STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC. I'm not making any money from this.
The Doctor burned.
Sarah Jane stood at his bedside, not knowing what to do. She had convinced him to lie down in the TARDIS sickbay, and had managed to get his scarf, his heavy coat, and his shirt off of him, as well as his shoes and socks. Then she had consulted the medical computer, typing in his symptoms and receiving a printed list of drugs to give and instructions to follow, and she had followed them to the letter.
Now she hovered over him anxiously, brushing back his sweaty brown curls and touching his forehead with the back of one hand. His flushed skin was still too cool for a human, but far, far too hot for a Time Lord. His dark blue eyes suddenly fluttered open, sparkling and fever-bright, and he said something to her in a flowing liquid language that she'd never heard before.
"Doctor, what is it?" He grabbed her hand, peered at her, and babbled some more in the musical alien tongue. Then he sighed, and his eyes slipped closed. Sarah Jane was alarmed; he obviously had a very high fever, but the question was, how high was too high? She didn't have the faintest clue what a Time Lord's normal body temperature was supposed to be… but she did know that a high fever could cause brain damage, at least in humans. She consulted the medical computer again and was told that having given the recommended drugs, there was nothing more she could do but wait.
Well, there was one thing she could do, she decided.
She took a metal bowl into the bathroom, filled it with cold water, and grabbed some clean washcloths from the shelf.
She spent the night sitting in the chair by his bed, pressing the cool damp washcloths to his forehead one by one, replacing them when they became warm from the heat that burned within him.
At times, his eyes would fly open and he'd cry out in that lilting alien language. Once or twice he pointed at things that she couldn't see. He spoke in English only once; he called her Susan and told her she was beautiful, so beautiful.
She kept her watch for hours, talking to him about the adventures they'd had and the places they'd visited. She refilled the metal bowl with cold water so many times that she finally lost count.
She would not, could not allow herself to think about what would happen if he died, if he had brain damage from the fever and he couldn't change again… and how she would ever get home if that happened. Selfish! she told herself angrily. How can you think like that?
So she talked to him, as much to distract herself from her frightening, selfish thoughts as in any hope that he could hear her. She talked to him about her childhood, her family. She told him about her grandmother who had taken her to the park every Sunday afternoon. She told him about the pink dress with the big white bow in the back that she'd had when she was six, and about the best gift she'd ever gotten, the little Cocker Spaniel puppy that had been waiting for her downstairs on Christmas morning when she was ten.
She felt her eyes slipping closed, and firmly shook herself awake. She knew she must not fall asleep. With a sigh, she replaced the compress on his forehead with a new, cooler one.
As the night wore on, exhaustion and worry broke down her reserve, and she began out of desperation to tell him things she never talked about, not with anyone. She told him about her moody and remote father who liked to drink a bit too much, and her bored and frustrated mother had who furtively swallowed little blue diamond-shaped pills in the kitchen every morning before breakfast and every evening before dinner. She told him about the day when she was twelve, when she had called the ambulance because her mother had swallowed a whole handful of her magical blue diamonds; Mother's Little Helper, indeed. Luckily, the ambulance had arrived in time. Naturally, everyone had pretended that it had been an unfortunate accident borne of carelessness. Appearances were everything and must be kept up at all costs. And Sarah Jane knew all about keeping up appearances. Who better? Through scalding tears that ran down her face and dripped into the bowl of cool water clutched in her hands, she told him what her Uncle Albert had done to her in the back garden when she was thirteen, and how her mother had smacked her hard across the face when she had gone crying to her afterwards. She had called Sarah Jane a nasty little whore and sent her to her room, and Sarah Jane had never spoken of the incident in the back garden again, not to anyone, not until tonight.
This is no good, she told herself. The Doctor needs me. I've got to get ahold of myself. She took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her face with the back of one hand. That was when she saw that his fever-bright eyes were open and staring at her.
