A/N: Featuring the girl!Doctor created by Raven
Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Woman I Learned from Humans (This Was Not a Good Idea)
As it turned out saving the universe as a woman was a little bit different to saving the universe as a man. It really shouldn't be, thought the Doctor, but some species have the strangest ideas based on where you keep your sexual organs.
After being almost sacrificed on Kindar - apparently it would do their harvest a world of good, and they weren't too keen on killing one of their own women - then run out of London sometime in the sixteenth century just because you happened to be wearing trousers at the time - honestly! You'd think Lizzie would be a little more understanding after all you'd done for her - and then worshipped as a god on Tildra VII - which, alright, wasn't so bad, but you've probably done some horrible damage to an ungendered society by turning up like that - after all that, the Doctor decided that she just might need some help, or at least some time to acclimatise to being a woman.
After all, she considered, Romana never had these problems and she was most definitely a woman.
It had been the worst idea she'd had for some time, thought Sarah, as she dropped her suitcase onto her bed and emptied it by tossing the contents onto the floor. It was supposed to have been a nice, quiet weekend in the country, some time to relax and reflect and convince herself that writing a novel based on her travels with the Doctor wasn't cheating and that UNIT probably wouldn't notice if she let slip one or two trivial details concerning some of their past operations. After all, she'd never actually signed the Official Secrets Act.
As it turned out, the trip had been wet, dreary and the cottage was an awful lot smaller than she remembered. It was a blessing she'd decided not to take K-9 with her, he'd never have made it across the swamp that had been masquerading as the cottage's garden.
"Mistress!" Sarah sighed and decided to leave finishing the unpacking until she was in a better mood.
"What is it, K-9?" she asked, going downstairs. She went into the kitchen and switched on the kettle. Everything would seem a lot brighter after a nice cup of tea.
K-9 trundled in, his tail wagging enthusiastically.
"Mistress!" he repeated, sounding positively chirpy and Sarah couldn't help but smile. "There is a visitor, Mistress."
Naturally, a moment later, the doorbell rang.
At the door was a tall woman with long brown curls and startlingly bright eyes, fixed right on Sarah.
"Jellybaby?" she asked, smiling widely and proffering a crumpled paper bag. Sarah looked at her blankly, but the woman was unperturbed and, after digging around in her pocket, offered the other hand, full of small change. "Now I am sorry about the not quite getting you back to South Croydon but I was under just the teensiest amount of stress at the time what with getting a summons from home and all that. Though, really, that was nothing compared to what happened once I actually got there." She broke off, raised her eyebrows hopefully and jangled the change. "I think this would have been the right bus fare."
Sarah blinked and a strange sort of understanding dawned.
Then she spoke, very slowly. "You have got to be kidding me."
"Hello, Sarah Jane," said the Doctor.
So this was why K-9 had seem so inordinately happy, thought Sarah, as she poured freshly boiled water into the teapot and rummaged around for some mugs.
"All right," she said. "So, obviously, you regenerated again."
"Quite a few times actually."
"And were any of the others, ah..." She waved a hand vaguely.
"Nope, this is the first time I've been a woman."
"Okay." She took a deep breath. "Is this normal?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I've no idea. It's not the sort of thing I ever thought to ask about. They certainly never mentioned it at the Academy, and I don't recall it ever happening to anyone I know, but even so."
"Why can't you go ask now?"
A strange look passed over the Doctor's face, and she looked away.
"Doctor, what's wrong? Has something happened?"
"Things are happening all the time," she said vaguely. "Right about now the sun over Sansil Prime has gone nova, Krista Stone has drunk the very last bottle of Zanta cordial in the galaxy, Captain Jack's just told Torchwood that-"
"You know perfectly well what I mean," interrupted Sarah as she decided the tea had finished brewing, and poured.
The Doctor took a deep breath. Even after all this time, she couldn't find the words she needed, so she settled for the simplest ones she knew. "They're gone, Sarah. My people are gone."
There was a long pause, and the Doctor saw Sarah try very hard not to ask a lot of questions. "I'm sorry."
Crisis point passed the Doctor relaxed. "Oh, it was all a long time ago now. Nothing to worry about. This is very good tea by the way. No, no, I'm here because, well..."
"You're a woman."
"I don't suppose you have any tips do you?"
"On what? Hairstyling? Nail care?" There was a dangerous edge to her tone and the Doctor was now quite certain that she did not want to ask Sarah about either hairstyling or nail care. Though she had been wondering what to do about her dry ends.
"Ah, no. Just this whole Being A Woman thing. You see, I've had one or two problems."
"Oh really?" Sarah said with a raise of her eyebrows.
The Doctor leaned forward, her voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. "People seem to treat me a bit differently on some worlds, and in some times, and it really is quite strange."
"Funny how you never noticed when I was travelling with you."
The Doctor gave a little cough. "Quite," she said, thinking rather guiltily about a number of times when she'd tried to keep someone else out of harm's way. ("You stay here, Miss Grant," "Not this time, Jo.") Oh, Sarah would never have stood for that, but Jo had been so young and gentle and seemed so very fragile. It had been only right too... the Doctor swallowed. "Oh bloody hell," she muttered.
