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There's No Place Like Home

by Alden Bates.

It's a generally accepted fact that after The Ultimate Foe, Mel was returned to the point in time from which she was originally snatched, but why let fan convention get in the way?

Disclaimer: My knowledge of English countryside would easily fill a matchbox.

I was childish and unfair
To you, my only friend
I regret, but now it's too late

I can't show you any more
The things I've learned from you
Cause life just took you away
--- Why, Enigma

The peace of the country road was shattered bluntly as a globe of light flared a metre above the gravel. Static charges burst outwards, scorching the English elms. With a dissipatory hiss the sphere vanished.

A large black motorcycle dropped road-ward, the two passengers yelling.

Impact: the cycle bounced on its suspension, throwing the smaller pillion passenger onto the grass.

"OK," said the rider over the laughter of the downed passenger. "Who's the clever sod who leveled the road?" Dorothee McShane plucked her mirrored shades from the end of her nose and pocketed them.

"You'll definitely have to work on re-entry," the passenger giggled, propping herself up. They'd just come from the early twenty-first century where Dorothee had bought the bike and they'd modified it for time travel. At the rear of the cycle, a large black box sparked happily. "Still, it wasn't bad for a maiden voyage. Did we reach nineteen ninety three?"

"Probably," Dorothee said, carefully examining the readouts built into the handlebars. "We'll have to find a newspaper to make sure. I thought you told the Doctor four years."

"I told the Doctor a lot of things," Melanie Bush said, staring into space. "Seven years is a long time to be away."

"It was longer for me. I'm almost thirty one now," Dorothee pointed out, still astride the motorcycle, waiting.

"That's turnabout for you," Mel grinned, leaping up. "When we first met, I was older than you."

"Time travel cr..." she amended her sentence under Mel's gaze to a clumsy "does weird stuff to you. What about you then? Ending up traveling with a Doctor younger than the one you first met."

Mel shrugged. "And he never did meet the Vervoids. Then when he regenerated he said not to jump to contusions."

A broad grin spread over Dorothee's face. "Which way's home?"

Mel put her hands on her hips and glanced around at the road, the grass- covered verge, the stone walls leading in either direction. "It's been a while. Crawley's that way, I think..."

Moments later the pair were roaring away through the countryside.

Dorothee stopped the motorcycle at crossroads. The paved road split into a fork with a sign planted firmly in the middle. The southern road apparently lead to "Pease Pottage".

"Did you say something?" she asked, looking over her shoulder. Mel had developed a far-away look.

"I should've stayed with him."

"No you shouldn't have," Dorothee corrected her gently. "I told you the sorts of horrible things that happened to me. Would you really want to go through all that?"

"No. Yes. Maybe," Mel looked at her bleakly. "I feel like I should have been there."

"No one can always be there, Mel. When Benny and the others go, there'll be someone else there with him."

"Do you think he'll visit? I said some things..."

Dorothee smiled sympathetically. "So did he; He's not very good at communicating. Tell you what, I'll have a word to him next time I see him. I'm sure he'll want to stop by."

Mel smiled faintly and nodded as the engine gunned back to full-throttle.

The house was a small, white affair set back from the road. The gravel drive terminated at a carport which protected a battered green mini from the elements. A path split off from the drive at the halfway mark, leading between a double row of flower gardens up to the pale green door of the house.

The motorcycle roared to a halt across the road, causing a dog to bark in the distance. Mel jumped off and bent down to unfasten her gray hold-all from the back. The curtains in one of the windows of the house drew back slightly, as if someone were looking out, before twitching back.

"You really should get a motorcycle helmet," Mel commented distractedly, tugging the hold-all loose. Dorothee grunted non-commitally without looking around and flipped on her sunglasses.

Mel paused. "Come inside for a while. I promise I won't give you any carrot juice." she added cheerfully.

Dorothee turned to her and grinned. "All right," she agreed, turning the ignition key. The engine died.

The pair crossed the road, making an odd pair. Mel in a pink leather jacket over a cream shirt and dark blue trousers and clutching the gray mass of her hold-all. Dorothee quite a bit taller in black jeans and leather jacket over a white T-shirt.

"It must be a weekend," Mel noted, pausing at the letterbox by the side of the driveway.

"And I thought Perivale was the dead end of nowhere," Dorothee was gazing along the deserted street.

Mel waved a solitary letter. "I'd have thought the bills would be piling up by now. Not to mention the magazine subscriptions and death threats from alien foes."

"He probably took care of it," Dorothee said, still looking around.

"He's got quite a green thumb in that case; The garden looks like I never left."

Dorothee turned sharply and was about to say something when there was a loud crash from within the house. Mel grabbed her arm.

"Did you hear that?" was the apprehensive question.

"Nah, the Doctor's singing drove me deaf," Dorothee deadpanned. She touched a button set into the side of her shades. Instantly they switched to the infrared portion of the spectrum, blues and blacks washing over her vision. A dim mass of heat bobbed into view, partially masked by the walls of the house.

"One person, could be armed," Ace produced her Flash Gordon gun from under her jacket.

"You're not going to shoot them are you?" Mel looked shocked.

"Only if they shoot first, you'd better stay behind me..." Dorothee hesitated, her brain suddenly going into over-drive.

"Oh, this is stupid," Mel marched briskly up to the door and knocked.

If Mel joined the Doctor at his trial, Dorothee reasoned, and traveled continuously from then until his regeneration, then the Doctor would never have stopped in Pease Pottage to pick Mel up. It would have happened in the possible future that the Doctor saw on the matrix screen. And since that possible future never happened, Mel wouldn't have been picked up and would still be living in Pease Pottage.

Dorothee opened her mouth to say something, but froze as the door swing open.

"Ace!" squeaked Mel.

"Oh shit," said Ace succinctly.

The second Mel who was standing in the entrance hall merely stood and gaped.

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