Outside, the rain pours from the dark grey skies, filling the grounds below as Sarah watches from her bedroom window. She's ignoring the white dress on the back of her door, the one taunting her with the promises she's going to make tomorrow in front of his family and a few of her closest friends.
Ask any of those friends if they thought she'd ever tie the knot, and they would have said the idea was ludicrous. Sarah Jane Smith doesn't belong to any man, and would glare for having made such a suggestion.
Not this time.
David loves her, she's sure of it. The way his eyes light up when she walks into a room, or linger when he thinks she's not looking. They have dinner out with friends, or sometimes stay in with takeaway. Sarah finds herself most at ease curled up on the sofa watching the telly, her head resting on David's chest.
After all these years, a singular heartbeat still feels foreign under her ear.
She doesn't hear the TARDIS land, that familiar whoosh from within the travelling blue box that she's so accustomed to, nor its owner cracking his head through her bedroom door. It isn't until he's fully standing in her room that her head shifts, a tiny gasp catching in the back of her throat.
"Hello, Sarah Jane," he says, trying not to let his smile show as his voice drops. He hasn't changed faces since Sarah saw him last, though she notices his curls are a tad greyer and there are more creases around his eyes. The rather large soaked burgundy garb wrapped around him is new though, and Sarah would like nothing more than less of it. It doesn't suit him.
However, she's frozen to the floor.
The Doctor unwraps the first part of his outfit, the burgundy scarf that could probably encompass Earth. Sarah notices how much he hesitates before letting the heavy piece of wool drop to the floor with a resounding plop.
"Hello, Doctor." Sarah's voice struggles with both the fact that he's here, and not a figment of her wild imagination. "You're wet."
"Yes, quite," he smiles, and Sarah moves towards him as he pulls at his heavily drenched coat. She helps push it the rest of the way off to the floor. What's left is a burgundy vest and loose fitting white shirt with question marks on the collar, and as Sarah touches said collar, she wonders when he got so ironic.
The Doctor catches her hands and holds them between his own. I've missed you, his eyes say, but I'm here and you're here and that's all that matters, right? His small genuine smile is an indication of many other things, most of which Sarah's not sure of for the moment. All she can do is smile back.
Focus, Sarah Jane, don't get lost, Sarah's inner voice says before she moves away.
"Am I in danger?"
"You know, alien invasions, mysterious explosions, that sort of thing?" Her eyes meet his as if to say, you know, the abnormal thing that caused you to come here? She once again sees the Doctor hesitate.
"None of those things, I'm afraid. "
"Good. I'd really hate to get blown up before my vows. I probably shouldn't have left K-9 at home, just to be safe." She crosses her arms in a silent form of defence. The Doctor runs his hands through his curls once, twice, before finding a seat in an overstuffed chair near where he had been standing.
Since when is he so vulnerable looking? Sarah wonders, moving towards him without thinking. He leans forward until he notices she's near, parting his knees before she steps in between them. Her hands brush his wet curls, trying to make semblance of them.
"I missed you," he says, at an almost whisper. Sarah knows he's trying his best not to brace his hands on each side of her. It's been too long. They haven't crossed that familiar spatial boundary yet where it's okay for him to touch her, despite her touching him almost automatically.
Sarah continues to stroke his hair, a slow sly smile trying not to cross her lips. You always knew how to sneak past my defences, didn't you, Doctor?
"Is that's why you're here?" He looks up at her, and Sarah swears her heart stops, holding in her chest only to think he'll make it break.
"Silly Doctor," she whispers, feeling her heart and soul fall back into her chest and resume beating. She's smiling now, one she knows he's seen before. Unfortunately for them, Sarah hears footsteps and a man's voice calling her name, and takes several steps back.
I'm sorry, her eyes sadden and fall as her bedroom door creaks open.
"Sarah, love, Lavinia told me you were–" A handsome man of dark wavy hair and similar light blue eyes as the Doctor's, David's eyes come upon the Doctor as he approaches Sarah, and leans in to kiss her cheek. "Up here. Oh, hullo."
"Hello." The Doctor stands, shoving his hands into his pockets. The vulnerability that Sarah once saw is visibly behind a façade as he tries to straighten.
"Darling–" Sarah tries keeping her eyes on the Doctor, but reaches for David. She holds his hand while rubbing up and down one arm. "The Doctor is an old friend of mine, remember? From back when I worked with UNIT?"
David nods in semi-acknowledgement, much to her relief as the Doctor's eyebrow merely raises. "He's in town, so we thought we'd catch up for a bit. Rehash some of the old stories, right, Doctor?"
The Doctor nods, his eyes darting between his things on the floor and Sarah. Sarah hopes her eyes are an indication of what she needs him to do. Follow my lead.
"Right, well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Doctor. Any friend of Sarah's–" David pulls away from Sarah, holding out his hand. The Doctor shakes it as Sarah rubs her forehead. This may or may not be the best moment ever, Sarah thinks, introducing her fiancée to–well, she's not quite sure what the Doctor is anymore.
