"Sarah Jane's Last Dance"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC, and I'm not making any money from this.
"The Universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends."
- Sarah Jane Smith, School Reunion
July 4, 1976, Cape Canaveral, FL, USA.
Sarah Jane is driving Bessie down one of those long coastal Florida roads.
She and the Doctor have left the TARDIS behind at the Kennedy Space Center after clearing up that nasty incident with the Zulan Potentate trying to take over what little remained of the American space program.
But that's a whole other story.
So now the Doctor is in the passenger seat, content that for once he's not the one in control. The hot, humid air is whipping through his curly hair and making his ridiculous scarf trail off behind him like some kind of bizarre banner.
Sarah Jane reaches up to adjust the rear view mirror to a better angle. She glances over at him and smiles, her eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
"Enjoying the ride?"
"Mmmm," he replies noncommittally.
"Is that Gallifreyan for 'Don't wreck my car, Sarah Jane'?" she teases, and he laughs.
She turns on the radio, and now Paul McCartney is singing some kind of nonsense about silly love songs. The Doctor rolls his eyes, but Sarah Jane just smiles and turns the volume all the way up.
The hotel is right on the beach.
It's exclusive and pricy, and Sarah Jane doesn't ask how it is that they have a reservation when every hotel, motel, and bed and breakfast is booked up solid for the holiday weekend, the American Bicentennial.
They have a picnic on the beach, and the Doctor regales her with stories of the time he'd spent in Colonial America. Evidently, he had helped write the Declaration of Independence.
"That bit about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was my idea, you know," he tells her brightly, and it suddenly occurs to her that she's never quite sure when he's lying.
Later, they stroll on the beach among the other revelers and watch fireworks off in the distance, and she wonders how much longer it will all last.
Wrapped in a long blue robe, Sarah Jane stands on the balcony of their hotel room and looks out to sea.
"It's late," he says, and she starts. She hadn't heard him come up behind her.
"I know," she replies.
"Or early, I suppose." He lays a cool hand on her shoulder and she leans back against him, relaxing into his touch. "Depends on how you look at it."
"Doctor – "
"Shh." The hand on her shoulder slips inside her robe, and she feels like melting against his coolness.
From somewhere outside, a fragment of song seems to drift by on the breeze.
"Christ, you know it ain't easy," John Lennon's faint, faraway voice sings. "You know how hard it can be."
They stand in silence for a moment.
Out on the water, a cruise ship slips by almost silently, gliding up the coast to Port Canaveral. It looks like a giant glittery floating city coming out of the night.
She turns to face him and sees with surprise that he is naked. His head is bent and his eyes are in shadow.
"Come back to bed," he finally says. His voice is quiet, husky. "Please?"
She has the feeling that this is an ending, but neither of them knows it yet.
She nods, slips her hand into his, and follows him.
The next day, they meet Eldrad.
The Doctor is woken by the sound of Amy and Rory having a "discussion" in the corridor outside his room.
"It's not like I meant to do it!" Rory is protesting.
"But I told you to leave that switch alone!" Amy replies angrily. "Now how are we going to get all of those butterflies back in that room before he wakes up?"
Rory's reply is too low to be heard.
The Doctor sighs. He gets out of bed and begins looking for his clothes.
As he dresses, he tries not to think of the dream he had been having:
A cruise ship was slowly leaving port. Sarah Jane stood on a balcony, her head and shoulders wrapped loosely with a gauzy white cloth.
On shore, he jogged along after the ship, futilely trying to keep up while not tripping over his scarf.
The ship's speed increased, and it sailed off toward the horizon.
He fell to his knees, defeated, exhausted.
"Goodbye, Doctor!" Sarah Jane called, waving. "Goodbye!"
He suddenly wonders what the date it is, and a voice inside his head that sounds very much like his Fourth self assures him that he really doesn't want to know.