Title: THE HEALING BALM (1/8)

Characters: Sarah/Nine
Word Count: ~2290
Summary: Grief is a complicated emotion for any species, and Time Lords are no exception.

Immediately following the events of the Time War, a newly regenerated Doctor arrives on Earth with a fuzzy memories and a lot of pain. Someone from the Doctor's past helps him work through it, and together they realise some things are still unsettled between them. Set before the 2005 TV season for the Ninth Doctor and set post School Reunion, but pre-SJA for Sarah. May be some slight spoilers for the book "Bullet Time", but it's not necessary to have read it.

CHAPTER ONE

Sarah Jane Smith walked towards her house from the Tube station after a rather disappointing meeting with her editor. As she turned the corner to Bannerman Road, a man staggered out of the alleyway in front of her and collapsed. She glanced around to see if anyone else was around before scanning the man with her watch as she ran over to him. She frowned at the results and pulled out her sonic lipstick, just in case.

She knelt down and gently felt for a pulse along the man's wrist. She jumped as she felt his pulse racing. Reaching up to double check the pulse along his neck, she gasped as his eyes flew open and he reached out to grab her hand. As he exhaled, a golden glow escaped him. 'Gone, burning, destroyed,' he mumbled as his blue eyes bored into hers. 'Help me.'

She took in his appearance, the piercing eyes, close-cropped hair, ears that seemed too large and the oddly fitting Victorian clothing. She stared into his eyes, coming to a quick decision. 'Can you stand?' she asked him. 'I can help you, but I need to get you away from here.'

He nodded slowly, and she struggled to help him up. As she began to help him walk away, she looked around and saw the familiar blue police box parked nearby. She couldn't help frowning as she saw smoke billowing around the edges and coming out of the doors. She would've stopped to check, but she could feel herself supporting more of his weight. Her small stature wouldn't be able to support much more. She'd have to come back once she had him settled. She adjusted her arm supportively around his waist. 'My house isn't far. You'll be safe there.'

~!~!~!~

As Sarah settled the man into a semi-recumbent position on the sofa, he reached out and grabbed her hand. His eyes tore daggers through her almost as much as his words. 'Do I know you?' he asked weakly. 'You look familiar. I'm sure I know you.' He sniffed slightly and tilted his head. 'I'll figure it out, I'm sure.'

'You need your rest, you've been through a lot.' She changed the subject quickly. 'Would you like some tea?'

He nodded slowly. 'Yes, perfect thing to mend the dendrites.'

With a small nod, she finally pulled her hand away from his and walked into the kitchen. After putting the kettle on, she stood and looked out the window and finally allowed the tears to fall. The tea was as much for her comfort as it was for him. She knew instantly that this Doctor had suffered something traumatic. It must've been what prompted his regeneration, given the golden glow she saw in the alleyway. She could feel pain and loss coming from deep within him as powerful as if it was happening to her. She had no way of knowing exactly which version of the Doctor this was, so she had to be careful not to give too much away until she could figure it out.

The last time she'd seen him was at Deffry Vale. He'd said it had been a half a dozen regenerations since they'd met, but the more she added it up, she knew that couldn't have been true. The Doctor in her living room could be any one of him. Well, almost any one of him. Any one after the fifth, but not the seventh or tenth, she figured, based on her memories.

She remembered the Death Zone on Gallifrey. She saw four of him standing together, only missing the one she did the majority of her travelling with. She was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to remember, yet the memories were there. She saw another version of him in Hong Kong around the time of the British handover. At the school he told her that everyone died. Could the Doctor in her living room, the one who just said that everything was gone and destroyed, could he be the one that experienced the Time War?

He'd told her about the war the night they'd been investigating the Krillitanes. Rose and Mickey had left them alone for a bit. With her, he talked openly about the last great Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. She held him as he broke down and cried, giving him what small comfort she could. She was one who knew him before and now after. Even as he told her, he swore her to secrecy. Some of the things mentioned he dared not say to Rose. Rose hadn't been there at the creation of the Daleks and seen his anguish at not being able to destroy them there and then. He didn't want any pity from her, and knew pity wasn't an emotion he'd get from Sarah.

All of these things went through her head as she continued to stare out the window. Her mind was brought back to the present and to the Doctor that was currently resting on her sofa. She knew from experience that his memory was a little fuzzy immediately after regeneration. She wasn't going to do anything to aid his disorientation, but she wasn't going to give him any more information than was necessary at this point.

She had to wait and see how this all played out.

~!~!~!~

One she made sure the Doctor was comfortably settled on her sofa and would sleep for a bit, Sarah tucked her TARDIS key into her pocket and made her back towards the alleyway. She glanced around to make sure no one was watching her as approached the blue box. She reached up and touched the door and felt the pulsing rhythms she was so familiar with.

She took out her key and carefully unlocked the door. As she opened the door, billowing smoke poured out. Coughing, Sarah worked her way into the console room and looked around. She could barely make out the vaguely Victorian d├ęcor, but smiled wondering what sort of person his former regeneration was like. She headed towards the interior door but found it locked. 'What happened to you?' she asked aloud. She walked back to the console and gently reached out and put her hands on the console. 'I'm sorry to have to ask you this but I need to get you into my back garden. You'll be safe there, and can recuperate in peace.'