"Nothing," she said, smiling brightly.
"I really don't see what I can do to help, Doctor. Some people do have funny ideas."
"But there're other things too!" protested the Doctor. "I'm quite a bit shorter and I'm not sure I have the right size of bra and, yes, I do rather like skirts but they're not really suitable for running away from things that are also trying to kill you. And I can't find any boots without heels that fit me. And do I really have to wear all this make-up?"
She stopped quite suddenly, her eyes wide and appealing to Sarah.
Sarah took the Doctor's hand and gave it a quick pat. "All right, yes, on Earth, anyway, women are, on average, shorter than men. We can go to M&S and they'll measure you for a bra, and, no, skirts aren't very practical for running in, but, as I know from a great deal of experience, so long as it's not too tight you'll probably be okay. We can find you boots without heels easily enough and, no, you don't have to wear any make-up if you don't want to."
"Oh. Good." She downed the rest of her tea. "It's Earth, isn't it? I sort of adopted it, even more than usual after... after the thing, and I've picked up all these bad habits and terrible ideas!" She buried her head in her hands with a loud sob. "I'm a terrible woman! I've even lost my sense of direction! I'm old, old-fashioned and clichéd and...and...I've got a cat! I'm a crazy cat-lady living in an old police box."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "Honestly I'm just going to put this down to post-regeneration trauma."
The Doctor looked up. "Really?"
"That's a very good idea. Can we go shopping now?"
It took almost an hour before Sarah stopped looking over her shoulder for the inevitable alien menace that followed the Doctor wherever he, now she, happened to go. She managed to scare one little old lady, two policemen and an extraordinarily helpful shop assistant before she concluded that nothing life-threatening was going to happen and she could just relax and have a nice day out with someone who was, even now, one of her very best friends.
Several hours, several coffees and an awful lot of buying stuff later, they arrived back at Sarah's house.
"You know, I rather enjoyed that."
"You've certainly got plenty of boots now."
"Mmm, though I do feel strangely guilty. I used to just pop into Oxfam whenever I got the chance."
"Doctor, you save planets on a regular basis. I don't think you should feel guilty about a few new pairs of shoes."
"Oh, I suppose not, still..." She cast her eyes over the boxes, chewing he bottom lip. "...all right, Sarah Jane, I shall keep all the boots. Even the stilettos. As they were surprisingly comfortable, and I can see a sharp heel, or, indeed, an extra pointy toe, coming in handy. Besides it's about time the wardrobe had a few new things in it. Some of the clothes seem to have started breeding and that can't possibly be right."
"Well, it's getting on a bit and it'll be dark in less than an hour. You're welcome to stay the night."
"Ooh! A sleepover!"
Sarah smiled patiently. "If you like."
"How about marshmallows? And horror movies? And pillow fights? And cocoa? K-9 can toast marshmallows, you know. At least I think he can. I can't remember if we managed to work out all the problems with vaporisation or not. Romana was furious when she found out, especially when we accidentally set the-"
"I'm going to make another pot of tea," said Sarah hurriedly. "Please don't destroy anything while I'm gone."
The Doctor tutted as she went through to the kitchen, and raised her eyebrows at K-9. "Honestly, I think that girl worries too much."
They were watching telly. The sort of trashy disposable programme that the BBC had taken to putting on on a Saturday night. It was also the sort of programme that Sarah found terribly relaxing in a guilty sort of way, but the Doctor was watching with an avid fascination, occasionally shaking her head and muttering, "Humans."
It was, thought Sarah, a very nice sort of evening with the Doctor. Not being locked up or running away or fearing for her life, but like the bits in-between that there had always been too few of.
"I should call Harry," she said. "He'd love to see you like this, or, rather, I'd love to see his face when you explain it to him."
The Doctor met her wicked grin with raised eyebrows, then she smiled. "I've a better idea. How about I pop back later, have a proper dinner with you both. I'll cook."
"You can cook?"
"I have always been able to cook," said the Doctor defensively. "You just ask the Brigadier."
"So you'll actually visit? You won't forget?"
"Of course not...unless you want to-"
"You don't even know what I was going to say!"
"I have a very good idea, and I'm far too old to be traipsing round the universe."
"Nonsense," said the Doctor. "You're not even a twentieth of my age."
"Doctor." A warning.
"Oh, all right. But I most certainly will visit you." Her eyes wandered back to the television screen. "At Christmas, perhaps, I'm always being told how good Christmas telly is."
Sarah yawned, realised how tired she was. The Doctor was very good at making days feel extra long, in a good way. Apart from the mortal danger which, this time, had been mercifully absent. "I'm going to go to bed."
"Mmhmm." The Doctor's eyes didn't move from the screen. "Sleep tight."
Sarah hesitated at the doorway, watching her old friend a moment. The Doctor turned round, met her eyes and gave her the smallest smile. "Don't worry, Sarah Jane. I'll still be here in the morning. Cross my hearts. Both of them."