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Never Meant for One as Beautiful as you by MinervaFan [Reviews - 6] Printer
Author's Notes:
Sarah Jane’s Home for Wayward Time-Lords. Written for the ClassicDW_Fic Ficathon on LiveJournal.


Sarah Jane rushed to the shed, ignoring the mud and the rain. It was K9 who informed her, K9 who gave the warning.

She was near breathless when she arrived, and Cal was clutching his chest as he fell. Sarah ran to the old man’s side, helped him to the ground gently, reverently. “Cal, what can I do? How can I help?”

The old man chuckled, lifting his papery fingers to her cheek. “How can you help time, my dear girl? It has managed without our help far longer than either you or I have been around. It can manage this quite well, I assure you.”

“But…the transfer. Are you sure--?”

“K9 knows what to do. I’m sure you are in no danger of miscalculation, Sarah.” His bright green eyes shown past the creases on his face, past the labored breath. “I’m not afraid. It’s the next great adventure, although I rather suspect it will have just as many dull moments as this life.”

Her tears were hot. She’d known this was coming, had known it since the day she’d hired him on. He’d been quite specific.

*

One year earlier…

George Tracey was no longer employed by Dr. Lavinia Smith.

The esteemed virologist was rather easy-going as far as employers went. But using her home as a base for coven activities, kidnapping her ward for the purpose of human sacrifice–well, these are things even the most lenient of employers can’t overlook.

So with Mr. Tracey no longer on the payroll, and her gardens in desperate need of an overhaul–how foolish she had been to believe him!–it was most certainly time to hire on a replacement. Brendan had expressed an interest, but they knew that he had neither the knowledge or experience to manage an estate the size of Lavinia’s. So a new gardener must be hired, and to her niece Sarah Jane, Lavinia handed the duty to secure a new man for the gardens.

After all, with Brendan’s school and Lavinia’s lecture tour, it only seemed fair that Sarah, who had the most time and flexibility, should handle the interview process.

*

“This is not fair,” Sarah muttered under her breath. Aloud, she added, “Thank you for coming, Mr. Turnbull, and I’ll get back to you.”

“Irrigation, lass. I tell you, the drought is coming, and unless you completely overhaul the irrigation system, you and that aunt of your’n will be sorry.”

“I’ll definitely keep that in mind, Mr. Turnbull, and thank you very much for your time.” She eased him out the door, his greasy hands hot and disgusting as he shook hers too tightly in a handshake. When he was finally out of eye-sight, she groaned, leaning back against the closed door. “This is not fair,” she whinged to the small tin dog who whirred forward from his hiding place behind the door. “K9, what did I do to deserve half an hour listening to that?” She pointed dramatically at where Mr. Turnbull had just exited.

“Analysing available data, Mistress.” K9’s computerized brain whirred for the briefest of moments. “You answered the door, Mistress.”

“Ugh.” Sarah Jane tossed the notes she had been taking playfully at K9, who dodged them easily. “You.”

“You were expecting someone else, Mistress?”

“Very funny.” She flolloped down onto the sofa, reaching for her writing folder on the table. She’d been scheduling interviews between research, and frankly, the interviews were winning. Soil acidity was warring with U.N.I.T. personnel histories, and frankly, U.N.I.T. was not faring too well against the dirt. “I know I’m not in university. And I know I’m not actively employed at the moment. But my work is just as important as hers is, and I don’t understand…”

“Mistress? Someone is approaching the main entrance. I am detecting--”

“Oy!” Sarah groaned as she slammed the folder shut. “Not fair, not fair, not fair! I specifically scheduled them for an hour of peace and quiet between. That horrid old man ran so far overtime…”

“Mistress, I am detecting–“

“K9, you’d better go back to your hidey hole. I’ll call you out when this last one is done. Good dog.”

There was a pause before K9 acknowledged the direct order. “I will comply, Mistress,” he chirped, and glided out of the main room.

Sarah Jane checked her hair in the mirror and opened the door.

