Sarah Jane has stopped whistling by the time she discovers that she was right.
This is not South Croydon, it’s Aberdeen. Aberdeen in Scotland. Aberdeen, over five hundred and fifty miles from South Croydon.
The Doctor has most definitely blown it.
A search of her possessions reveals an insignificant amount of valid currency. Nothing like the fortune she would need to catch a taxi. How much will the train fare cost?
She asks for directions and walks to the station, ignoring the strange looks she attracts, clutching onto her odd assortment of goodies.
It’s too much. How many buses would she need to catch? Can she stay somewhere for the night?
Turning to leave the station, she bumps into someone or at least pushes her armful of belongings into their chest.
This solid, familiar, comforting someone speaks in a voice she had expected to next hear on the phone.
“Hello, old girl.”
“Don’t call me old girl,” is all Sarah can find to say.
She doesn’t say anything in the car. Harry is silent as well, waiting for her to speak, and she soon falls asleep.
She wakes in her own bed, fully dressed but for her socks and shoes and her cardigan, which she can see hung neatly across the back of her chair. Her socks are most probably rolled together and placed in the laundry basket and her shoes neatly positioned at the side of her bed.
The clock on the bedside table shows ten minutes to seven. The second hand ticks around inexorably.
She watches it. Sixty different positions, sixty seconds. One completed circuit, one minute. The time is now nine minutes to seven. Another completed circuit and it’s eight minutes to seven. Then seven minutes to seven.
Time is passing. The future becomes the present becomes the past, measured by her heartbeat, her breath and the steady tick of the clock.
Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she buries the clock under her pillow and marches off to have a shower, telling herself that the still-audible tick is her imagination.
Harry is just stirring on the sofa when she enters the living room and sitting up by the time she returns with two mugs of tea.
She drinks half the mug before placing it on the table and speaking.
“How did you know I was there?” It’s something she wants to know, but it’s not what she wants to say.
But there’s too much she wants to say. She wants to explain it all away, reassure herself more than him, to-
“The Doctor told me,” Harry says and her stomach lurches and all her concentration is on this one sentence. He knew where she was. Why then hadn’t he come back for her?
“He told me he couldn’t. It wasn’t the same Doctor. He was young and skinny. Wore a pinstriped suit. But he’s very sorry about landing you in Aberdeen even though-” he hesitates.
“Even though?” Sarah demands.
“Even though, when you have the whole universe to choose from, Aberdeen is near to Croydon and he really did quite well,” Harry finishes, keeping a carefully straight face.
Sarah laughs. She can’t help it. She laughs until her stomach hurts, until her throat is raw, until the laughter turns to sobbing.
Harry holds her and rubs her back in circles in a way that she’s not sure is soothing or annoying. But she doesn’t want him to stop. She doesn’t want to be alone.
Silly little things annoy her now. As do some more serious and not-so little things.
Bus tickets are one of the trivial irritants, annoying by their sheer irrelevance. A slip of paper, stating that you had handed over a few discs of metal for the privilege of going for point A to point B, which weren’t that far apart anyway, had a habit of disappearing, seemingly into thin air.
The trials faced by many every day, all around the world, sometimes seem almost intolerable and she wants to escape it all.
It rains the day the pipe bursts, a rather more significant annoyance. Sarah sits outside in Harry’s garden and remembers the rain of different planets: rain that stained the ground purple, a daily rain of meteorites, a rain of furry quadrupeds.
“You’ll catch your death,” he says when he finds her.
“You don’t get Earth rain on any other planet,” she tells him. “It’s wonderful.”
They sit outside and watch the rain fall, cool droplets on their skin, glistening crystals clinging to the petals of flowers. Sarah’s damp hair hangs heavily and her vision is blurred by raindrops clinging to her eyelashes.
When the clouds have cleared, they go inside. Sarah showers, at Harry’s insistence, and he makes her hot chocolate instead of tea, at her request. They sit together on the sofa and, for a longer and longer moment, she is happy.
“I’d forgotten,” she murmurs, a smile on her face.
She leans up and kisses him. “I promised the Doctor I’d give you his love.”
It doesn’t last, of course. They’re not an advertisement for the TARDIS Matchmaking Service. But they never could be and neither of them thought otherwise.
They keep each other company, they have fun, they understand about things no-one else really can.
Their friendship predates and outlasts their romance.
When Sarah Jane meets a young, skinny Doctor, wearing a pinstripe suit, she is careful to mention that she was dropped off in Aberdeen.
And nearly thirty years before, Harry Sullivan gets in his car and starts out for Aberdeen.
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