Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. Only in my dreams. *sigh*
A/N: Takes place after Canary Wharf, but before Bad Wolf Bay.
She watched him from the doorway to her kitchen. He sat on her sofa, saying nothing, staring into space.
She had never known him to be so quiet. So still.
The tea she had gone to make was ready, had been ready for half an hour. She had put it together on a tray, together with biscuits she knew he liked, but after one look at his face from the doorway she had hesitated returning to the living room.
It was a look she had never seen on his face, not in all the years she had known him. He looked… lost. He looked like he was… grieving. And it looked to be such a private emotion she had hesitated, was still hesitating, on intruding on it.
But the tea was getting cold, probably needed reheating already, and the man she had loved for most of her life, who had once been her best friend, needed her. So she steeled herself up and carried the tray to the living room, placing it on the low table in front of the sofa.
"Here we are," she said, forcing a smile on her face.
"Thank you." It was the first thing he had said since she had discovered him on her doorstep.
He hadn't knocked. He hadn't needed to. As soon as she had heard the familiar wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS she had run to the door. When she had flung it open, she found him standing there.
"What's wrong?" she had said instantly, her smile fading from her face.
He had just stared at her, his dark brown eyes wide and full of pain. He had opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She put her arm around his thin body and pulled him inside, feeling him tremble slightly under her arm. She led him to the living room, and, after getting him settled, she had said something about tea and had fled to the kitchen. What on earth had happened?
Now, having placed a mug of tea in his hands, she sat down opposite him and really looked at him. He looked so pale, his smattering of freckles standing out in sharp relief against his skin. His hair was a mess, and not the calculated messy style she had discovered he had taken to wearing. Instead, it stood out at all angles as if he had been running his hands through it in frustration. He sat forward and looked at her, mug held in both hands, his elbows resting on his pinstripe clad knees.
"Doctor, what's wrong?"
She saw his hands tighten convulsively on the mug.
She reached over and removed the mug from his hands, placing it on the table, and waited.
He took a deep breath and held it for a moment, closing his eyes. He slowly exhaled. He opened his eyes, not looking at her.
"She's gone, Sarah."
"What?" Whatever she had been expecting, this wasn't it. "Rose? Is she…"
His body tensed and he looked up at her sharply, almost angrily. "No. She's…safe. She's…with her family."
"Then, Doctor, I don't understand. If she's okay…. If you took her home…. "
He shook his head. He closed his eyes again and crossed his arms tightly, hugging himself. When she saw he was shaking, she jumped up and rounded the table. She sat down next to him on the sofa and pulled him into a hug. His breath came out ragged. Was he, was he crying?
So he hadn't taken her home. Rose must have left. With a jolt, Sarah Jane realized the truth.
"Oh, my God. You're in love with her," she whispered.
His whole body stiffened.
She felt as if she had been kicked in the gut, and she forced down the wave of jealousy that threatened to overtake her. This wasn't about her. This was about him, and if she had ever really cared for him she needed to be there for him.
No matter how much it hurt.
So the Doctor hadn't just dumped Rose off the way he had Sarah Jane. Which meant Rose had left. She was surprised. After her conversation with Rose about the Doctor, she had gotten the impression that Rose was going to stay with him. She had even suggested to Rose to seek her out when the Doctor inevitably, in Sarah Jane's opinion, left. She would never have guessed it would be the Doctor she would be comforting when Rose left.
She pulled away from him enough to look him in the face. "Does she know how you feel about her?"
"Are you sure?" she pressed him. "Because the last time I saw her I got the impression from her that she didn't. And if she's left you…."
The Doctor pulled away from her. "Rose didn't leave, Sarah!" he yelled in frustration. "She's been trapped and I can't get to her!" He jumped up and crossed the room. After several moments he turned back to her. "Oh, I am so, so sorry, Sarah," he said quietly, ashamed of his outburst. "I didn't mean to lose my temper at you." He returned to the sofa, sinking back down on it and resting his head in his hands.
"It's all right, Doctor," Sarah Jane said comfortingly. "It's not the first time I've ever heard you yell."
His mouth twitched. "No, I suppose not." He took another deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Doctor, did you ever tell her how you feel about her?"
"Oh, Sarah, it scared me so much. I thought somehow, if I could keep my distance, it wouldn't hurt as much when she eventually left. But now I can't imagine…" his voice trailed off.
