 1524 words

Title: The Journey Itself (Is Home)
Characters: Ian, Barbara
Rating: PG
Summary: It's the journey of a lifetime.
Word count: 1524
Notes: Written for eponymous_rose in the_chestertons ficathon who wanted 'something a little wistful'. Many thanks to purple_bug for beta-reading and reassurance.





You got to see a lot of...interesting people in this job, the conductor thought as he watched the strange couple scramble off the bus. Drunk, probably, he added to himself as they headed purposefully towards the pub. They didn’t look the type. Appearances could be deceptive, he reminded himself as the bus moved off and the couple disappeared inside ‘The Maxwell’, the man holding the door open for his lady friend.

***

“So how much do we have left?” Ian asked, setting the two pints of beer and the change down on the table.

Barbara looked down at the two, somewhat uneven, piles. “Three Flanian pobble beads, seventy-six new pence, two Grozits, ten Euros, five Dollarpounds, fifty-credit chip, three florins, four half-crowns and six halfpennies. So five shillings, threepence.”

“Five?”

Barbara passed Ian two of the four half-crowns. “Minted in 1968. I doubt the Doctor would approve.”

“No,” he laughed, “Remember that time when we had to break into the post office because he’d posted a letter with a perforated stamp a decade early?”

“Yes, and later he got involved in a drinking contest with the blacksmith!”

And drank him under the table. I don’t think that alcohol has any effect on him at all.”

They both took a sip of their drinks. Remember, remember. Already, in this safe and comfortable environment, the memories were softening, blurring out the sharp edges. It could so easily be a dream, something made up to fill in the gap of two years. Abducted by aliens, how ridiculous.

“Do you remember…”

But the experiences, and the memories, could be shared. Far-fetched and unbelievable stories, told and retold, were remembered as reality. They had been reality, outside of the concepts of time and space that underpinned this reality perhaps, but reality, lived through, nonetheless.

“…when we were in that inn in 1605? The ale wasn’t bad.”

They both knew of the peculiarities of their situation that became a strange sort of normality; the alien races, cultures, that they had dealt with, co-operated with, fought with, fought against (and sometimes the most alien of these was on Earth); escape after escape after escape, until they finally managed to escape to here.

“And then I was kidnapped.”

“I came after you!”

“Of course you did.” Barbara smiled, not voicing what they had both already heard, and laid her hand on top of his. “And do you remember that bar on Ralady?”

“Oh yes, they were the ones who arrested me for drinking through my mouth.”

There was a minute of comfortable silence.

“You know,” Ian observed, setting his glass down again, “it almost seems as if we’ve spent two years on a pub crawl of the universe.”

“I’m sure there was some saving the world in there,” Barbara tried to protest, but he caught her eye and they were both laughing again, with the same exuberant joy as before, the sheer delight of being home and everything that word entailed.

***

Home. Earth, 1963. In the same way as their memories of travel, now they were home, were becoming less immediate, less real so had their memories of home while they travelled.

The sensations, the emotions, the rituals and routines associated with their life in that time and place faded somewhat, fitted into the word ‘home’, the numbers ‘nineteen sixty-three’.

Things like taps, running cold and lukewarm water. Peeling potatoes, grating cheese and cooking mince to make shepherd’s pie rather than turning dials and pressing buttons on the food machine. Drinking in the pub, walking in the park. The scratch of pen on paper, cold feet and the sound of rain on the windowpane as they marked work together.

Home, perfect in all its imperfections.

They were small against the universe, terrifyingly small, and these memories in those words were what kept them afloat. If they had let them go, abandoned the hope they held of returning one day, they would have drowned.

He knows that then they would not have wanted to go home, because there was more to see, always more to see, and they would have died, sooner or later, having done things they had never dreamed of but never having achieved what they had always wanted.

They were so close to having more than they could have dreamt, so close to losing everything.

It scares Ian more than he likes to think; he doesn’t dwell on it.

***

This is London, England, Earth, 1965, and they’re two years out. Some things have changed (the bus fare’s gone up, Harold Wilson is the leader of a Labour government), but so have they.

Perhaps this way is better. They don’t have to pick up exactly where they left off; walk back into a life that might no longer fit as well as they remembered.

They don’t have to explain the change in themselves, their relationship, that would otherwise seem to have happened overnight.

They do have to explain their whereabouts. Over and over, they repeat the same story, to the police, to their tearful, bewildered, furious families. They might have convinced themselves of the truth of this understandable, acceptable lie but for the other.

They tell a different story to each other when they’re alone; the truth is marked on their bodies and he traces the tale, whispering memories of the Aztec goddess, the Roman villa, the Crusades against her skin.

