Disclaimer: It all belongs to the BBC. I am only borrowing the characters for a while and I will put them back where I found them.
Thanks to Sue for the beta.
"I really have to protest this, Brigadier," Harry scowled at the Brigadier as he watched Sarah and the Doctor packing up the things that she'd acquired for him over the course of the past few days. "Sending him home with Sarah…"
"There really isn't any other choice, Sullivan," the Brigadier said gruffly. "Do you think you can convince her that she shouldn't take him home?"
Harry fell silent, "Perhaps I should go and stay."
"I think not," the Brigadier cut him off before he could go too far down that train of thought. "Liz and I spend a fair bit of time with Sarah Jane. They've gotten quite close." He paused. "And keeping watch over her isn't going to endear you to her."
"If he isn't the Doctor," Harry stubbornly clung to that belief.
"No, Major," the Brigadier shook his head. "One thing I have become convinced of in the past few days is that he is the Doctor. You didn't see him with her before he changed."
"I don't like it." Harry scowled. "She doesn't act like herself with him around – not even when she was with him before."
"Actually she does," the Brigadier corrected the other man. "I know it seems strange to you, but she has always allowed him… this version of him to protect her more to some extent or another." What interested him more was how this version of the Doctor, who protested that he had no memory of even knowing Sarah Jane, had begun to show every sign of being just as protective of her as he'd always been.
"We're all set to go," Sarah came out beaming, a small bag in her hands. "He can have my guest room at Croydon and if the TARDIS appears, we'll come straight away."
"It's doubtful that it would. I think they intend me to be exiled here permanently this time." The Doctor carried the larger bag, containing his clothing as well as some lab equipment he'd appropriated.
Sarah immediately felt badly at the flash of excitement she felt at the idea that the Doctor would be here, with her, forever. "We shouldn't discount the possibility. Besides, there's still the fact that from what we know – you seem to have lost a … gained a…"
The Doctor looked at her in amusement. "Yes, quite." He settled his hand in the small of her back, "After you, my dear."
Harry fell back and frowned as he followed Sarah, the Doctor and the Brigadier out into the parking lot.
"We'll keep a look out, Ms. Smith," the Brigadier assured her. "I would like some answers in that regard as well."
"I suppose I shall have to take your word for it. The pair of you," the Doctor nodded. "I still can't remember any of it." He eyed her car in bemusement. "Well, I have to say the car does suit you, Sarah Jane."
"Oh," she huffed at him playfully. "Get in you, before I leave you here with Harry and the Brigadier."
"Now that would be a fate worse than death," the Doctor said as he put the larger bag onto the roof rack and strapped it down.
"Sarah," Harry started, but he saw the look on her face and knew that whatever he had to say wouldn't be well received. "Drive safely."
"I will," Sarah graced him with a bright smile – almost as a reward for his self control.
He nodded and stepped back from the car as both the Doctor and Sarah went for the driver's door. "Unless you're opening the door for me, Doctor," Sarah arched her brow at him.
"Now Sarah," the Doctor started.
"Oh no," She shook her head as she put her hands on her hips. "Would you let me pilot the TARDIS?"
"Don't be silly." The Doctor frowned at her. "The TARDIS is a finely tuned piece of technology."
"That's yours." Sarah summed it up. "And I wouldn't expect you to let me. Yet, you seem to think I should just budge over and let you drive Ethel."
"Ethel?" The Doctor had an amused look on his face again.
"Yes, Ethel." Sarah scowled. "Pot, kettle, Doctor, you named your car Bessie."
"I wasn't aware I had a car," the Doctor looked curious.
"I'll have her pulled from storage." The Brigadier promised.
The Doctor made his way around to the passenger side and looked down at the seat speculatively. "Do you really expect me to fit in this little sardine can of yours?"
"Oh stop whinging, Doctor." Sarah slipped into the driver's side. "The seat pushes back far enough and there's quite a bit of leg room in these little cars."
"I'll believe it when I see it." He reached down and adjusted the seat, then grimaced as he folded himself into the seat.
Sarah rolled her eyes at him, "Honestly, Doctor." She grinned as he pulled the door closed and gave a little wave to Harry and the Brigadier as she pulled out from the lot and headed back to Croydon.
For a moment, Harry seemed to deflate then drew himself back together. "Well, I suppose I should report back to my regular duties, Brigadier." He nodded at the other man, knowing that Benton had already taken his leave earlier after saying his farewells to Sarah and the Doctor.
"Sullivan," The Brigadier started, wanting to say something to help the other man, but found that there was nothing he could say. "Good work, Major."
"Thank you, sir." Harry saluted then turned and walked away.