He was a short, positively ancient looking man, with a tweed jacket and leather bomber helmet. He had a bright pink handkerchief in his coat pocket, and several large silver bangles on his left arm. Before she could say a word, his hand was out stiffly, taking hers and shaking it up and down hard, one time. “You are Sarah Jane Smith,” he said in a high-pitched, croaking voice. “It is most pleasurable to make your acquaintance, Mistress Smith, and I look forward to the establishment of a true and enduring friendship.”

“Erm…” Sarah stared as the odd little man pushed past her into the house, staring up and around with enthusiasm.

“A marvelous residence you have, Mistress Smith,” he added. “You are possessed of many fascinating knick-knacks.” He pronounced the “k’s” with utter glee.

“Um, are you Mr….Crawford?”

“Calavasterlishtin, Miss Smith. My goodness, I didn’t expect you to be this tall,” he said, peering up at her. “Of course, it’s all relative, isn’t it?”

“What’s all relative?”

He blinked fiercely, as if no one had ever even asked such a question before. “Why, everything, of course! Is this coffee?” He hurried to the mug she’d left on the table near her folder, picking it up before she could stop him and taking a deep swig. “Ah, ambrosia! Nectar, perfection! What a delicious drink, coffee!”

Sarah couldn’t help laugh. “Actually, Mr. Cala…erm, may I call you Cal?”

“Of course, m’dear. Cal is perfect. Such a clever truncation. I knew you would be clever. I suspected it, of course, but one can never be certain.” He downed the rest of the mug’s contents. “Could I bother you for a bit more of this delicious coffee?”

“Actually, Cal, that’s tea. And sure, I’d be happy to get you more.” She went to the counter were the service was. She’d seen some characters since placing the advert, but Cal was taking the cake.

“Tea? Are you absolutely certain, Mistress Smith?”

“Call me Sarah Jane,” she said, pouring him another cup. “And yes, it’s tea. I made it myself.”

The old man’s eyes grew enormous. “Really? In a kettle? They’re called kettles, are they not? Controlled application of heat to a container made of a conductive metal, then insert dried leaves from indigenous plants to produce a consumable liquid high in antioxidants and caffeine?”

“Um, tea. Yes. In a kettle.” She eyed him narrowly as she sank onto the couch. “Let me guess, Cal. You’re not from around here, are you?”

*

“So you’re a Time Lord,” she said in shock as Cal downed yet another Nutella sandwich.

“Oh, nothing so grand as that, Miss. I’ve spent my last two lives as a chief undersecretary auditing bio-data extracts in the APC Net. Oh, that’s Amplified Panatropic Computer Network.”

“Sounds a little grand for someone looking for a gardener’s job,” Sarah said quietly.

“Truth be told, dear Sarah, I wasn’t looking for a gardener’s job, although it is quite serendipitous that you should have a position to fill. You see, I am recently retired, and I was looking for a place to quietly spend my days.”

“And you…came to Morton Harwood?”

“Actually, I came to find you, Miss Smith.” He reached out and took another cup of tea, draining the pot with a sad look on his face. “Truly extraordinary, tea. Is coffee as good?”

“Very good, but different.” Sarah crossed her legs, trying to contain her excitement. She had to play this cautiously, carefully. “You said you were trying to find me. Why?”

“Well, my position as undersecretary gave me access to the records of many Time Lords, including the one you traveled with. He was so fond of Earth, and had so many adventures here. I simply thought it would be a nice place to retire.”

“But you sought out me in particular, based on the Doctor’s memories?”

Cal shook his head. “Actually, I sought out you, Sarah, because you are in possession of K9 unit. At this stage, it is of utmost importance that I have immediate contact with Gallifrey, most particularly the Matrix.” He seemed oblivious to her subtle look of hurt. “You see, Miss Smith, I’ve come to Earth to die.”

It took a moment before Sarah could find her voice again. “But…can’t you regenerate?”

“Oh, my dear Sarah,” he laughed. “I have done so a dozen times already, and twenty-four hundred years is enough for any man, don’t you think?”

Sarah blinked hard. “You’re over two thousand years old?”

