Sarah Jane Smith opened her eyes and looked around. She had fallen asleep on the sofa in her attic. She had been feeling tired a lot, lately, and a nap mid-afternoon helped recharge the batteries.
But this time it felt different.
And who had called her name?
“Mr Smith?” She looked towards the semi-sentient computer, but it was closed and silent.
“Sarah Jane,” the voice said again. “It’s me, old girl.”
“Harry?” Sarah Jane looked at the figure standing in front of her. He was dressed in his best naval uniform, the one he wore on formal occasions. He was wearing the cap that made him look even more handsome and dignified. “How many times have I told you not to call me old girl? Even if it true these days….”
Then she thought about what she had said. She looked at him again.
“No, it can’t be you. You’re dead.”
“Yes, I am,” he admitted. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, old girl… but so are you.”
“What? No. I can’t be. I’m not….”
She looked around and saw herself lying very still on the sofa.
“Oh, no. Not like that. Clyde and Rani are coming round later. They’ll find me. It’ll be such a shock to them. And Luke… away at Oxford… Who’ll tell him? He’ll be so upset.”
“They’ve got each other. They will be upset, but they’ll manage. Don’t you worry. Come with me, now.”
Harry held out his hand to her. She reached and took it.
Suddenly they weren’t in her flat any more. They were in the Ritz Hotel in the centre of London. There was an awards ceremony going on. Sarah Jane watched as a very, very young version of herself stepped up to receive an award for promising young journalist of the year, 1972.
“That was where it all started,” she admitted. “I was a promising young journalist. I wanted to be more than just promising. I was so ambitious, hungry for a story. I wanted it all so much. That’s why… when I heard all about those missing scientists… and I used aunt Lavinia’s reputation to get into the facility. That was the day my life changed for ever. That was the day I met The Doctor.”
It was strange, watching herself as she was then, interacting with that white-haired, wonderful, infuriating man who had such an impact on her life from that moment on. She saw herself sneak into the TARDIS moments before it disappeared.
“Back to the twelfth century, Normans in their castle, and Linx the Sontaran causing mayhem. At first I didn’t believe it. Time travel… impossible. Oh, how naïve I was.”
The scene changed. They were on a space ship. Well, actually it wasn’t a real space ship. It was the fake ship run by those Operation Golden Earth people.
“A few years ago,” Sarah Jane said. “There was a programme on Channel 4, one of those dreadful reality shows, where they took some people and convinced them that they were going into space after training for weeks. I wondered how stupid they were. It took me less than half a day to realise there was something funny about that lot and their space ship. Even so… when I opened that airlock… into what they said was outer space… there was one brief moment when I thought I was wrong and I was going to die of asphyxiation. Poor Mike. He got into so much trouble over all that.”
Mike appeared before her eyes briefly, perhaps because she had been thinking of him just then. He was somebody else who would be sorry when he heard she was gone.
Then she was standing on an alien world. She clung to Harry’s hand tightly.
“Exxilon, the Daleks. Do we have to linger here? This is one of the adventures I’d be happy to forget.”
“We’ll see them again later, anyway,” Harry noted. “More than enough of them. Do you remember this place, then? Another alien world….”
“Peladon!” Sarah Jane laughed. “Oh, what a dismal place, and yet, rather amazing, too. I remember the queen… Thalira. She was as wet as a dishrag, listening to all the wrong people about everything. I tried to put her write about some things. And old Alpha Centauri… Of all the strange people I’ve met, he’s in the top ten.”
Now they were on Earth again. Sarah Jane watched a kind of montage of the events that led up to the second most momentous phase of her friendship with The Doctor. Her visit to the meditation centre where Mike was staying after his nervous breakdown, those horrible spiders, Metabelis III, and then they were back at U.N.I.T., The Doctor was dying… regenerating….”
“That’s where I came in,” Harry said with a smile. “That very day we were all plunged into a mad adventure.”
“The new Doctor….”
“He tied me up in a cupboard,” Harry remembered.
“That lot at the Thinktank, trying to start a nuclear war…. The robot… Me doing an impression of Fay Wray, being carried around in its pincers… When they killed it… I was sorry. It didn’t mean any harm. It was used by everyone.”
“You’re the only one who thought that, old girl,” Harry said. “We all saw a threat to mankind. You were the only one that understood it.”
“The Doctor understood, too,” Sarah Jane pointed out.
“The only Human who understood it,” Harry amended. “Oh dear, that was the start of my troubles, and no mistake. What was I thinking of when I stepped into the TARDIS?”
“You were thinking it was all a joke, and that there was nothing in there,” Sarah Jane responded. “You didn’t believe in The Doctor, or the TARDIS, or aliens, either.”
“True enough,” Harry admitted. “I soon found out differently.”
“The Ark, with all those humans waiting to start the species up again… then Styre the Sontaran. Then the Daleks again, Davros… the Thals and Kaleds. That was one I’ll never forget. I still have nightmares about that one. I met him again, you know… Davros… much later. After your time. The Doctor was there to save the day…”
She looked at Harry, who was smiling patiently.
“I’m not allowed to jump ahead, is that it?”
“It’s your life, Sarah Jane, you can remember it any way you like. We were away from Earth for such as long time, though, weren’t we? After the Daleks…”
“Cybermen,” Sarah Jane said instantly. “They’ve been a nuisance again, a few years back. I knew it was nothing to do with ghosts… and then suddenly there are cybermen marching down Bannerman road. The Doctor was working on it, of course. But I didn’t hear from him that time.”
“We finally made it back to Earth…” Harry prompted her.