The car was silent as they drove back to London. It was curious to the Doctor as Sarah hadn't seemed to have any problems talking to him back at UNIT headquarters. The silence wasn't exactly awkward per say, but it wasn't comfortable either. There were little glances she kept sending in his direction as well that he wasn't entirely certain how to interpret.
In the driver's seat, Sarah felt a bit daft really. She'd been so anxious to get him away, to take him home. There was so much she wanted to tell him about – but this version of the Doctor barely even knew her. Would he really be interested in anything she had to tell him?
"So, Sarah," the Doctor broke the silence, "You know it occurs to me that I don't even know how you and I met each other."
"I travelled with you." Sarah tried to avoid answering, but from the look on the Doctor's face she could tell that he knew she was skipping details. "Oh alright, I thought you were behind the disappearances of some scientists." She flushed a little at the admission. "Though I did admit I was wrong fairly quickly."
"Quite an admission from the fairer sex," the Doctor said bemusedly.
Sarah started to laugh. "You said nearly the same exact thing then."
"Well then, we can't be in too terrible straights now can we?" He smiled widely at her, enjoying the joy he could see in her expression when she laughed.
"No, I suppose we aren't." Sarah ducked her head slightly, but looked back out to the road. "It was a Sontaran." She added after a moment.
"Really?" The Doctor's brow arched as he took that in. "Well, out with it, Sarah. I can tell you're dying to tell me all about it."
"But, shouldn't we see if you can remember it on your own? Isn't this a bit like spoilers if you're from before all of this happened?" Sarah frowned.
"Hmmm… Quite right," the Doctor nodded in agreement after some consideration, "Shall we stick to safer subject matter then?"
"Like what?" Sarah enjoyed talking to him, just listening to the sound of his voice, too much to say no.
"A journalist who continues to work with a para-military organization long after her main reason for doing so has gone," the Doctor had put that much together from observation.
Sarah shook her head. "They're my friends." She said simply.
"And you obviously take friendships very seriously," the Doctor observed.
"Is there another way to take them?" A little of the venom that had built up in her broke free with those words.
"No. There shouldn't be." The Doctor admitted.
"Oh, Doctor, I'm sorry." Sarah looked at him. "I don't need to dredge up these things. You don't even remember any of it and it may not have even happened to you."
"It's me that should be sorry," the Doctor said, looking at her kindly. "I hurt you rather badly didn't I, Sarah? And yet here you are, looking out for me, taking me into your home."
"I should say something clever like, that would be telling, shouldn't I?" Sarah quipped, trying to keep the shaking out of her voice.
"You could," the Doctor agreed, "but I think starting with a clean slate would be preferable, don't you?"
"It seems to me you do have a clean slate." Sarah smiled at him then looked back to the road, using it as a way to keep herself together, but even without knowing her well the Doctor could tell it wasn't as bright or unrestrained as it should have been.
"Perhaps," he looked at her seriously. "I assume I left?" Her silence was his answer. "You know a Time Lord doesn't die. We regenerate. Our body heals and changes at the point of death. We can do that thirteen times, and this is my third time."
"Yes, I know." Sarah said softly still not taking her eyes from the road. Not wanting to tell him that she'd seen him regenerate from this body to the next.
"Ah, so… you've seen it then." He could tell she was keeping something back, but given their conversation about spoilers, he decided not to pry. "Good." He paused as he gathered his thoughts. "Now imagine Sarah, that you're a Time Lord who can not die and yet… your best friend," He couldn't imagine her being anything less than his best friend, "Your best friend is a species who doesn't regenerate but grows old and dies after far too short a season."
The Doctor watched as she swallowed hard then spoke softly, "I suppose that's why you didn't come back."
"A bit cowardly for someone who always tries to be the hero, eh?" He kept his tone almost playful. "Yes, that's why I wouldn't have come back. Not because I didn't want to Sarah, but because I couldn't. Not and have to face what I knew would come eventually."
The only sound in the car was the engine running and the other sounds that driving made, until finally Sarah spoke up again. "You're here now though aren't you?" It was obvious from the expression on her face that she'd decided to forgive him.
He wasn't certain he deserved it even though he didn't remember any of what he'd done, if he'd done it yet. In fact, he was fairly certain he didn't. However he wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth either. "That I am, with no visible means of escape." He winked at her and was delighted to see her bright smile there again. He paused then continued. "And strangely enough I appear to be human and travelling on this slow path much the way you are."
Sarah didn't even have to think about it. For so long as he was here, and walking the slow path, she intended to walk it beside him, "Well it might not be as much of an adventure as travelling in the TARDIS together, but I'm certain we'll find enough trouble to keep us occupied."