“Quiet living and a sensible diet, young lady. That’s the trick to longevity.” He chuckled. “Now those like your Doctor–really, four regenerations in under eight hundred years? No, a life of derring-do was never my cup of coffee, you know. But now–“ A look of wistfulness crossed his bright green eyes. “But, one does get ideas, you know? Century after century of cataloging the adventures of others. I always thought Earth looked so interesting. Do you think Earth is interesting, Miss Smith?”

“It can be…some days more than others.”

“Then it’s settled. I shan’t require a salary, of course,” he said. “I would appreciate a room, if you have one to spare.”

“But…Mr. Cala…Cal, do you even have any gardening experience?” Sarah could just imagine explaining this little man to her Aunt Lavinia. Granted, the older Ms. Smith had a penchant for taking in strays, but…well, she needed someone to run the place.

“I kept a flowering frescatine plant alive for more than six centuries.” At her amazed look, Cal waved down her unspoken words of compliment. “Granted, it smacked me on the nose every time I forgot to water it, and once it actually bit my hand to prevent me from using the wrong fertilizer. But together we reached a respectable age together, and I’m sure with a little research, I can become just as proficient with Earth plants.” Before she could protest, he added, “Not to mention I’m very good with sums. Two lifetimes organizing and cataloguing the collected experiences of Time Lords should be a very good preface to the task of organizing a small estate’s records, don’t you think?”

Sarah sighed. She was not going to get rid of Cal so easily, and frankly, she didn’t want to. She rather liked the old man, and any connection to Gallifrey made her feel…well, safer. “How about I try you out on approval. My aunt’s ward, Brendon, is studying horticulture at University. I can ask him to help you with the basics, and get you started. You should have about a week before you have to pass Aunt Lavinia’s approval.”

“Lavinia Smith, noted virologist. You assumed her identity to gain access to U.N.I.T. back during the Doctor’s…oh, third incarnation, did you not? He remembers you mentioning her frequently, with much affection. I look forward to making her acquaintence.”

Sarah shook her head slightly, wondering just what Aunt Lavinia would say to her newest employee. “Well, then…” she sighed. “I suppose you have a position, Cal.”

*

“He’s amazing!” Brendon sat in the passenger seat of Sarah’s car as they headed back from town. “Not a clue what he’s doing in practice, but in theory–he’s amazing. Asks the right questions, never forgets a word I say. And his intuitive understanding of the business aspect? Sarah Jane, you’ve got a winner.”

“Oh, yeah, fantastic.” She watched the road as the wind gusted, blowing leaves and rubbish across her path. “Just make sure he stays out of trouble.”

“Hey, watch that–oh, this weather is a mess. I’m glad we got the wind-breaks up last week. Lavinia will be thrilled with his plans for reorganizing the business plans. If we can follow his suggestions, she’ll be a rich woman in a very short time.”

“She’s already a rich woman, and — oh…my..gawd!” She pulled into the drive, eyes bugging out at she saw Cal dancing around the yard, arms outstretched, face heavenward as the storm grew in intensity.

“What’s he doing?” Brendon yelled, jumping out of the car as soon as Sarah had come to a stop. “Cal, what are you doing?”

Sarah Jane was right behind him, fighting to close the door behind her. The wind was picking up seriously. “Are you mad?” she called to Cal over the riot of the wind.

“It’s glorious, Sarah Jane!” Cal was laughing, dancing in the wind, and grabbed both her hands in his. “Simply glorious! We haven’t had storms like this back home in millennia. Oh, the rapture of uncontrolled nature. How could you ever think of leaving it, even for a moment!”

“This storm is going to hit any minute,” Brendan warned, trying to lead Cal toward the house. “You need to go inside.”

“Nonsense, boy. I want to see it. I want to see it in all its glory.”

“Cal, you have to–“

“This wind will blow you two steps shy of Norway if you’re not careful,” Brendan called out.

“Oh, it’s worth the risk.”

Sarah caught his eyes, and she could swear for a moment she was looking into the Doctor’s hearts. Was everyone from Gallifrey mad? Or were they just possessed of a greater capacity for wonder than humans? “There’ll be other storms, Cal.” She kept her tone as gentle as possible, given the need to yell. “But you want to survive to see the next one. They’re just as beautiful from inside, I promise. Just safer. You remember–derring-do?”