"Goodness, I hope you didn't hear all that!" She tried a rueful little laugh. To her chagrin, it came out sounding shaky and slightly hysterical. "I've never talked about that with anyone. Really, I thought you were unconscious." He was quiet for a moment, just staring at her, and then his eyes widened and he said something in that strange language that she was growing so used to hearing. She shook her head, unhappy that he was still delirious but at the same time feeling a weird kind of relief that he wouldn't remember any of her unintended revelations. "No more talking for me, not in the state I'm in tonight!" she decided firmly, and then gave him an ironic smile. "However, you should feel free to talk all you like… not that I have any idea what you're saying!" As if in reply, he gave her his patented lunatic grin and babbled more musical nonsense at her. "Yeah, you said it, Doctor!" She took his hand in hers and noted with relief that his skin seemed a bit cooler than it had before. She set her bowl of cool water on the table next to the pile of washcloths, removed the compress from his forehead, wiped his face and chest briefly, and replaced the cloth with a new one. His eyes slipped shut, and she smiled fondly at him. After a bit, she felt her own eyelids drooping and forced herself to sit up straight in her chair. "Stay awake, Sarah Jane!" she told herself sharply. She began to sing "Yellow Submarine" in an effort to stay awake, but gave up when she realized that she didn't know all of the words. The Doctor, she thought with a smile, would have made up his own silly lyrics if he were unable to recall the correct ones, but her brain just wasn't up to it by this point. Soon, her head drooped to one side and despite her best efforts, for the first time in nineteen hours Sarah Jane finally slept.
The Doctor woke with a damp cloth half-covering his eyes and Sarah Jane's face pressed up against the side of his neck. After falling asleep in her chair, she had listed sideways until her head had rested on his pillow. At some point during the night, the uncomfortable position must have woken her sufficiently to make her get up and slip into bed beside him without ever waking fully enough to realize what she was doing.
His fever had broken during the night, leaving him with a parched throat and an aching head. He pulled the cloth from his face and sat up, being careful of both his aching head and his slumbering nurse. He found a glass of bright pink juice sitting on the nightstand, and he downed it in several quick gulps. As careful as he was, his movements still woke her. She stirred and yawned, blinking in surprise as she realized she was lying in bed with the Doctor.
"Oh dear!" she said, sitting up quickly. "I didn't mean – " Her voice broke off as she suddenly realized that he was awake and apparently lucid. "Doctor!" she exclaimed with delight, throwing her arms around him and kissing his cheek. "You don't know how happy I am to see you awake!"
"Um," he replied, slightly embarrassed to be sitting half-naked in bed with Sarah Jane's arms wrapped tightly around him. The same thought seemed to occur to her, for she suddenly released him and stood up.
"How are you feeling?" she asked in a neutral tone.
"Outstanding!" he exclaimed with a grin. She sighed with relief.
"I'm so glad to hear it! You were very sick," she told him. She waved a hand at him, indicating the damp cloth, the bed, and his state of undress all at once. "I didn't know what else to do," she concluded, sounding apologetic.
"Don't be silly, Sarah Jane," he told her in what he hoped was an offhand tone. "You did what you had to do. You took very good care of me, and I'm very appreciative."
"Oh," she said, suddenly turning away from him. "So you remember all that, do you?" she asked, her voice very low.
"Bits and pieces," he said with a shrug. "I remember seeing things that I knew couldn't be real, and I remember you singing to me… it was a song my mother used to sing to me when I was small. I remember that."
"That's all?" she asked, and there was no mistaking the relief in her voice. He thought for a moment.
"I remember you saying something about a puppy," he said, frowning with concentration. "And Susan was here, talking to me… no, that can't have happened," he corrected himself, shaking his head. "I must have imagined it all."
"Probably." She turned to face him, and he saw something in her eyes that reminded him that he was a doctor of many things, and though he longed to pretend that he didn't remember anything from that night and to let it drop as Sarah Jane seemed to wish, he knew it wouldn't be in her best interest to do so. He had a responsibility to his friend, whether she liked it or not. In the long run, she would thank him.
"I do remember one other thing," he said quietly. He crossed the room to where she stood, and she looked up at him with those wounded eyes that made him want to weep.
"What?" she whispered, seeming to draw into herself. He was careful not to touch her, careful not to get too close… careful not to put himself between her and the door.
"I remember what you told me about your uncle in the garden." Her eyes filled with horror, and she gave a sound like a strangled sob. She stumbled a bit in her attempt to flee, and he forced himself not to grab her arm to steady her, to stop her. He sighed, looked at the ceiling, and spoke again in his own language, angrily cursing Uncle Albert's name, wishing for the erasure of his very existence from Time itself.