***

August 1966 and they’ve been home for over a year (one year, one month, four days). There are still whispers, but they’ve both managed to find work for, after all, they are good teachers (even better teachers now, teachers who’ve learned) and there are the royalties from Barbara’s book, so when she suggests that they go to New York for a week or so, he doesn’t argue.

(He never could resist her, not when she smiled. He would have given her the universe if she’d wanted it; instead, he gives her everything.)

They visit the Empire State Building on the last day, going up in the lift that takes seven minutes and looking down on ‘Ancient’ New York, an alien city, in a way. Ian tries not to imagine the streets filled with Daleks, the people fleeing, the tall buildings ruined; Barbara shivers and holds his hand.

The TARDIS isn’t there, nor was it expected to be (that would be a disaster), but they stand in the spot where it was or will be for as long as they dare.

***

It’s an ordinary life, a day-by-day life, a linear sequence of events and non-events following on from what came before.

They find somewhere to belong and they live their life every moment they can find, counting stars and raising children.

Yet there are always certain moments amongst all that make up this life that don’t quite fit, that strike a jarring note amongst the others.

***

It’s a warm summer’s day in the park and Barbara is leaning against him, probably dozing.

This particular game of amateur cricket isn’t the most thrilling, he has to admit. Still, the batsman manages to hit the ball a fair whack and the ball sails far, looking as if to hit Barbara on the head before he catches it.

One of the fielders, a young, fair-headed man, jogs over to retrieve it.

“Good catch, Chesterton,” the man smiles, his whole face lighting up.

Barbara blinks up at him, disturbed, as the man heads back to the field.

“Do you know him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“He called you Chesterton,” she observes and Ian can’t explain why he’s suddenly cold in the heat of the afternoon sun.

***

They teach more than science and history, to others than their students (“My teachers,” a startlingly young man smiles widely, proudly).

Some they are directed to, by notes in changing handwriting dropped through the door, and some they stumble upon. Some even come to them.

***

“Over there,” Barbara says and Ian stops the car.

“She doesn’t seem to have arrived yet.”

To a tremendous accompaniment, a blue police box appears out of nothingness. A girl exits, turning in the doorway to call back inside. She waves goodbye as it disappears and then turns to smile over at them. They get out and go over to her, the latest in a long line.

“Hello, my name’s Ian Chesterton and this is my wife, Barbara. The Doctor said you might want someone to talk to.”

***

“You’re an alien, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” their new next door neighbour says. “How did you know? I researched your race and chose an appearance inconspicuous for this area.”

Ian turns his back and tries to compose himself, but he knows his quaking shoulders give him away. He can feel Barbara’s reproving look as acutely as an elbow in the stomach, but he also knows that she’s fighting the upward twitch of her lips.

“It’s just that humans,” Barbara explains, as kindly as she can, “don’t actually have bright pink skin.”

***

"Hello, Ian," Martha says, standing on their doorstep again, nearly forty years later.

It's been nothing like that amount of time for her, obviously not. It can't have been more than a few months, a year, for her but something's left shadows in her eyes.

She takes a deep breath, as if this is a huge undertaking, and continues "Can I talk to you and Barbara, please?"

***

It's the journey of a lifetime.

Comments

Posted by: Nic (paranoidangel42)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 17:42 (UTC)
Revolutionaries

it almost seems as if we’ve spent two years on a pub crawl of the universe.

Hee! I want to go on one of those :)

I love that they take care of the Doctor's companions, especially Martha, twice. I do love their alien next door neighbour!

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 21st March 2008 22:09 (UTC)
Ian/Barbara

I believe that the Professor from VotD ended up next door to them.

Thank you!

Posted by: Nic (paranoidangel42)
Posted at: 25th March 2008 22:08 (UTC)
Revolutionaries

Oh, yes, that would be perfect!

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 26th March 2008 17:14 (UTC)
Barbara

It's not just me and my strange mind! *cheers*

Posted by: Lurky McLurklurk (ionlylurkhere)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 18:08 (UTC)
an unearthly child

Oooh, lovely. There's a really good slide from the light-hearted stuff (loved all the different currencies in there) to the more serious side of things, the ways that things are permanently changed by their time with the Doctor. The little appearance from Five and most particularly the Martha bit are fantastic.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 21st March 2008 22:11 (UTC)
Susan family

Oh, thank you! I did worry over the change in tone, glad that it worked for you.

Posted by: Elliptic Eye (elliptic_eye)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 18:36 (UTC)
Sir Ian of Jaffa

I love it. I love it to bits. The way you've enlarged their roles as teachers, the comfortable but far from mundane love between them, and their incredibly varied feelings about the Doctor and the world he brings with them—especially in the opening pub scene about the edges only now softening, and the coldness at the cricket game—all make it a perfect sequel from their original run. And you nailed One, even at a distance: "The Adventure of the Perforated Stamp"! Brilliant!

