Author's Note - My humble tribute to the lovely Elisabeth Sladen, who passed away yesterday due to cancer. We will miss her. It's such a blow to the world of Who, especially so soon after the loss of Nicholas Courtney.
Disclaimer - I own nothing, Doctor Who belongs to the BBC.
There were too many funerals.
The Doctor had been to so many of them across the years. Old friends, even old enemies died around him. Most recently, he had been to the Brigadier's memorial and burned the Master on a pyre himself. It was the curse of the Time Lords.
But this one, he didn't expect. This was out of the blue and jarring, and somehow that made it hurt more.
He had received a phone call from Martha Jones one day. It made sense – after all, she had been connected to UNIT – but of all the people to break that sort of news, Martha was not the one he would expect. She had sounded shaken, and the Doctor had known something was wrong from the start.
Then she had said it. "You need to come back to Earth. It's Sarah Jane."
It's Sarah Jane. Three words he wasn't expecting, and three words that managed to break both of his hearts.
He had gone there instantly. Made some excuse to keep Amy and Rory in the TARDIS. Met Martha as soon as he could at the newest UNIT base. It only seemed seconds before he was standing in the misty churchyard, surrounded by people he barely knew. The girl, Rani, clutching a single rose. The young man, Clyde, trying to hold it together. Sarah's son, Luke, who just looked confused, head buried in the shoulder of one Maria, whom the Doctor had never met. Later, he was told that she had flown straight from America to come to the funeral.
It was small, but beautiful. There were many people telling many stories – some, even of normal life from people that the Doctor had never seen before. That was when he realised that, although Sarah devoted her life to him, he barely knew anything about hers. Not after she had left him.
Behind him, he heard a small noise, a sort of robotic whine. A barely audible voice spoke up, and he knew instantly that K9 had crept into the ceremony.
Turning, the Doctor saw the little robot dog hidden among the tombstones, head bowed. He smiled sadly at him, but he didn't think K9 noticed.
Looking back to the grave, he saw that most other people had left, with only the children and their parents remaining. Not wishing to disturb them, the Doctor crept silently to read the headstone, to say his last goodbye.
RIP Sarah Jane Smith 1948-2011. We will never forget.
"Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith." The Doctor whispered. This time, it was the last.
And somewhere, in that one part of the Universe that the Doctor had never seen, Sarah Jane woke up.
She was confused, at first, recalling her brief trip into the featureless Limbo. That was not an experience she wanted to revisit. Looking around her, she could see nothing but emptiness – everything around her was blank and white. She was alone.
Well, nearly alone.
"Hello again, old thing." came a warm and instantly recognisable voice from behind her. She spun around, her mouth instantly forming a response.
"Harry Sullivan, if you call me 'old thing' one more time I'll-" She blinked, realising what she was saying. "Harry? But...but you..."
"Ssh." he replied with a smile. "I must say, Sarah, you look..." Harry broke off, choking back a tear. "You look incredible."
"But you're dead." Sarah said slowly, realisation about what had happened dawning on her. "Does that mean I'm...?"
"I'm afraid so, Miss Smith." Said another voice, the voice of the Brigadier, and she realised she was smiling despite herself. "But let's not worry about that now, shall we? Someone here's been waiting for you for a while."
Standing behind him was the Doctor. Not the new one – the one that looked like a young teacher – but her Doctor. The old one. The first Doctor she had ever met.
"Doctor!" she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. "It's you! I mean, it's you." Suddenly, she was aware that the others were laughing at her, and she couldn't help joining them.
It was ridiculous. She had so many questions, and not enough time to ask them all. But now the Doctor was offering her his arm, and it seemed that they had places to be.
"Where are we going?"
"You mean this isn't it?"
The Doctor chuckled. "Oh no, Miss Smith. This is just the beginning."
Arm in arm, they walked into the next great adventure.