“Look, I’m afraid you must be mistaken. This can’t be 1993. For one thing, according to history, the original détente between Humans and Silurians won’t take place until 2085, and a collaborative base such as this one won’t even be feasible for another fifty years.”
Harry Sullivan didn’t recognize the man arguing with the station commander, but, then, that was hardly to be expected after so many years. He did recognized the blue police box that somehow managed to look inconspicuous even as it filled a good tenth of the tiny conference room, and he recognized the mix of exasperation and adoration on the face of the dark haired girl who stared intently at the arguing pair.
“Sir, I don’t know anything about this history, but I’m afraid you’ll have to…”
“My history is perfect, I’ll have you know. Every feasible twist in the time stream etched into my temporal lobe. Every possible outcome of…”
Harry ran a hand through his curls then moved to stand next to the girl.
“He’s gone and got himself lost again, has he?” asked Harry.
The girl didn’t move. Her eyes were fixed on the stranger who Harry knew must be the Doctor. He’d never met anyone else that sure of himself.
“We’re supposed to be in Cambridge, 2015.”
“Oh dear,” said Harry. “It could worse, I suppose.” His voice was doubtful.
The girl took her eyes off the Doctor long enough to give him a quick smile. Harry took the opportunity to hold out his hand. “Dr. Harry Sullivan.”
“Yeah I…” she cut off, and gave him a sharp look then went on. “I’m Maria Jackson.” She didn’t bother to take his hand. Instead, she stepped forward, and gave him a quick hug. “It’s lovely to see you.”
The day, as Harry might have expected, went down hill from there. One of the Silurian technicians, a nice chap Harry had thought, proved to be part of a fringe group that believed, among other things, that sharing information with humans was an abominable act punishable by death. Furthermore, the Doctor’s plan to inform the terrorist that he wasn’t human, and, therefore, could be morally let in on the plot failed impressively. Rather inevitably, Harry found himself running down corridors, crawling through maintenance shafts, and tied back to back with the Doctor’s pretty new companion while the water level slowly rose. But for all that, Harry wasn’t at all surprised to see the Doctor come through at the last moment. It seemed he had as much faith in the old fellow as Sarah Jane, or this Maria.
They stood together in the same tiny conference room. The TARDIS, no longer inconspicuous, loomed over them. The Doctor stood next to Maria, his hands in his pockets, a distracted look on his face: already planning his next disaster. Maria elbowed him hard in the ribs, and he blinked a few times, and focused on Harry.
“You could come along, you know.”
“You know you don’t…” Harry blustered.
“No really, come with us,” said the Doctor, his voice unexpectedly sure.
Harry looked down, suddenly embarrassed. He took a moment to ponder the question. Really ponder it like he hadn’t the last time: too eager to stop being the third wheel. He shook his head. “No, I really couldn’t. You see, I’m doing rather well here.” He let his eyes drift over the grey walls, the product of so much careful diplomacy. And my research…”
“No, no, no, no, of course not.” The Doctor cut him off. “You couldn’t possibly leave all this. Not four million years since you lot learned to walk, and you’re finally learning to talk. That’s brilliant.” He smiled suddenly, that oh so familiar smile. “Well done, Harry Sullivan, very well done.”
By the time Harry, flushed with pride, could manage to think of a reply, the Doctor had slipped inside the TARDIS, leaving him alone with Maria. She gave him a look of exasperated affection. “You could come, you know. He meant it. I could use someone to help me look after him.”
“Oh, I dare say you’ll manage,” said Harry, remembering the way she’d dragged him through flooded corridors, and attacked the rogue technician for control of the hydraulics. “You’re a fierce little thing.”
She rolled her eyes. “You really can be an imbecile. Just some advice, don’t use that line with Sarah Jane.” She leaned forward, and kissed him on the cheek then disappeared into the TARDIS before Harry had the chanced to be surprised.
He heard the last of their conversation drift back to him through the open doors of the spaceship, spoken with a casual disregard.
“You two seemed to be getting along quite well. Nothing like a little mid-adventure bondage to build a relationship. Do you fancy him, then?”
“Harry?” She asked incredulously.
She laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, he’s ancient.”
The house on Bannerman road was empty. The only light, a low glow from a high attic window. Harry looked both ways before sliding the key from under the terracotta flower pot. He used to worry about the obvious hiding place. Once he’d even got up the nerve to mention it to Sarah.
“You know, old thing, that’s the first place anyone’s going to look.”
She’d laughed at him and told him not to be an old fusspot, and he’d had to let it go.
He unlocked the door then replaced the key, returning the pot to its exact position, careful to hide the damp paving that would show it had been moved. He stepped into the house, turned on the table lamp, and settled down on the sofa to wait.
