Last Goodbyes: A Tear, Sarah Jane?
Characters: Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, K9 (Mark III)
Summary: It isn't every day you get to have a second last goodbye, particularly with someone you learnt to care about. Sarah Jane and Third Doctor, immediately after 'The Five Doctors', Spoilers for that story and several Three/Sarah stories, plus Sarah's final story 'The Hand of Fear'. Part of the' Last Goodbyes' series of one-shots.
It's odd, when Sarah first entered the TARDIS. Like stepping back into a dream you woke from years ago. It all came flooding back – all the excitement, the terror, the mystery, all the things which come from being around the wonderful man that is the Doctor.
It's wasn't n even the TARDIS she'd left. It was the 'TARDIS' TARDIS – not the gothic, secondary room the Doctor had recently been forced to used upon her departure, but the one she remembered right at the beginning, when her life really started to stop making any sense.
As the Doctor – her first Doctor - pressed the required buttons for dematerialisation and Sarah felt the TARDIS enter flight, the memories of an age long since gone for her formed in her mind. Just watching him at the controls was enough to bring a warm smile to her face.
Not that this had been a fun experience for her. Captured by a Mad Time Lord. Forced to play in the games of a long dead one in the charmingly named 'Death Zone'. Holding her breath as she watched carnage unfold between swift machine and cold cyborg. Meeting the Master for the first – and hopefully only – time in her life.
Though there was happy things as well. Reuniting with the Brigadier. Meeting Tegan – a warm, perhaps brash but ultimately friendly woman who seemed suited to the strange, blond haired man in the cricket suit she was only now just realising was a Doctor she had never met. So too must have been the elderly gentleman and the clownish Beetle mopped hair figure her own Doctor seemed to bear a grudge against. Were they the past or future of her particular Doctors, or both? It's a question she expected never to get an answer to.
And best of all – seeing the Doctor again. Even if it wasn't the one who left her – her cases fully packed and ready – in Aberdeen. Which right to the end was typical of the Doctor.
She was stirred from her thoughts as the Doctor finished at the controls and beamed at her with that charming smile she always remembered in this form. "Perfect. Your destination both temporal and locational is fixed, Sarah. Croydon, Earth Date 23rd November, 1983. Now let's see if I can be a bit more precise than that bumbling scarf wielder managed with you last time."
He looked at him amazed. "How... how can you know that Doctor? I mean... that hasn't happened to you yet. I mean, you know all about your next body, but you haven't regenerated.. yet..." A slight welling under her eyelids involuntarily began. She'd suppressed quite well the sight of the Doctor lying on the floor of UNIT HQ, poisoned by the effects of immense radiation to his system from his battle with the Giant Spiders and seemingly in the throes of death.
The Brigadier was used to regeneration, having seen it once before, albeit without seeing the effects himself. She wasn't. Not that she hadn't fallen in time for the new Doctor – so childish and unpredictable, totally unlike the Doctor she had joined UNIT with, after defeating both Lynx the Sontaran and then giant dinosaurs in London, but ultimately still the hero and protector of Earth and the universe.
But now, remembering that incident, and seeing the Doctor right in front of her-
She blinked; he must have seen her distress and moved to her side in the midst of her thoughts. "There there Sarah Jane, you mustn't worry about me so. And in regards to your question..." He put a hand to his mouth, exposing the ring Sarah remembered him wearing, clearly attempting to summarise what she guessed was the typical 'explain temporal physics to a primitive ape' preparation before continuing.
"I'm afraid that went I told you earlier I was simply from the past, I wasn't being entirely correct. Think of me as a memory – a piece of a puzzle, so to speak. I was part of my future self's memories of me. When a Time Lord regenerates, Sarah Jane, a small piece of the previous incarnation is stored deep in the recesses of his mind. So in truth, I don't disappear completely. It's also how I know of my future selves activities. "He suddenly looked up to the ceiling somewhat vacantly, as if accessing knowledge not yet permitted to him. "A man is the sum of his memories, you see... a Time Lord, even more so." The wave of oddness on his face pasted in seconds, and Sarah was received to see him break into a smile again.