Once she felt the agreement from the TARDIS, Sarah reached out and threw several switches and levers, preparing the TARDIS for flight. With a shudder and grinding noise, Sarah was rewarded with the time rotor moving ever so slowly. A few seconds later, the whole room shook with a thud as the TARDIS landed. Sarah patted the console lovingly. 'Thank you. No one will bother you here, so take all the time you need to heal.'

She frowned as she felt the piercing ache coming from the TARDIS herself. She smoothed her hands along the console soothingly. 'Hey, shhhh, don't worry, you take care of yourself, I'll look after him, I promise.'

Sarah walked out and smiled as she recognised her own back garden. She'd worry about the crushed daisies later. Having the TARDIS healing in a safe place was more important. Besides, she had a promise to keep.

~!~!~!~

Sarah stood in the door and watched as the Doctor slept. After him only fitfully sleeping on her sofa for twelve hours, she realised he might need to find him someplace more comfortable. She roused him and finally got him moved into her spare bedroom where she hoped he would get some proper rest. As she'd gotten him settled, she'd paid attention to make sure there were no visible signs of injury. She knew him well enough to know that many times his scars went way deeper than mere physical, but she needed to be sure there was nothing obvious. She knew him well enough to know he could wear emotional scars right into his future incarnations.

She looked at the black velvet jacket and vaguely Victorian waistcoat, ascot and shirt she held in her hands. These clothes didn't fit the new face. They never did. She made a mental note to go pick up a couple of things for him in the morning. As she looked back at his sleeping form, there was a part of her that just wanted to leave him be, but another, stronger part of her told her she needed to stay nearby. It was a feeling she couldn't shake.

It wasn't long before she knew why. As she watched, he began to thrash around, as if in pain. She quickly tossed the clothes on a nearby chair and sat beside him on the bed, trying to talk to him, but nothing seemed to break him from his nightmare. She leaned over him and with all her strength used her arms to try to pin his arms down. 'Shhhh, Doctor, you're safe,' she stated repeatedly.

After a minute, he began to calm down. Once she was sure he wouldn't flail his arms anymore, she sat up and ran a hand consolingly down one of his arms. His eyes flew open and as they did, he reached out and grabbed her upper arms in a vice-like grip. She couldn't help but gasp at the force in which he held her. 'Doctor?' she asked, her shocked voice not allowing her to say more.

He released her arms just as quickly as he'd grabbed them, and instead reached up slowly to gently touch her face. 'I know you,' he said as his eyes locked on hers.

Sarah flinched as he touched her, then wanted to kick herself. She knew deep down that he would never hurt her, but the force behind his earlier grip on her arms frightened her slightly. In this slightly confused state, she honestly wasn't sure what he was capable of.

Her reverie was broken as he repeated, 'I know you.' She closed her eyes, trying to figure out how not to damage any timelines. She absently wondered if he would even remember this once all was said and done. As she opened her eyes, he was still staring at her. 'Where am I? What happened?'

She sighed sadly. 'Oh Doctor, I only wish I knew what to tell you.'

'You know me.'

'I do. I know you well.' She decided to answer the easiest question first. 'You're in my house, in Ealing. London. On Earth.'

He tried to sit up, but only managed to get as far as propping himself up on his elbows. 'Sarah Jane?' he asked softly, before shaking his head. 'That's not possible. You died, in Hong Kong in 1997. Your last words to me were that you couldn't forgive me.'

Sarah absently rubbed the spot just above her heart where she still had the nasty scar, a physical reminder of just one of the many wounds she carried from that encounter. 'Not everything is as it seems, Doctor.' She quickly changed topics. 'How are you feeling?'

He flopped back down. 'I should be dead.'

She reached out cautiously and ran her hand along his close-cropped hair as she spoke softly. 'No, you shouldn't. You're here and you're alive. That's what matters.' She stood up. 'You should get some sleep. It's the best thing for you now.'

Too tired to argue, he was asleep again before she even had a chance to leave the room.

~!~!~!~

Sarah sat at the kitchen table going through the paperwork for one of her aliases. As she pulled out the passport for "Felicity Barnes" she frowned as she looked at the expiration date. She would need to renew that one soon. Taking a deep breath, she took off her reading glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose to fight off an impending headache.

Truth be told, she hadn't slept much the night before. She was up every hour or so checking on the sleeping Time Lord in her spare room. He'd not had any more nightmares, and apparently hadn't even moved since their exchange earlier the previous evening. She knew that as general rule, the Doctor didn't sleep much, but she also remembered that right after regeneration, all rules went out the window.

She closed her eyes, stretched and yawned all at once. She jumped as she opened her eyes and saw the Doctor standing right in front of her. She instantly noted that he was wearing dark jeans and one of the t-shirts she'd left for him early that morning. She stood up quickly, 'You're awake.'

'Yes, I am.' He glanced down at the paperwork and then turned to her, trying to reconcile the name he saw on the paperwork with her face. 'Thank you very much for letting me rest here, Felicity, but now I must be off.'

'Wait a minute,' she started, 'You can't just go.'

'I have to. Time for me to go. That's what I do. I go, never stopping, not for anyone.' And with that, he was quickly out the door. It was only then that she registered that he'd called her by the alias even though he'd used her real name the previous evening. Something was wrong.

~!~!~!~