Three hours later, and still no sign of Sarah Jane. That wouldn’t in its self have been surprising. She’d never kept normal hours, but he knew she’d been trying to keep something like a regular schedule for Luke.
“It isn’t as though his life weren’t strange enough,” she’d said, and he’d teased her for breaking old habits at her age. She’d glared at him then smiled. “I let him sit up late for alien invasions and football matches.”
He’d met Luke, of course, an awkward introduction made worse by Sarah’s nervousness, masked by her usual fierce bravado. It seemed the boy already knew Sarah well enough to read her moods. They’d both become protective, glaring at each other over the head of an ever more irritated Sarah Jane. But their relationship had improved since then. After all, Harry had long since learned that when it came to Sarah Jane it was best to ignore any jealousy. Luke had talked about school and his friends with an alien frankness. After he’d caught Sarah Jane blushing over a too bold question, Harry had decided he liked the boy. Anyone who could rattle Sarah was well worth keeping around. On leaving, Harry slipped a list of phone numbers into the boy’s hand.
“Can you memorize the numbers?” asked Harry.
Luke nodded. He started rattling them off: “…Harry Sullivan…General Lethbridge-Stewart…Brigadier Benton…”
Harry glanced up the stairs, making sure Sarah Jane was still busy in the attic then shook his head. “Well, well, I say. She did say you were clever.”
“Who are they?” asked Luke.
“Friends of your mother. If anything happens, I want you to call me. If you can’t reach me, call Sir Alistair. If you can’t get hold if him, just keep working your way down that list.”
“If they’re friends of Sarah Jane, of mum, can’t she just call?”
Harry laughed then. “She can. Of course she can, but she won’t.”
“Why not?” asked Luke.
“Because, because…” Harry took a long breath, breathing out years of worry. “Because she’s Sarah Jane. Because she perfectly capable of handling anything, thank you very much. Because the last person she really relied on left her alone in Aberdeen.”
“Harry!” The tiny woman standing on the stairs glared down at him, and Harry glared back, wondering when he’d stopped bothering to be afraid of her. After a moment her expression softened. “I can take care of myself.”
“I know you can, Old Girl,” he said.
She came down the stairs, and he kissed her lightly. Harry pulled on his coat then held his hand out to Luke. Luke gave him a friendly smile, shook his hand, and then, displaying tact that he couldn’t possibly have learned from his mother, disappeared into the kitchen.
“So?” Sarah let the question hang in the air.
“I like him. I like him very much,” said Harry.
Sarah smiled softly up at him. “Go on, you,” she said, and pushed him out the door. “Oh, and Harry,” she called after him. He turned back, looking at her as she stood on the step, her tiny figure silhouetted in the Porch light. “Don’t call me old Girl.”
After another half hour, Harry heard a car in the Drive then muffled voices then, finally, a key turning in the lock.
“Clyde, you’d better give your mum a call, let her know you haven’t been murdered. Give me ten minutes, and I’ll give you a lift home.”
“But you said there’d be pizza.”
“I didn’t plan on getting back at midnight. Your mum must be frantic.”
“It’s alright. I said I was staying over at Peter’s.”
“Peter’s? Why Peter’s?” A girl’s voice piped up.
“Mum thinks Sarah Jane is batty. Sorry Sarah Jane.”
“That’s quite alright, Clyde,” said Sarah, sounding amused.
“I could have said I was at yours.”
“Clyde!” The girl shrieked.
“Oh, alright.” That was Sarah. “Luke, could you call the pizza place? Maria, your dad?”
“I’ll just ring him up.”
The overhead light flicked on, and Harry watched the little group crowd into the front room. He sat still, watching. Sarah had her back to him, arm wrapped around the shoulder of a dark haired girl. The girl leaned forward to say something to Luke, but before he could answer the other boy interrupted. Harry could see Sarah Jane’s shoulders shaking as she laughed. He felt a grin tugging at his lips as he watched Sarah completely caught up in a group of human teenagers.
Harry started to stand, and Sarah Jane’s old sofa screeched beneath him. In one quick movement, Sarah Jane spun round, and stepped forwards, pushing the children into a huddle behind her.
“I say,” said Harry, falling back.
“Harry?” Sarah asked sharply, and glared at him.
Harry stood. “Who else?” he asked, refusing to back down.
“I don’t know. Torchwood?”
“I should certainly hope not.” Harry knew he sounded indignant. “Do they often break into your house in the middle of the night?”
“Of course not,” she snapped. From behind her, the three children peered curiously.”
“Who’s that?” The girl hissed.
“Oh that’s just Harry,” said Luke. Something else the boy had learned from his mother.
“And who’s he?” she asked.
“He’s a friend of mums.”