"So what... what will happen to you then?" She asked hesitantly.
"Very simple, Sarah Jane. When I am ready to and I have 'dropped you off', to use one of your Earth terms, I will be drawn along with this faux TARDIS back into that Cricket fellow's mind... where I shall, one hopes, remain for good this time."
Sarah wasn't sure what to think. Part of her regretted the fact that the Doctor – her Doctor – would have to sacrifice his physical form merely to become part of the more recent Doctor once more. But another part knew that if he did not, that future Doctor would continue to be incomplete –bereft of his memories.
There was a chime, one which after a moment Sarah remembered to be the sound the TARDIS used to make when it had arrived at its selected destination. She gave something of a short sigh as he turned to the Doctor. "So we're here then."
Sarah glanced at the door as it opened, her street in Corydon visible beyond, sweet wonderful home where no matter how many amazing places she had seen in her lifetime, still ranked as one of her favourite places in the universe.
She looked back at the Doctor.
"Do you want to come and visit? It's very cosy, and Aunt Lavinia won't mind guests-"
The Doctor smiled. "It would be interesting to finally meet her but... I can't strain too far from the TARDIS now. Every second I stay here could prove painful for our dear future fellow if I don't go soon." He seemed genuinely crestfallen and apologetic.
"It sounds unfair...but alright." Sarah turned to go, not sure what to say.
"Of course, I could certainly come to your front door, see you off properly." The Doctor flashed a cheeky smile which Sarah remembered was one of the reasons she loved her Doctors so much – true that her first was far more straight laced and proper than the regeneration which followed, but even her first Doctor had had moments she remembered well enough.
The front porch was as she left it; complete with the BEWARE OF THE DOG sign. Indeed the Doctor told her that barely ten minutes had passed since she'd been scooped up from here into the ominous plains of the Death Zone. Sarah suppressed a laugh. "I was going out at the time. I can't even remember what for now."
The sound of whirrs from the back garden caused the Doctor to look up suddenly... as K9 Mark III moved into view. "The Mistress has returned. Data to possible danger was correct, mistress. Suggest you acknowledge this unit's suggestions in future."
Sarah smiled as she opened the gate and patted K9. "If by that you mean I should be sorry, then I am. Thanks for your help anyway, K9."
"Affirmative Mistress." K9's head whirred upwards to look at the white haired figure. "Greetings Master."
She stared up at the Doctor and then back at K9 in amazement. "You recognise him? Even though he's not...?"
"All teeth and curls, Sarah Jane?" The Doctor flashed an amused grin. "Nice to meet you K9. I see my future selves make company with some interesting characters." He then glanced back at the TARDIS before looking back at Sarah with a concerned sigh. "I really must go now. I'm sorry Sarah, I really am."
She nodded, understanding. "I will miss you, Doctor. I always have." Once more she strove not to cry in front of him, but the Doctor understood and pulled her in a warm embrace.
As he turned to go, a question she had wanted for years formed on her lips. "Doctor?"
"Hm, yes Sarah?" He had stopped just at the TARDIS doors but was still in earshot.
"When you were regenerating after the whole thing on Metebelis 3, you started to say something to me. Do you remember?"
He nodded curtly. "Of course, yes. I said... 'A tear, Sarah Jane? Where's there's life, there's...' and then I was gone, I suppose."
Sarah straightened, looking directly into his eyes. "How was that sentence supposed to end, Doctor?"
He gave one last warm smile. "Hope. Where there's life, there's always hope. If you want to remember me any way, Sarah Jane, hope is what I would go for."
He started to shut the door, but Sarah shouted out to him one last time. "Doctor, do you think I'll ever see you again?"
"Well you never know. The universe has a funny habit of repeating itself. Goodbye Sarah Jane... K9." And with that he shut the door tight.
She watched as the TARDIS whirred into life, grinding and wheezing as it finally shot into the sky, gone from sight.
Sarah gave a long sigh, before he turned back to the house and K9. "Right then K9, come on. We've got work to do." And she resolved to get on with the rest of her life, but never to forget the Doctor.
Because she would see him again... one day.