By Michael Weyer
Doctor Who owned by the BBC.
As many others are, I was stunned and heartbroken at the loss of Elisabeth Sladen. I didn't think I would do a tribute fic as there were so many but when this approach hit me, I dashed it off before I knew it.
Maybe he should have worn black after all.
He hated changing his style, he truly did. That was something that remained through all his regenerations. But maybe he should have tried something black, even his tie. It didn't feel right to be in his usual outfit at a funeral. Then again, it never felt right at a funeral at all. That was something else that had carried through his various lives.
He wanted to go in. He could see the crowd at the church, many faces so familiar to him. He could see a tear-stricken Luke and Clyde and Rani. He wanted to go to them, to talk, to try and tell them he knew how it felt.
But he didn't. He couldn't. He had to wait. Even for him, there were some fates he couldn't get away from.
He heard the crunching of leaves and turned his head to see the first of the men he had expected. His grey suit was fitting for him, a long black coat for a change, the face more somber than usual. He began to slow down as he saw the other man before finally stopping. They stared at each other for a long moment before the first man spoke.
"I was almost thinking you weren't coming," Eleven said.
Ten shrugged. "You should have known I would. I remember coming here before and seeing you. And me."
"Yes but you know as well as I how wibbly-wobbly time can get."
Ten looked him over before frowning. "Bow tie?"
"Bow ties are cool," Eleven said defensively.
Ten leaned in to check out the other man's hair and shook his head. "Still not ginger…"
"I know, I know," Eleven sighed. "But better than could be."
"Very true, could be Six." They both winced at that. Ten gazed at the church and sighed. "It's only been a few months since the Brigadier, right?"
Eleven nodded. "Yes. It doesn't seem right, her taken so soon after him."
"We both know nothing fair about how it works," Ten pointed out. "I'd still hoped though…"
"So did I," Eleven said softly. "Especially her. If anyone deserved to cheat death, it was her."
They both turned at footsteps even though they knew who it was. He was the same as they remembered: The huge coat, the Bohemian suit, the wide floppy hat and that ridiculously long scarf. What was different was that the usually ever-present grin was gone, the face more somber than it usually was. He paused before them as he rummaged through his coat to produce a bag. "Jelly baby?"
"Have our own," the other two Doctors said. Four nodded as he put the bag away. He gazed at the church silently before speaking. "I suppose I shouldn't bother asking how far along you two are?"
"Did you tell yourself before?" Eleven asked.
"Well, people tend to tell me a lot of things I forget," Four noted. He gazed at the church silently. "It's a curse, isn't it? Having to know when they pass."
"Blame Three," Ten said. "He was the one who wanted to know it all. Man was so blasted suspicious."
"Well, I'm more the trusting sort," Four stated and seemed to not notice the eye rolls of the other two.
"I had hoped..." Eleven began before glancing at them. "Well, let's just say that recent events...had me hoping somehow it could change...That maybe, just maybe..." He sighed deeply as he looked at his shoes. "But I suppose some things can't be changed. No matter how much we want them to."
"I know the feeling," Ten whispered, his eyes looking out but clearly seeing someplace else.
The coming of footsteps caused them to look and see the man all three had been waiting for. As always, he was elegant in a dark red coat with frilled sleeves, immaculate pants and the sharp nose highlighting his proud face. He stopped, frowning as he took in the three men before them. It took a moment for him to realize who he was looking at before rolling his own eyes. "Oh, for heaven's sake, this is what I have to look forward to?"
"Now, now, don't be rude," Eleven said. "Believe me, by the time you get to where I am, you'll appreciate yourself a lot more."
Ten glanced at him in surprise. "You're more upbeat than I expected."
"Well, I have reasons," Eleven said. He looked back at the church and sighed. "Of course, today's not one of them."
All four stared out silently, taking in the mourners moving in and out. "I don't even know why I came," Three finally spoke. "I hardly know the woman. It's just…when I looked up her date of death…I just felt the need to come here."
"You'll know why," Four softly said. "You'll understand."
Three frowned. "Perhaps I shouldn't know that much now…"
"No, no, we'll keep spoilers to a minimum," Ten said. He glanced at Four. "You already left her behind?"
He nodded. "I did." He was quiet for a moment. "I do hope she got over it."
"Eventually," Ten allowed. He smiled at the other Time Lord. "She had a family. Adopted son and close friends."
"Really?" Four smiled. "Fancy that."