“And by ‘friend of your mums’ you mean…?” Clyde let the question hang.
“Thank you, Clyde. That will do,” Sarah interrupted the exchange, and stepped aside to let the children move past her. “This is a very old friend of mine, Dr. Harry Sullivan. Harry, this is Clyde Langer.” The boy gave Harry a quick nod then made a bee line for the kitchen. Luke started to follow him then stopped, trying to decide what he was supposed to be doing. Sarah gave him a push. “Go on, that pizza won’t order itself.” The girl started to move past Sarah, and Sarah caught her arm, pulling her close. “Harry, this is Maria Jackson.”
“Oh, I say,” said Harry as he got his first good look at Maria. She was younger than when he’d seen her last, but already nearly as tall as Sarah Jane.
“Pleased to meet you, Dr. Sullivan.” She held out her hand. Harry grasped it in both of his, and shook it warmly.
“It’s lovely to see you, my dear,” said Harry, smiling.
Maria smiled politely, but she eyed him carefully. Already a fierce little thing, thought Harry. She glanced up at Sarah Jane, trying to gage her opinion of the stranger.
Sarah pushed her gently towards the kitchen. “You’d better go call your dad.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” she said. “Are you coming?”
“In a minute.”
Maria followed the boys reluctantly, and the two adults watched her until she disappeared into the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Harry turned to find watching him expectantly.
“So that’s your Miss Jackson. Lovely girl.”
“Harry,” Sarah warned.
“I’ll tell you later, I promise,” he reassured.
“You’d better,” she huffed then, moving closer, she gave him a brief smile. “What are you doing here, Harry?” she asked.
“Word is you still can’t keep out of trouble. And we’d all hoped Luke would calm you down.”
“I don’t see how my troubles are any of your business, Dr. Sullivan. It looks like UNIT is having enough of their own troubles without taking on mine.”
“We worry, Sarah.”
“Well don’t. I can look after myself.”
“I know, old thing. No one better, but do be careful.”
Sarah smiled and shook her head. “You drove all this way, broke into my house then sat up till midnight just to tell me to be careful? Oh Harry.” For a brief moment Sarah looked at him with nothing but fondness. “Come on, then. Have you eaten? I know it’s late.”
Harry sat on the Sofa, away from the noisy group in the kitchen. He stared at the greasy slice of pizza that slowly melted into the paper plate, and tried not to think about what it would do to his stomach lining. How did Sarah manage it? He’d seen her inhale two slices before he retreated to the living room, but he supposed after some of the things he’d seen her eat on their travels, he shouldn’t be surprised.
“You gonna eat that?” Harry looked up to see Clyde standing behind the sofa. He was surprised he hadn’t noticed him sooner: the boy had kept up a running monologue since he’d arrived. Harry shook his head. Clyde sat down beside him and reached for the plate.
“You’re a Doctor, yeah?” he asked.
“You’re not Sarah Jane’s doctor, are you?”
“Oh dear, no,” laughed Harry.
“Right then,” said Clyde. There was a pause while he took a bite of pizza. “You knew him?”
“As well as anyone, I suppose. I travelled with them for a bit.”
There was another long pause. Clyde finished his pizza and stared at the grease spotted plate.
“Why aren’t you in the kitchen with your friends?” asked Harry.
“Sarah Jane’s picked up a SEP reader, and they’re trying to adjust the output coordinates. I thought I’d leave before they tried to get me to help. I get plenty of maths during the week,” Clyde answered.
“And what’s an SEP reader?” asked Harry.
Clyde shrugged. “No Idea.”
There was another awkward silence before Clyde spoke up again. “So why aren’t you in there?”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” said Harry.
Clyde gave him a disgusted look then got up. “Come on.”
“You’re a friend of Sarah Jane’s, yeah? And you know about aliens and things?”
‘Then come on. You can help me figure out where Sarah Jane keeps her Jaffa Cakes,” said Clyde.
“They’re in the bottom drawer under the tea towels,” said Harry before he could stop himself.
A broad smile broke across Clyde’s face. “Thanks mate.”
“No problem,” said Harry, resigned. He followed Clyde into the kitchen, and looked across at Sarah Jane.
“So, you’ve finally decided to join us, have you?” She smiled at him. “Tell this young lady that there is a tunnel between Loch Ness and the North Sea.”
“Really Sarah Jane,” Maria cut in, “you’re making up stories.”
“Isn’t that how the Zygon’s monster got through?” asked Harry.
“Exactly,” Sarah preened. “The Loch Ness Monster.”
Luke handed Harry a paper plate with a new slice of Pizza. The cheese had started to congeal. Harry looked up to see Sarah watching him with her usual half mocking smile. Harry smiled back, picked up the pizza with his fingers, and took a bite.