He sighed, but allowed himself to be led into the house. As the door was closing behind them, the storm hit in full force, and torrents of rain began to fall. Cal stood at the window like a kitten, paws pressed against the glass, watching in amazement as the sky fell wet and silver onto everything.

“How did you ever leave this?” he asked Sarah Jane. “How did you ever leave?”

*

“He’s rather old, isn’t he?”

“Well, yes, but look at all the improvements he’s made already.” Sarah held her breath as Lavinia looked over the business plan Cal had drawn up. It was sound, at least to her limited understanding, but the real test would be Lavinia. The unpleasantness with Mr. Tracey had invigorated her aunt’s skepticism, and “he’s a charming old man who isn’t even accepting a salary” wasn’t likely to cut it with her if Lavinia decided he was wrong for the job.

“Quite ambitious, but still…still…” She nodded with a smile. “I think we can manage this.” If she noticed Sarah’s sigh of relief, she didn’t acknowledge it. “Just make sure you hire round some young local to do the back-breaking stuff. The last thing we need is the old fellow dying on us.”

Sarah said absolutely nothing.

*

It was writer’s block. It had to be. Writer’s block or just plain depression.

Self-loathing.

Unmitigated disgust at the state of things.

Sarah Jane pulled herself out of her funk long enough to grab a pear, cut it in half, and walk down the path to where Cal was working the weeds. In the months he had been here, Cal had never quite gotten the gist of why the weeds were to be pulled, instead of nurtured. Initial frustrated conversations with Brendan had escalated to long, drawn-out explanations by Sarah Jane as to why, while they were of course valid forms of plant life, the weeds' tendency to choke out the plants that were actually being grown for sale made them a nuisance and a danger to business. In the end, a compromised was settled, and Cal had created a weed garden of his own, carefully segregated from the other plants, and (at least to Sarah’s tired eyes) ten times as lovely.

She shuffled slowly in the spring morning, breathing in the damp air as she avoided muddy patches. She’d never been very interested in gardening before, but recently she’d found herself here more and more–usually when the words failed to flow and her inner demons got particularly vocal. “Hey, there,” she murmured, kneeling next to Cal on the cardboard patch he’d created to spare his pants knees. “Fancy a nibble?”

Cal’s eyes grew wide and he dropped his trowel, pulling off his gloves and wiping his hands on the chartreuse handkerchief in his shirt pocket. “What delicacy have you brought me today, Sarah dear?”

“Bartlett pear. A little overripe, but still pretty tasty.” She bit into hers, more to show him the proper etiquette than out of any real hunger. It never did to assume with Cal. He had a wealth of knowledge about the most esoteric subjects, but could be flummoxed by something as mundane as a toothbrush. (“Do you have hair on your teeth, Sarah? Why ever would a genetic mutation such as hairy teeth occur?”)

Cal bit into the pear, a look of bliss crossing his craggy face. “Odd,” he said thoughtfully. “Odd, but tasty. I am constantly amazed at the sheer variety of foods you humans consume.”

“Oh, I ate some very odd things when I traveled with the Doctor,” she said, taking another huge bite of the pear before tossing it onto the compost heap at the other end of the path. “I’m sure Gallifrey has an amazing assortment of foods.”

“Gallifrey’s influence reaches a thousand worlds across the span of a million years. But Earth? Earth is a tiny little Level 5 planet that hasn’t even breached the edge of its own solar system. Still, you have pears and champagne and bubble gum–have you ever tried bubble gum, Sarah? An extraordinary delicacy. You could amass a fortune selling it on Gallifrey. Millions of different flavors and textures and intensities, all from one single planet.” He shook his head and started to eat the core.

“No, don’t eat that–“ Sarah started, and then watched in fascination as Cal ate the entire thing, stem and all. His look of utter satisfaction was wonderful, and for the first time that day, she felt a laugh forming in her stomach. “Part,” she finished uselessly.

