Oh the tears I've cried over the last (nearly) twenty-four hours. Lis Sladen, though I never met her, was so bloody important to me. I've cried more for her than I have for most other people who've passed on. In fact, I only know four I've cried as much for Jon Pertwee, my horse Ruby, my nan, and my dad. And I'm forty so I've seen my fair share of dying.
Then my lovely versions of the characters we know and love, started poking me in the side. Living in my head, they knew and they were grieving too. Cuddled together, taking comfort in one another. It made me smile. So I went to bed, got up and all of the sudden Oliver announced that he, Sarah and the muse had something they needed me to write.
And so I did.
As always this all belongs to the BEEB. I don't think, this time, they'll mind me borrowing it. It probably won't make much sense unless you've read Taking in Strays. Please feel free - some have told me it's a lovely way to cheer up. Oh and there are minor spoilers here for future events there.
As he always was, Oliver was hyper aware of Sarah's every movement in their bed, especially as she started stirring while having a bad dream.
"Sarah," he sat up and stroked her shoulder, which stilled her.
"I don't want to go," she whimpered, still in sleep.
Oliver's brow furrowed. "You don't have to go anywhere, Sarah. Come on now, wake up." His gaze held more concern now until her beautiful eyes opened and she looked up at him. "Hello." He brushed the bangs from her face and waited.
"I had a nightmare I think." She pulled herself up beside him and took a deep breath as he wrapped his arms around her. "I don't remember much. Just impressions, fragments really. It was time for me to, well, go." She paused and looked up into his eyes, unwilling to say the words. "And I didn't want to. Even though I was in pain, I didn't want to leave my family."
"Shhhh!" He always knew this was a possibility, even one that he didn't like to face, given they were taking the slow path together, but he was younger, she was older. There'd been a few amusing incidents and some insulting ones because of that lone fact. He twisted the golden band on his finger, not wanting to think of a life without her, though he knew he would go on when the time came, taking care of their family. "It's not going to happen."
"It could," she said insistently. "I'm not exactly a spring chicken."
"And tomorrow I could get hit by a bus or shot." He grinned as her hand pressed across his mouth.
"Don't say it." She looked at him threateningly then her brow furrowed. "I don't think it was me though, in the dream. Except it was, yet it wasn't. It felt so very odd. I got the impression that I felt as though I was letting so many people down."
"Now that's just silly Sarah Jane Smith. And aren't you glad I decided to keep using Smith as a last name?" Oliver rolled his eyes at her. "You or the person in your dream, could never let anyone down. Not even if you had to, as you say, go."
He paused, locking gazes with her before continuing. "You're amazing, Sarah. You've done so much. Even if you didn't do another thing for the rest of your life, you've already given so much. Of course, we know that isn't going to happen. And this other you, or not you, whether she knew it or not, did more than she knew. Whether it was for one person, two important people in her life, or for the entire world. If she has gone, then people all over the world are mourning her. Everyone whose lives she touched, whether they really knew her or not don't think she let them down. Not one iota." He tapped her nose.
"Do you really think so?" Sarah cocked her head and looked out their bedroom window, the moonlight reflecting off her hair and in her eyes.
"Of course I do," he nodded slowly. "It's like ripples in a pond, Sarah, so how couldn't I? Believe it, I mean. We're all linked one way or another." He took a deep breath, breathing her scent in and pushing away any thoughts of what came at the end of the slow path.
"Just remember though, even though that you, or rather not you is gone, think about the universe the Doctor left Rose in. There she'd gone and Mickey too. But there, you were happy with Peter. You go on here with me, and I'm not about to let you go any time soon, even if I had to prostrate myself in front of the Doctor and Captain Jack to keep you with me. And in a thousand other worlds, in a thousand other universes, there has been and always will be a Sarah Jane Smith. Keeping the dark away, whether for a chosen few or for many."
There was silence for a moment and he could see the reflection of the moonlight in a tear rolling down her cheek. "Do you think we could go outside into the garden for a bit? I think I'd like to say goodbye to her too. I can't help thinking she was very important to me too."
"Course we can." He smiled softly then swung from the bed and offered her his hand and helped her up. "And tomorrow, we'll take Bessie and go up to Oxford to visit Luke. Take the entire family up."
"I love you, Oliver Smith," Sarah murmured as she allowed herself to be pulled up into his arms.
"And I love you, my Sarah Jane," Oliver grinned back.
"Coming down?" She asked as she moved to retrieve her dressing gown and wrapped it around herself.
"Give me a moment," he smiled reassuringly then gestured at his boxers. "Need to put on a pair of sweats if we're going outside." He watched silently as she nodded much the way she had when she'd left the TARDIS all those years ago, and then walked from the room.
He slowly moved to the window and looked out into the stars. A tear fell from his eye as his mind, still partially Gallifreyan and aware of more than he would ever say, brought him the sad knowledge that Sarah's half remembered dream didn't provide her.
"Goodbye, Elisabeth," he whispered softly as the name of this other woman that he owed so much to came into his mind unbidden. "And thank you, ever so much for giving me my Sarah Jane."
RIP Lis Sladen 1948 - 2011. We miss you.