Dedicated to Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is owned by the BBC.
A/N: Yes, I'm still working on my tribute to the Brigadier. Please be patient for any and all of my works-in-progress.
A Broken Heart Still Beats
She could hear the whooshing of the engine, a sound so alien yet so familiar, a fitting signal to represent the man who so emboddied this paradox. She ran down the street, as fast as her not-so-young anymore body would allow.
There, sitting on the grass as though it was always there, was a blue box. She didn't knock on the door. She didn't even walk up to it. Instead, she hid partially behind a nearby tree and watched as two figures emerged: one, a young, petite blond lady in a pretty sundress, and the other was a man she had never thought to see again.
He was the Doctor. Not the tall, skinny, dark-haired Doctor she met at Deffry Vale High School and later again when they banded up to defeat Davros and the Daleks. Nor was it the white-haired, velvet-wearing Doctor; the one she had first known him as, the one who introduced her to possibilities she had never imagined could exist, whom she saw die before her eyes. No, this was the Doctor who left her by choice: the goofy, childish, fun-loving man who broke her heart.
His back was to her, but she recognized his moppish hair and the colorful scarf that carpeted the ground by his feet. She dared to get a better look. As she neared, she could hear his blond companion saying, "Doctor, I don't see why we're here. There's nothing interesting in twenty-first century Ealing. The Randomizer was a bust this time."
"Oh come on, Romana," the Doctor asked. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
"Back on Corinth XI, I should imagine," answered Romana. "Along with my sense of curiosity."
"Almost get eaten by one giant Slymereen and you lose all your regard for fun."
"It does tend to make one lose one's gaiety, doesn't it?" She then paused for a moment. "Doctor," Romana suddenly whispered. "Don't look now, but I think someone is watching us."
"Where?" asked the Doctor. She nodded in Sarah Jane's direction, and the Doctor quickly turned his head before Sarah Jane could disappear from view.
"Sarah Jane!" he said, surprised.
"Hello, Doctor," said Sarah Jane, taking a long breath before coming closer.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, unsure of what to say in this sort of situation.
"Me?" she said. "I live here. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, just visiting."
The blond cleared her throat, and the Doctor suddenly remembered his manners. "Sarah Jane, I'd like you to meet Romana. Romana, this is Sarah Jane Smith."
"Pleased to meet you," said Sarah Jane.
"Did you used to travel with the Doctor?" asked Romana.
"Yes. A long time ago."
"How have you been, Sarah Jane?" asked the Doctor.
"Good," she said. "Busy." She didn't understand why she felt so strange around him. She had already discussed any unresolved issues with his later self, but the man standing before her didn't know that. He seemed nervous, a trait she rarely ever recalled seeing in him. She knew that if they were going to have a pleasant conversation that she was going to have to make the first step. She was searching her brain for the perfect topic when the Doctor did something very surprising: he spoke first.
"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said. "I'm not quite used to this. When a companion and I part ways, I usually never get to see them again."
"Oh," said Sarah Jane. That won't always be true, she thought to herself.
"But that doesn't mean I don't miss them," he said. He turned to Romana, as though he was also saying this for her, which caught Sarah Jane's attention, but she pushed the thought aside for now.
"I know," Sarah Jane said. "I have thought about you, though. Sometimes I look up at the sky and wonder what you're doing: which planet you're saving, what sort of trouble you're getting into, if you've regenerated..."
"Not yet," he said.
There was silence for a moment until Sarah Jane's mouth opened again and her feelings burst forth. "You left me, Doctor! I didn't know what became of you. I didn't know what would happen. Do you know how that feels?"
"I understand," he said to her, softly. "I hurt you and I left you, and there's nothing I can do to change that. All I can ask is your forgiveness."
"Doctor," said Sarah Jane, instantly perceiving the pain of loss he will hold within him one day, and realizing he has always done so for far longer than she's even known him. She had already forgiven him so long ago, and hoped he could eventually do the same for himself. "No matter how angry you make me, I will always forgive you. No matter how sad I get thinking about how you left me behind, I will always dry my tears at the thought of all the good times we've shared. And no matter how long I have to wait, I always will for you."
"You're good girl, Sarah," was all he said to her, was all he needed to say.
She smiled and embraced him in a tight hug. He lightly stroked her hair, and she breathed in his half-remembered scent. After a long moment, they again parted. "I need to get going," Sarah Jane explained. "Responsibilities and all."
"I know," said the Doctor. "You've grown up a lot since I last saw you."
"Who knows?" said Sarah Jane. "Perhaps we'll see each other again?"
"I won't make you any promises," said the Doctor, warily.
"I know," she said. "Just... don't forget me."
"Never," the Doctor said, a faint smile forming across his lips.
"Goodbye, Doctor," she said. "And it was nice to meet you Romana. Take care of him for me."
"I will," said Romana.
She turned and began to walk away. At one point she turned around, and saw that they were both still watching her. "Goodbye, Sarah Jane," she could hear the Doctor say as he waved his hand.
She reciprocated the wave and turned forward again, whistling as she made her way back home.
"Doctor," said Romana. "She seemed very nice."
"Oh," said the Doctor. "One of the best."
"Why did you leave her?" she asked.
"I had to," he explained. "Gallifrey called, and I had to answer. She couldn't come with me."
"You brought Leela, though?" said Romana.
"That was different," said the Doctor. "Those were special circumstances. I didn't have time to drop Leela off like I should have.
"Anyway, she didn't need me anymore. Sarah Jane has always proven to be a very capable woman when she sets her mind to it."
"Still," said Romana. "I suppose you missed her."
"I always miss all of my friends when we part company. And I just hope that they have the capacity to live their lives with the sense of wonder and possibilities that I've tried to teach them is always out there."
"Is that what you've been doing with me, Doctor?" asked Romana.
"Of course," the Doctor smiled. He pondered for a moment. "What a marvelous idea I've just had," he said. He turned around to unlock the TARDIS and stepped back inside.
Romana followed quickly behind him. "What are you doing, Doctor?"
"Come on," he said. "You're going to help me build K-9 Mark III."
"To give to Sarah Jane?" asked Romana.
"She's not the only one whose heart was broken that day," he said. "But if I've learned anything over the years, it's that some things are worth getting your heart broken for."
"And was it worth it with her, Doctor?" she asked.
"It truly was, Romana," he said. "It truly was."