“Marvelous. Thank you for sharing your treat.” He put his gloves back on and got back to work on the patch. “Blocked again,” he asked casually.

“I’m beginning to think I should look for a job as a bank teller,” she moaned, watching him work the earth. “Maybe I would be good with people.”

“You cannot let this discourage you.” He gave her a good strong look, straight in the eyes, before returning to his work. “I saw the rejection notice on the table. It is hard for the storytellers, Sarah. Especially when it’s a story nobody wants to hear.”

“I’m so sick of…” She stopped. What she was sick of most, right in this minute, was the sound of her own voice. Whinging. Feeling sorry for herself. “Nothing,” she murmured. “Do you want some help with this?”

“It’s a one-man job, Sarah. But I’d be glad of the company.”

He continued to work, allowing a companionable silence to grow between them and wrap itself around them. Sarah lost herself in the monotony of his motions, the simplicity of working the earth. She’d never been much of a gardener, never been all that fond of the dirt and sore backs and mangled fingernails. But now and then, watching Cal, she began to think maybe she’d like to learn. Maybe have a place of her own someday, with a little patch to grow flowers and herbs.

Thoughts like that scared her, because Sarah Jane did not want to be the type to settle down.

“We’re different from them, you and me,” Cal said softly. “From your them and my them. We’re different from them, but very much like each other.”

“How so,” she asked, playing her fingers in the soft, moist dirt.

“We observe. They live. They live the tale, and we tell it. Sometimes it is difficult, being an outsider amongst your own people.”

“I’m not an outsider…” Sarah began to protest, but stopped short. It was no use arguing with him. He understood better than anybody. He had seen everything, had witnessed the Doctor’s memories of their adventures. “Nobody wants to hear the stories I tell. I’m a journalist. I deal in facts. But the facts are so fantastic, so outrageous, that people are afraid to believe them.” She dropped the dirt she was holding with a sigh. “I haven’t sold a story in three months, Cal. Not even a blurb. Aunt Lavinia has been very kind, letting me stay here. I lost the lease on my flat. Can’t afford it now.”

“You must continue to tell your story, Sarah. Storytellers are crucial. Were it not for the stories we tell, what purpose would there be for anything we do?”

“But I’m not a storyteller. I’m a journalist. An investigative journalist.” She groaned. “I suppose I could just bite the bullet. Put a cap on what I’ve seen, swallow my pride, and go back to square one. Get a steady post, work a beat.” Just saying the words felt like her heart was scraping the ground. “Attend town council meetings.”

“You must tell your truth, Sarah Jane Smith. Tell it in any way you can.”

“Today’s letter informed me that The Daily Star did not accept works of fiction, and most specifically not science fiction. The kind person who wrote the letter suggested I might try selling it to the Beeb as a kiddie show.”

“I’m not sure what the Beeb is, but children usually are the most receptive to unusual ideas.”

“You’re not serious–“ She stared at him. “You think I should write fiction? Turn the things I learned into some sort of a joke?”

“The Parables of Rassilon are considered by my people to contain the ultimate truths for life. Yet there are many who believe the tales are pure fiction, allegorical.” He shrugged. “Who cares about fact or fiction, as long as the truth is told?”

Sarah pondered his words, considering the possibilities. “But, fiction?”

*

“Sarah, we must talk.” Cal looked serious, such a rare expression that Sarah Jane couldn’t help stopping work on her novel.

“What is it?”

“K9. You must make sure not to ignore his warnings. He’s an obedient creature, and often to a fault. He will not steer you wrong, but he will also not disobey a direct order from you.”

“Okay….” She stared at him. Cal never got serious unless he had to, but pushing him never worked.

“The time is near,” he said.

“That sounds ominous.”

“I am a Time Lord. We know these things.”

Sarah felt a knot forming in her stomach. This was conversation she didn’t want to have. “Those bangles you wear…all the time…are they your TARDIS?”

He chuckled softly. “Oh, nothing so fancy. They’re a time key. When I go, your little tin friend will send me home to Gallifrey. Home to join with my people for the last time.”

Sarah cocked her head slightly to the side. “But we had a time key when the Time Lords sent us back to Skaro. It was automatic.”

