Sarah Jane Smith wiped a tear as she tended her garden. After stopping to blow her nose, she stroked the leaves of one her hydrangeas, then, her face darkening, stabbed the hand spade into the soil and marched indoors.
The whistle of the kettle snapped her out of her reverie as she washed her hands and rinsed her face in the WC. Back in the kitchen, she set a teabag in a large mug and poured the steaming water over top. After letting the mug steep a couple of minutes, she took it in two hands, cherishing the warmth, and walked to the window. The hydrangeas were flourishing this year, and, finally, after years of patient attention, they had turned a beautiful turquoise colour.
Sarah's smile then turned to a frown as she felt a slight vibration, then heard a familiar sound as a blue box materialized in the yard... right on top of the hydrangeas. Setting down the tea, she dashed outside and pounded on the police box.
"Doctor. Doctor! Move this infernal contraption of yours right now. Of all the places to materialize. My poor, lovely hydrangeas."
Backing away, Sarah sighed. They were done for at this point, anyway.
The TARDIS door swung open and out popped a head with dark, curly hair under a broad rimmed hat, and wide, comical eyes that had always reminded Sarah of Harpo Marx. A very long scarf was wrapped loosely around his neck.
The Doctor smiled broadly.
"Hello, Sarah," he said simply.
Sarah Jane Smith was speechless. "Doctor?" she said, finally.
"The one and only," said the Doctor, stepping out onto Sarah's lawn. "The definite article, you might say."
"But, it's you."
"Of course, it's me. I've come back."
"No, but, it's YOU you. Your third regeneration. I've already met your tenth. How can you be here?"
"Have you now? How very interesting," the Doctor said brightly. "Well, I'm not breaking the laws of time by being here, though perhaps I am bending them."
The Doctor took off his hat and stuffed it in a coat pocket. "Now then," he said, "all that nonsense with the Time Lords is over. Well, for now. Hopefully. So come away with me."
Sarah stepped back slightly, her eyes wide, her head shaking slightly.
"Oh, just once more then. For old time's sake, eh?" said the Doctor with a twinkle in his eyes. "The TARDIS is a time machine, after all. I'll have you back here just seconds after we leave."
"Really," said Sarah. "And you wouldn't just let me off in, I don't know, Aberdeen, would you?"
"Aberdeen?" The Doctor's brow furrowed. "Why on earth would I do that?"
Sara smiled. "Well I..." she began.
"Good! It's all settled, then." And with that, the Doctor took her hand and led Sarah Jane Smith into the TARDIS.
With a shrug, Sara let the Doctor have his way. She'd long since learned that one didn't argue with the Doctor once his mind was set. And after all, at this point, what was there to lose?
The control room was different from any she'd seen before. It wasn't as brightly lit nor as dim as some of the others. There was still the octagonal console and the central column. But the room was larger than she was used to, more organic somehow. The walls included the familiar inset circular patterns, the round things she'd sometimes called them, but connecting them was a fine network of narrow, tubular objects, grey and brown. She glanced upwards and noticed that the ceiling pulsed with symbols she didn't recognize. The symbols changed over time, morphing continuously. Some type of Gallifreyan alphabet, possibly.
She'd asked the Doctor once, this Doctor, just how big the TARDIS was. Shaking his head, he made the observation that humans had such a limited understanding of size. She did know that the TARDIS had many control rooms, and that the Doctor could use any one of them.
While she was thus occupied, the Doctor closed the TARDIS doors, flipped switches and turned dials on the console, typed commands on a keyboard, and with a shudder came the old wheezing, groaning sound. They were off.
Sarah steadied herself on a railing, then noticed her sleeve. Her clothes were still filthy from gardening.
"Doctor," she said, I'm going to go to the wardrobe to find some clean clothes to wear. Ok?"
"Hmm?" said the Doctor. "Yes, yes, of course," he replied as he continued to examine and adjust the control panel instruments.
With a sigh, Sara left the control room. Some things never changed. At times when she'd travelled with the Doctor, she'd felt like a third wheel, the "other" woman, as if the Doctor's one true companion was in fact the TARDIS.
The wardrobe wasn't where she remembered it, but she found it eventually. A large room with clothing from virtually every inhabited planet. At least, every inhabited planet that wore clothing. Earth-style clothing was… over here. Rifling through the shirts, trousers, skirts and dresses, she found a long, frilly, white dress. Sarah recognized it right away and took it off the hanger to get a good look. It was the dress worn by the Doctor's former companion, Victoria. Sarah had worn the dress herself during that awful business with Sutekh. It was lovely, but she wouldn't fit into it at this point. Besides, it wasn't a very practical thing to wear while traveling with the Doctor. You never knew when you'd have to do a lot of running.
Sarah settled for a navy short-sleeve top, khaki trousers, and a comfortable pair of leather walking boots. Gathering them up, she exited the wardrobe to find a room where she could change. As she wandered the corridor, she paused. Was that water splashing?
Following the sound, she entered a room and sucked in her breath. In front of her was the largest indoor pool she'd ever seen. The water was a beautiful turquoise, the kind you only see at the finest Mediterranean beaches. On the poolside were benches, chairs, stacks of towels, terry-cloth dressing gowns, and consoles. The walls were lined with trees and bushes, and the ceiling was… very high indeed. Were those clouds up there?
Sarah Jane Smith shook her head and smiled. It was warm with a gentle, scented breeze, and so peaceful. Stumbling across the pool like this reminded her that travelling with the Doctor wasn't all getting chased by bug-eyed monsters. There were wonders as well.
Well then. A nice swim would be just the thing.
By the time Sarah returned to the control room, her hair still slightly damp, her mood had lightened considerably. Just then, the TARDIS shuddered to a halt. They'd materialized.
"Ah. There you are," the Doctor said. "Just in time."
"Where are we?" asked Sarah.
The Doctor's eyes widened and he grinned. "Let's find out, shall we?"
"And here we go again," Sarah muttered. But she smiled and, taking the Doctor's hand, followed him out of the TARDIS.