Three scoffed. "Oh, heaven help the poor child raised by that woman. She is so forceful and bossy and stubborn, never listens, always goes her own way…"
"In other words, perfect for us," Eleven said with a smile. Three glowered at him as Eleven shook his head. "I forgot just how judgmental I was."
Ten stiffened a bit, causing Three and Four to look at him with alarm then with sympathy. "You're…near the end, aren't you?" Three asked, knowing the answer.
Ten nodded as he wiped at his lip. "I saw her before…but…I had to be here…"
"We'll see her one more time," Eleven told him gently. He glanced at Three and smiled. "With Jo, actually."
"Oh, no," Three moaned. "Those two together?"
"At least she never met Leela," Four noted. "That would be a nightmare."
"Who?" Three asked.
"Spoilers," the other three Time Lords unisoned.
Three gazed at the church and took a deep breath. "I suppose I should go. I only have a limited window here before the Time Lords find out I've taken a sidetrack visit." He looked to the other men and sighed. "She's worth bringing along?"
"She is," Four told him sincerely. "She most definitely is." Three took that in before turning to walk away. The other men stared at the church, waiting until they heard his footsteps fading.
"He'll learn," Four said, his eyes misty. "We'll learn." He had his hands in his pockets. "I told her once that I walked across eternity. But she made me stop and actually enjoy things rather than just pass through. I never...I really never told her how much she meant before I left her behind."
"I'd like to say you learn," Ten coughed. "But..."
"She learned from you too," Eleven told Four firmly. "Believe me, you helped her realize how brave she could be, how wonderful, how strong. It's because of you, how she worked with you, how inspired she was of you, that she defended Earth so much and, in turn, inspired others." He smiled at the man. "You know, I always liked you the best."
"Really?" Four seemed flattered.
Ten shrugged. "I rather had a soft spot for Five myself. But, I admit, you had your charms."
Eleven kept his soft smile up. "That time we had with her...Even after the pain and the death and all that...That's one period of my existence I wouldn't trade for anything. Neither would she. You were the best thing that happened to her and because of you, there are so many alive today that wouldn't be. Never forget that."
Four brushed at his scarf before backing up. "I…I'd rather not go in. She's too fresh to me, too raw. It….would only hurt more." He turned to walk off before stopping and glancing over his shoulder. "I'm assuming you've both taken companions since?" As they nodded, Four licked his lips. "Was…she still important?"
Ten and Eleven smiled broadly. "The best," they said together. Four smiled warmly before he walked off.
As he left, Ten glanced at Eleven. "All we've lost…The Time Lords…Gallifrey….why does she hurt the most?"
"Because she really was the best," Eleven noted. "Not even Rose touched us the way she did. She knew us, knew us through and through, no matter the incarnation. How many other humans can we say that about?"
"How many beings?" Ten retorted. "When we spared the Daleks, anyone else would have called us foolish. But she understood why." He looked downward. "After what I did on Mars…The one thought in my mind afterward…Was how ashamed of me she would be."
"Maybe not," Eleven told him. "Maybe she'd have understood even then, how much we could be pushed by loss. She knew sacrifice and knew what we had to do." He rubbed Ten's shoulder. "That's the grace that drew us to her, the spirit she never lost. She touched so many people but us…she taught us more of humanity than anyone else and that's why we feel her loss so much."
Ten nodded and then winced as he grabbed his chest, coughing a bit. Eleven just looked at him sadly, knowing what was happening.
Ten finally rose up, taking a deep breath. "I…I have to go. It's almost time and I have one more stop to make." He started off but then paused to look back at Eleven. "You're staying?"
Eleven was quiet and when he spoke it was with a tear in his eye. "I've said 'hello, Sarah Jane' so many times. It's finally time I said goodbye."
Ten smiled softly at him. "Tell her for all of us. She deserved it." He slowly walked away, the pain clear as he went on.
Behind him, Eleven turned to the church, breathing in the cool air. He adjusted his tie and brushed back his hair before starting to walk toward it. He had faced aliens, monsters, tyrants, armies, even the odd god. But to say goodbye to a human woman who had touched his hearts like few others could was the hardest thing he had ever done.
But she was worth it. She always had been and would be. His darling Sarah Jane Smith who had helped teach a Time Lord the worth of humanity.
In memory of Elisabeth Sladen. I know it's short but the emotions are so raw, hard me to go as in-depth as I might like. All comments welcomed.