Cal had the courtesy to look sheepish as he revealed the secret he’d been keeping. “Well, of course, my dear. They are automatic….when properly set…by the authorized personnel. My ring, however, is a bit less…authorized.

Sarah’s eyes widened, and then she had to laugh. “You old scoundrel, you. Are you telling me you stole a Time Ring? You’re on the lam from the Time Lords?”

He laughed too. “Oh, nothing so grandiose. They know where I am, but it’s nothing to indulge an old, old man his dying wish. Still,” he sobered. “I would hate for my body to remain here afterwards. There are too many incongruities, should my corpse fall into the wrong hands. It is not yet the right time for any human to have incontrovertible proof of an alien presence on Earth.”

“I would never let that happen.”

“Of course you won’t, my girl. That’s why I’m telling you. It won’t be automatic. You’ll have to have K9 activate the ring for me, when I’m gone. And then, I’ll go home.”

And Sarah could say nothing, because acknowledging his words would only make them true, and that was the last thing on Earth she wanted to do.

*

“Full House,” Lavinia said, laughing as she drew the chips in for her winnings. “Cal, you have the worst poker face in the history of all time.”

“Actually, that would belong to Lewis Mulroney, an American from 19th century Nevada, who holds the record for consecutive poker losses.”

Sarah laughed, throwing her cards back into the center. “You’re making that up,” she teased. It was nice to be all here, on this beautiful summer night. Brendan had suggested the game, and it turned into a grand party, complete with K9 up about her feet, analyzing the materials on her new sandals.

“No, I think he’s right,” Brendan said. He was always supporting Cal’s wild claims, if only to get a laugh out of Sarah. “Old Mirror-Face Mulroney, they used to call him.”

Lavinia and Sarah both laughed now. The older woman shot her niece a smile, wordlessly thanking her for the breath of fresh air she’d brought into their home.

*

Sarah Jane rushed to the shed, ignoring the mud and the rain. It was K9 who informed her, K9 who gave the warning.

She was near breathless when she arrived, and Cal was clutching his chest as he fell. Sarah ran to the old man’s side, helped him to the ground gently, reverently. “Cal, what can I do? How can I help?”

The old man chuckled, lifting his papery fingers to her cheek. “How can you help time, my dear girl? It has managed without our help far longer than either you or I have been around. It can manage this quite well, I assure you.”

“But…the transfer. Are you sure--?”

“K9 knows what to do. I’m sure you are in no danger of miscalculation, Sarah.” His bright green eyes shown past the creases on his face, past the labored breath. “I’m not afraid. It’s the next great adventure, although I rather suspect it will have just as many dull moments as this life.”

Her tears were hot. She’d known this was coming, had known it since the day she’d hired him on. He’d been quite specific.

“Mistress, it is time.”

“No, it’s not,” she cried, hot tears on her cheeks. “He’s still alive. He said after.”

“It’s not long, Sarah,” Cal whispered. “Don’t cry, child. You have so many adventures ahead of you. You have such a brilliant life ahead of you. So many joys, so many pains. Embrace them. Tell your truth.”

“Mistress, it is now the optimal time to initiate the transfer.”

“Goodbye, Sarah.”

Sarah hugged him, hard, and kissed his forehead. “You tell them all your stories, you hear. Every single one, once you join the Matrix. Amaze them with bubble gum. Don’t let them talk you down.”

“You do the same thing, love,” he said. She heard K9 activating the transfer, and as he slowly faded away, Sarah saw Calavasterlishtin smile at her one last time.

And then he was gone.

She drew in a short breath, unsure how she’d tell this particular truth to Aunt Lavinia and Brendan.

“Mistress?”

“Yes, K9?”

“He would not want you to mourn.”

She smiled at her good, daft little tin dog. Her best friend. “I know, K9. But it’s hard.”

“You will endure.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I will endure. Cal told me so. I have an amazing future ahead of me.”

And the little tin dog and his storyteller left the spot where Calavasterlishtin had breathed his last breath on Earth, and headed back to the real world once more.

The End
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