This has just become perhaps my favorite Ian/Barbara fic.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 21st March 2008 22:18 (UTC)
Ian

Well, thank you very much indeed for such a lovely comment!

I'm never entirely sure about my characterisation of One so I generally avoid writing him, which can cause difficulties. So I'm very glad to hear that you liked that bit, even from a distance.

This has just become perhaps my favorite Ian/Barbara fic.
*considers all the fantastic Ian/Barbara fic that there is* *blinks* Um...wow.

Posted by: Elliptic Eye (elliptic_eye)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 18:20 (UTC)
Sir Ian of Jaffa

*cough* Well, to be honest, I haven't read that much Ian/Barbara fic, so my opinion is not authoritative. But it's a fantastic fic no matter what. :)

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 23rd March 2008 09:33 (UTC)
Barbara

:) Thank you anyway.

Posted by: Worrals (livii)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 19:48 (UTC)
Ian in a toga - does it get any better?

This is very lovely - some wonderful lines, from the very funny like “Remember that time when we had to break into the post office because he’d posted a letter with a perforated stamp a decade early?” to the touching he traces the tale, whispering memories of the Aztec goddess, the Roman villa, the Crusades against her skin.

Great use of other characters as well, and them as teachers - I love that. Thanks so much for participating in the ficathon!

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 11:42 (UTC)
Barbara

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks so much for running it!

Posted by: A chair with a panda on it (amaresu)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 19:52 (UTC)
doctorwho_originalteamtardis

I loved that to bits. I like that they became the ones other companions end up going to. All the little ways that their travels changed them. It was lovely.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 11:43 (UTC)
Susan family

Thank you!

Posted by: The Island of the Fay (atraphoenix)
Posted at: 16th March 2008 20:17 (UTC)
dw - ian/barbara

“No,” he laughed, “Remember that time when we had to break into the post office because he’d posted a letter with a perforated stamp a decade early?”

That made me burst out laughing.

I also adored the rather casual 'of course you did', when they were talking about Ian rescuing Barbara when she was kidnapped. As if she expected nothing less, and he would never have considered anything else in the first place. Rather sums up their relationship.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 11:44 (UTC)
Ian/Barbara

Oh, thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

Posted by: is that BABOU?! (oltha_heri)
Posted at: 17th March 2008 00:20 (UTC)
{dw #1}  the queen of all the companions

the truth is marked on their bodies and he traces the tale, whispering memories of the Aztec goddess, the Roman villa, the Crusades against her skin.
This is a beautiful line.

“You know,” Ian observed, setting his glass down again, “it almost seems as if we’ve spent two years on a pub crawl of the universe.” “I’m sure there was some saving the world in there,” Barbara tried to protest, but he caught her eye and they were both laughing again, with the same exuberant joy as before, the sheer delight of being home and everything that word entailed.
ROFL

This was really brilliant. I loved the whole thing the writing and the general flow of it was beautiful.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 11:45 (UTC)
Barbara

Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Posted by: tigerkat24 (tigerkat24)
Posted at: 17th March 2008 03:20 (UTC)

Oh, I love this! Hurrah for Five, and Martha, and the alien with bright pink skin, and Sarah Jane...I can't quite tell who the young man calling them teachers is, but I suppose that doesn't matter. This is lovely and wistful and wonderful, with some really touching lines, like the one everyone's pointed out, and this one:
(He never could resist her, not when she smiled. He would have given her the universe if she’d wanted it; instead, he gives her everything.)

Really well done.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 22nd March 2008 11:46 (UTC)
Ten

Thank you!

I kinda intended the young man to be Ten, but um, it's not very clear, no.

Posted by: ghost2 (ghost2)
Posted at: 24th March 2008 03:48 (UTC)
Five

They WOULD come home with a pocketful of alien coins, wouldn't they? Nice touch. And I loved Five's appearance!

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 24th March 2008 13:13 (UTC)
Ian/Barbara

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!

Posted by: Silver Trails (silver_trails)
Posted at: 25th March 2008 18:27 (UTC)

This is a lovely story.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 25th March 2008 19:30 (UTC)
Ian/Barbara

Thank you very much.

Posted by: Gooseberry (2_fish)
Posted at: 28th August 2008 03:42 (UTC)
NK-the kiss

Absolutely wonderful!

Posted by: Humph (spiralsheep)
Posted at: 12th January 2009 19:06 (UTC)
spiralsheep Cybermen Old Skool

Beautiful. I enjoyed reading that. Thank you for writing it.

Posted by: remember my prophetic chickens (agapi42)
Posted at: 17th January 2009 23:40 (UTC)
Ian

You are very welcome indeed, and thank you very much for commenting.

Posted by: Katta (kattahj)
Posted at: 10th July 2011 13:21 (UTC)
DW Ian Barbara

This was gorgeous. They're my favourite DW pairing and you write them so well.

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