It was clear what he meant. He couldn't imagine it hurting more than it did now.
"Doctor, what happened to Rose?" she asked quietly.
He swallowed thickly. "We were at Canary Wharf, in London. There's an organization there, Torchwood, which was set up to combat alien threats. They had somehow gotten the bright idea that they should play around with a hole in the fabric of the universe. The Cybermen from a parallel universe used the hole to break through the Void to this universe."
"A dead space between universes. Some cultures call it Hell." He sighed. "At the same time as they were playing around with the hole, these idiots at Torchwood had found a Void ship that they were trying to open. It was full of Daleks. I had the brilliant," he said sarcastically, "idea to open the breach and send all the Cybermen and Daleks into the Void. Rose tried to help me, but she slipped and almost fell into the Void. At the last second, she was caught and brought over to the parallel world, but now she's trapped there. I can't get her back. The breach has been sealed."
"Doctor, I remember the fight with the Cybermen at Canary Wharf. That was weeks ago."
"Weeks ago for you, perhaps. For me it's been five hours, thirty-seven minutes, and," he paused, "twenty-eight seconds."
They sat in silence for a few moments. Finally the Doctor leaned back against the back of the sofa, staring at the ceiling.
"Sarah, four months ago the TARDIS landed us on Krop Tor. It was an impossible planet in orbit around a black hole. Absolutely should not have existed. The people there were drilling into it, trying to harvest the energy that was keeping it in place. A portion of the base collapsed, taking the TARDIS with it. I was desperate to find it, to get it back. I remember shouting at anyone who would listen that the TARDIS was literally the only thing I had.
"Rose and I were stuck there. I felt so terrible, so guilty. I had stranded her in the future with no way I could see that I'd ever be able to get her home. Then we started joking about it, to lighten the mood a little. We talked about having to get real lives, with real jobs and houses with doors and carpets and mortgages." He smiled a little at the memory. "Here she was, stranded on a distant planet in the future, and she was trying to cheer me up. She said that being stranded with me wasn't so bad. She even suggested we could share a place." He paused for a moment.
The Doctor sat up, looking into her eyes. When he continued, his voice was low and quiet. "Sarah, I froze." To Sarah Jane's ears he sounded a bit ashamed of himself. "She immediately backpedaled a bit, as soon as she saw my reaction."
"So what happened?"
"Oh, you know, the usual, found the TARDIS, defeated a monster, rescued a spacecraft and saved the Universe."
"So same old, same old."
"Pretty much." He paused. "Sarah, when I thought the TARDIS was gone, I thought I had lost everything. But I know I was wrong, because now I have. When Rose said we could share a place, I didn't say anything. I hesitated, and then we were interrupted. But I was gonna say yes."
As Sarah Jane listened to the Doctor, her heart broke for him and for Rose. That small admission by him was the equivalent of a flowery declaration of love by another. She turned her head away from him, so he couldn't see the tears that had sprung to her eyes. She composed herself, and then turned back to him.
"Doctor, why are you here?"
He laughed ruefully. "The TARDIS brought me. I don't even remember setting coordinates. I remember entering the TARDIS, and then the next thing I knew I had arrived here." He looked at her sharply. "That's alright, isn't it, me being here?"
"Of course it is," she said, patting his arm. "You're my friend; you are always welcome here. But that's not what I meant. What I meant was, why are you here instead of trying to reach Rose?"
He jumped up and began to pace the room. "Sarah Jane, I explained it to you. I can't. I literally can't. The walls between the universes are sealed. It's impossible."
"Doctor, while I was traveling with you I felt a bit like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass. She believed six impossible things before breakfast. I've seen you do six impossible things before breakfast. I believe you are capable of doing almost anything. The impossible things just take you a little longer.
"I don't know if you'll be able to find a way to reach her, but I know you have to try. I know you. You can move the sun, the moon, and the stars when you have to. And even if you can't reach her, perhaps you'll find a way to say goodbye to her."
The Doctor stopped pacing and stared at her, a look of intense concentration on his face. "A star," he whispered. "A supernova." A grin lit up his face.
"Oh, oh Sarah, you're brilliant," he said slowly. He rushed toward her and lifted her up, pulling her into a hug. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" He ran out the front door.
Sarah Jane walked to her door just in time to see the TARDIS fading from sight.
"You're welcome, Doctor."