He doesn't like black clothing. It's unlucky. Not that he believes in luck. He's been around the universe enough times to know that hardly anything is random or by chance. But he hasn't worn black since he was young and grumpy and white haired. Deep in the bowels of the TARDIS closet he's sure the black suits are lurking, but the TARDIS understands that he doesn't want to see them. He says it's because it clashes with his skin tone now, but the real reason is that he has too much to mourn for already.
The Doctor's surprised when he gets the call. Sarah Jane doesn't usually call unless it's an emergency, and as far as he knows the world isn't ending. Not today, anyways. Unless he's gotten his Earth calendar upside down again. It wouldn't be the first time.
He sprints around the console and types madly on the typewriter. The grainy screen above flashes to life.
"Sarah!" He says cheerfully. "I didn't expect to hear from you until next week. Has the Hatching started yet? Bit ahead of schedule..."
He looks up, and is surprised to see a skinny teenager standing whitefaced in front of the screen.
"Doctor," says the boy.
The Doctor blinks.
"Luke. Where's your mum?"
Luke's face crumples and his voice breaks as he talks.
"I didn't think it would be this. I thought she'd go down saving the Earth, in a blaze of glory. But it was a stupid heart attack."
The Doctor forgets how to breathe. There are tears running down the boy's face now. He's so young. Only a child still.
"One minute she was there, and the next she was just gone," Luke continues. "I didn't even get to say goodbye."
"Sarah Jane, she's..." the Doctor can't even finish the sentence.
Luke nods miserably.
"I know she would have wanted you to come to the..." his voice cracks, and he has to clear his throat. "To the funeral. It's tomorrow."
The Doctor nods.
"I wouldn't miss it," he says. The screen goes blank, but the Doctor continues to stare at it, as if in its depths he will find the answers he is looking for. He always knew that Sarah Jane would die. She is human, after all, and humans die. Her lifespan is quite short, comparatively, and her story had to come to an end some time. Yet, it's a shock to find that it has. His beautiful, vibrant Sarah, who promised that she would never leave him. They all leave him in the end, all of them. Even those who promise that they wouldn't.
The Doctor tells himself that he's in a time machine, that he doesn't actually have to go to the funeral tomorrow . He can take as much time as he wants before he goes. And yet, he finds himself only a few hours later staring blankly into a mirror. He's glad that Amy and Rory are exploring Veros 9 on their own; he doesn't really want to explain why he is hollow-eyed and silent.
He roots around in the huge closet for a while, thinking maybe he'll wear something more funeral appropriate. But in the end he settles for his usual tweed and bowtie ensemble. Sarah Jane would have liked it better that way, he thinks.
It's bright, intense sunshine outside. The Doctor glares at the brightness, resenting it. How dare anybody be happy when Sarah is gone? He doesn't feel right going and sitting in a church watching Sarah Jane in a box. He tries to tell himself that he can go back to his blue box, and come again when he feels more up to it. But really, when will he ever feel up to saying goodbye to Sarah?
In the end he slinks into the back of the church just as the service is beginning. Everyone is wearing black and there are white flowers everywhere. Sarah Jane would have hated it. The Doctor swallows hard when he sees the casket at the front, the wooden sides closing Sarah in. This box is not bigger on the inside.
He remains stoic through the whole service, even through the eulogy that Luke chokes out. He tells himself that he's not going to go up and see her body, that it's just a lifeless shell, that Sarah isn't there any more. And yet he finds himself going up with the rest, climbing the two steps to the platform, looking over the side of the casket at Sarah's face. Her eyes are closed and her face is relaxed, just as if she were sleeping. Like all the times that she fell asleep on the Doctor's shoulder, catching a few minutes' nap in their cell on some alien planet, right before they made their daring escape. Her brown hair is arranged neatly around her shoulders, and the Doctor can see strands of gray in it.
From one of his endlessly deep pockets, the Doctor pulls something he's been saving for her. For being in his pocket for the last two hours, the delicate flower is remarkably uncrushed. Unlike the other white flowers in the room, their scents heavy and cloying, this bloom is red with orange streaks, five petals in the shape of a star. It's light scent tickles the Doctor's nose.
"Here, Sarah," he says, reaching into her casket and placing the flower in her hands. "Thought you might want to take this with you. To remember the old Doctor by. I hope you forgive me for..." and here his voice breaks. He has to clear his throat before he can continue. It's like there's a lump there that he can't swallow. "For leaving you behind that one time. You had to come all the way back from Aberdeen. I'm sorry, Sarah." He pauses and looks down at her face. "You know how much I hate goodbyes," he whispers. His mouth turns up in a slight smile. "But for you, I'll do it. Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith."
He turns and walks straight out of the church without looking back. He feels as though he is made of glass, and if he sees any more, he will shatter.
He can't seem to get away from the church without at least one person stopping him. She's a blue-haired lady who introduces herself as Sarah Jane's neighbour.
"A nice woman," the lady says. "A lovely neighbour. But always lots of banging coming from the attic late at night."
The Doctor nods shortly. There doesn't seem to be anything else to say. He just wants to get back to his TARDIS, back home, and away from here.
"You were a friend of Sarah Jane's?" the woman asks him, scrutenizing his face. "I don't recognize you, and I lived beside her for ten years."
The Doctor blinks rapidly, refocusing on her words.
"Yes," he says dully. "A friend of Sarah's."
"Doctor, you've got a new bowtie," Amy says cheerfully, bouncing straight up the ramp to him. She smells like sea air and growing things.
The Doctor fiddles with it.
"Yeah," he replies lightly. "Do you like it?"
Amy makes a face.
"It's black," she says. "Not really your colour, Doctor." She bounces back over to Rory to tease him about his sunburn, and the Doctor watches her go. So full of energy, such a force of nature is Amy Pond. She seems to shine with an intense inner light. Sarah Jane was once just like her.
The Doctor fiddles with his black bowtie.
It is so easy to forget that they are mortal; but oh, he never forgets.
For Elisabeth Sladen, 1 February 1948- 19 April 2011. Sarah Jane, you will not be forgotten, by the Doctor or by any of us.