The Doctor went to his quarters and dressed hurriedly, and then left to search for Sarah Jane. He found her sitting on a stone bench in the Cloisters, her bent knees drawn up under her chin and her arms wrapped tightly around her legs. He was very careful to make lots of noise as he approached her, and he again made certain that he didn't stand between her and the door.
"Sarah Jane," he said quietly, gently.
"I want to go back to Earth," she told him without looking at him. "I can't stay with you anymore." Her voice was soft, almost childlike. It was nothing like the strong, confident voice of the self-assured woman that he knew, and it broke his hearts seeing her this way. He wanted to take her in his arms, but he knew that would be the wrong thing to do. Instead, he reminded himself of his emotional detachment training and forced himself to clasp his hands behind his back.
"I'll take you back to your own place and time, Sarah Jane," he said, and she finally looked up at him. "But only if it's what you want, not what you think I want." Her dark eyes filled with tears.
"How could you want me here after what I did?" she wailed, and he closed his eyes so she wouldn't see the sudden fury in them and mistakenly believe that it was directed at her.
"You did nothing, Sarah Jane. Nothing," he said in a low, rough voice.
"But my mother said – "
"Your mother was a foolish woman half out of her mind on tranquilizers!" he snapped angrily. "She couldn't cope with her own life and so she allowed her brother to make a mess of yours, and then had the gall to blame you for it!" She flinched at the sheer rage in his voice, and he forced himself to speak quietly, calmly. "You know me, Sarah Jane. You know that I am not a violent man." She nodded. "When I think of what that – " and here he said a phrase in that odd language that Sarah Jane felt she knew so well " – did to you, I want to hunt him down, beat him to a bloody pulp, and throw him into the Time Vortex where he would remain for all Eternity!" Her eyes widened in utter shock; she had never, ever heard him talk like this. "In fact," he continued in an even, level tone that was somehow more chilling than angry ranting and raving would have been, "if he ever has the misfortune to encounter me, that is exactly what I will do to him." He looked her in the eye. "I mean it." She nodded, believing him; the Doctor did not issue idle threats, and he certainly didn't go around saying that he was going to beat anyone to a bloody pulp, much less the rest of what he'd said he was going to do. "Now," he said in a much gentler tone. "Does it sound to you that I believe what he did to you in the garden was your fault?" She shook her head, her eyes still huge. "And do you trust my judgment?" She nodded.
"Yes. Always." Her voice was barely louder than a whisper.
"You were a child, Sarah Jane. You didn't ask for what he did to you." It was if something snapped inside her. She leapt to her feet, glaring angrily.
"No I certainly didn't!" she yelled, her voice choked with angry tears. "I hate him, I hate him for what he did to me, and I hate her for protecting him and making me believe it was all my fault!" He didn't say anything. He merely stood there and watched as she paced around the Cloisters, finally venting the pain, shame, and rage that she'd kept buried for so many years. She screamed and yelled and raged, venomously wishing horrible maledictions upon her uncle and her mother that made his eyes widen in shock; if nothing else, he admired her creativity. He knew she couldn't maintain this level of intense emotion for long, and sure enough she began to wind down like a spent toy. "I was crying, Doctor. I begged him to stop, but he wouldn't… he wouldn't…" her voice dissolved into sobs, and she stood in the middle of the Cloisters with her face buried in her hands. Slowly, cautiously he went to her and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. When she didn't flinch or pull away, he put his other hand on her other shoulder and slowly, deliberately drew her into an embrace, watching her carefully for any sign that she was going to panic and bolt. Instead, she collapsed against him, her arms going around him as she sobbed into his chest. He bent his head and put his lips against the top of her head, murmuring into her wavy dark hair in that lilting liquid alien tongue, telling her that she was beautiful and special and brave. Gradually, her sobs tapered off and she rested her head on his chest, listening to the deep rumble of his voice as he promised to take her to see the Eye of Orion, Coney Island, the Citadel on Gallifrey, the cyan desert of Marna Locus IV, the Seven Wonders of Earth's Ancient World. She had no idea what he was saying, but his voice was soothing, and for the first time since that day in the garden, she was soothed.