“The Loch Ness monster is an alien!” Sarah Jane laughed. “Who would have guessed that? Who knows that except a few of us who were there.”
“Nessie I didn’t mind so much, but those Zygons were nasty.”
“You left us after that,” Sarah Jane said, “You took the train back to London with The Brigadier. He’s gone, too, you know.”
“Yes, I know.” Harry told her.
“I missed you, you know. In the TARDIS. I really did. There he was, The Doctor, dragging me to all sorts of places, scaring the life out of me with anti-matter men, robot mummies from Mars, android copies pretending to be you and me and The Brigadier and….”
“I missed you too, Sarah Jane,” Harry admitted. “But I thought… I wasn't needed. You had him… The Doctor.”
“Oh yes, he was a lot of help to me. There I was on Morbius, blind as a bat, bumping into living brains, being chased by chop suey creatures while he was dallying with the Sisterhood of Karn! I mean, I know he cared about me. He did his best. But his kind of caring… he’s not Human. He doesn’t think the way we do about that sort of thing. It might have been different if you were there.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “I tried to stay in touch, but it’s not easy with The Doctor. Besides, my tiem with U.N.I.T. was up. I went back to sea. The next time you were back on Earth I was in the Atlantic.”
“I was in Antarctica!” Sarah Jane said as if that trumped the Atlantic. “Then back in England with that loopy Harrison Chase who wanted to destroy the Human race and let walking plants roam over the planet!”
“I read the file,” Harry told her. “The bits that weren’t classified, anyway.”
“Then he dragged me off to Renaissance Italy, and I was nearly sacrificed to an ancient Roman god. I really could have used a proper knight in shining armour on that one. The Doctor….”
“I always thought you were a little bit in love with him,” Harry said with a note in his voice that might have been interpreted as jealousy.
“I suppose I WAS,” Sarah Jane responded. “I mean… he’s brilliant. He’s amazing, unpredictable, loving in his own peculiar way. But that’s the thing. It was all just too peculiar. Oh, that last time was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it really was. Blown up in a quarry, hypnotised, wandering around a nuclear power plant with a fossilised hand. I was just about ready to tell him where to stick his sonic screwdriver when….”
She paused. The memory was still a raw one, even after all this time. Seeing it happen from a third party view didn’t make it any less of a wrench.
“After all of that, he was recalled to his home planet… Gallifrey. And he wasn’t allowed to take me. So he just dropped me off… in South Croydon!”
“Aberdeen,” Harry said. “You called me. I drove up there to get you.”
“All the way from Portsmouth to Aberdeen. You did that for me. And I don’t think I really properly said thank you. Nine hours each way. Why didn’t I realise then… only somebody who really, really loved me would have done that.”
“It was difficult,” Harry told her. “I only had a week’s shore leave. I hated to go. I felt like I was abandoning you, too.”
“In some ways, maybe… looking back… that wasn’t a bad thing. I needed to stand on my own two feet. I went back to U.N.I.T. for a ‘debriefing’ and then normal life… journalism. I made my name as a hard-hitting investigative writer. I was successful. I had no complaints about that. And of course, there were all the odd things that happened… the stories that no magazine would publish even if there wasn’t a D Notice on them. The Doctor wasn’t always around, but Earth still got alien invasions. There was U.N.I.T., of course, and that peculiar lot at Torchwood….”
“And there was Sarah Jane Smith, doing her bit to save the world.”
“And I DID, over and over. Me and K9 and Mr Smith against the alien hordes. Then HE came back. Years after I stopped thinking about him…he was back… with a new face, and a new friend. That hurt, you know, thinking I could be so easily replaced. But it wasn't as simple as that, not for him. Yes, I was a little bit in love with him… and he was a little bit in love with me, I think. But he knew it couldn’t happen. So he tried to make it easy for me. In his own, daft, alien way, knowing nothing about how humans think or feel. He did his best for me….”
A tear fell down her cheek. She brushed it away.
“I still had my work. And… then I had Luke. Harry, I wish you’d known him. I did sometimes think… if we’d had more time… if we could have… He’s the son we might have had in the ordinary way if we’d ever lived a ordinary life. And the others… Maria… and Rani… both of them like daughters. Clyde… Would it be too greedy to think of him like a son, too? Sometimes I worried about the danger they got in. So young, all of them. But they faced them all… Slitheen, Sontarans, Gorgons, The Trickster and his games… It was nice knowing I didn’t have to do it all alone. And I saw him again, you know. ANOTHER new face… Oh, it’s ironic. When I met him, I might have been his daughter to look at us. Now… he looks young enough to be my SON. No wonder he can never have that sort of relationship with anyone.”
They were back in the attic now. She was there on the sofa, quiet and still.
“The Doctor. Who will tell him?”
“I think he’ll know,” Harry answered. “Of all people, he’ll know.”
Sarah Jane paused. It was an awkward pause.
“So… what happens now? Where do I go now?”
“You go with me,” Harry answered. “Sarah Jane… look in the mirror.”
“I’m dead. How can I look in the mirror?”
But she did so, anyway. She gasped in surprise. She wasn’t old anymore. She looked like she did when Harry drove up to Aberdeen to meet her… except dressed a bit better.
“That’s how you always were inside, no matter how old you were,” Harry told her. “That’s why you were able to do all the things you did when most women would have sat back and thought their life was over. And that’s why….”
He took both of her hands in his. They looked at each other.
“You mean… now that we’re both dead… We can….”
Harry drew her closer. He embraced her in his arms.
“Sarah and Harry… at last,” he whispered as they faded away together.