As if he was ever anything, other than her alien friend who showed her the universe. There were several times that Sarah thought otherwise when they were together, but it was a really long time ago and the memories feel jaded now as she thinks of them.
"The feeling's mutual." The Doctor plays his cards right, trying to smile.
"I guess I'll be going. Leave you to your catching up. You should probably lend your friend a few of my things, darling, he looks like he could use them." David steps back to Sarah, kissing her on the lips before wrapping his arm around her waist. "Dinner later?"
Sarah nods, biting her lip as David pulls away and leaves. The Doctor looks away, and Sarah knows they're both collecting their thoughts. She's far more embarrassed than she ever expected to be.
Is this how it's going to be from now on? Her boyfriend, no, fiancée, no, soon to be husband, Sarah finally corrects herself. He's allowed to kiss her, he's got that right, and yet it never felt wrong before this moment in front of the Doctor.
Humans are about relationships, she wants to say. We need them in order to survive.
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize–" The Doctor looks more upset than he's letting on, putting one finger over his lip before bending down to pick up his heap of a jacket. "I should have known better than to let the TARDIS decide."
"Don't be." Sarah moves to pick up the scarf before he can reach it, holding it up to her face despite it still being damp. She smells the TARDIS mixed in with the rain, and admits it's a lovely combination that takes her straight back to their travels. "She always takes you where you ought to go, more than where you want. You don't think she's jealous, do you?"
Sarah holds out the scarf, which he takes. His horrified expression causes her to laugh, bubbly and sweet. She covers her mouth attempting to stifle her amusement before settling her hands on her hips. "I'm only joking, Doctor. C'mon, David's right, we need to get you out of those things."
Sarah turns to a nearby pile of clothes. She picks through them, finding what looks to be a white shirt and a dark pair of trousers before turning to him. "You're both about the same size. These should do until yours dry, or you go running back to the TARDIS."
The Doctor takes the clothes from her, their fingers brushing one another as she smirks and he merely raises an eyebrow. Oh, you're enjoying this, are you, Sarah? Despite what you think, I can play this game too, she thinks.
"Aunt Lavinia can make a much better cuppa than I. I'll have her make enough for both of us." Afraid to stop and catalogue the moment for the fear of him vanishing, Sarah makes her way to the door. She looks back before exiting.
Breathe, Sarah, he'll be right down. Sitting at the kitchen table, Sarah watches her aunt cross the room carrying the teapot.
"So, this Doctor is the man that left you?" As Lavinia pours Sarah's tea, Sarah feels her aunt's words weighing heavy on her heart as if Aberdeen were yesterday and she was still wearing the Andy Pandy overalls. She leans forward, nodding as she grabs her cup and takes a sip to avoid answering.
The Doctor's tall lanky form appears in the doorway donning the borrowed clothes, and Sarah's eyes shoot up to greet him. Lavinia sets down the teapot, and follows Sarah's eyes.
"There you are, Doctor. Perfect timing." Lavinia says, bracing both hands on the back of the chair. "As usual, Sarah Jane isn't telling me what I'd like to know. I don't suppose you would shed light on your time with my niece?"
The Doctor steps forward, looking at Sarah for both confirmation and approval. When he gets neither from her sudden downcast eyes, she hears him speak. "No, I don't suppose I would, thank you."
"I see." Sarah hears Lavinia's sigh, and doesn't have to look to know Lavinia's looking down, tapping a beat on the back of the chair. Sarah instead looks to the Doctor, and as their eyes meet, he shares her expression.
Lavinia straightens. "David's gone to the Station to pick up his groomsmen. He should be back by seven for the rehearsal."
That's her warning, Sarah thinks. As if she thinks I need a warning right now.
"Thank you," Sarah says, and Lavinia eyes the Doctor as she leaves. Sarah stands, and busies herself with pouring the Doctor a fresh cup of tea. Her hands shake, but she does her best not to let him notice.
"Groomsmen are important you know." The Doctor's voice is incredibly calm, and a touch quiet. "I once attended a wedding on a planet where there were thirty-six of them all standing around like cattle waiting to be slaughtered. Just as well, when the groom ended up dead. The first groomsman in line had to take his place."
Sarah sits back down, her cup of tea between both hands as the Doctor sits in the chair Lavinia was just holding. "I somehow highly doubt that will happen tomorrow. First, David's the spitting image of health. Second, I don't even know that many blokes to have standing around."
The Doctor smiles, a full on grin that Sarah knows right in this second she has missed. She takes a deep sip of her tea, and smiles back, resisting the urge to touch the hand he's left on the table. Fortunately, by the next time he speaks, Sarah realizes that his hand has reached across the table for hers.
"The clothes fit quite nicely, thank you." His hand quickly adjusts to combine their fingers as he leans his cheek on his palm. Sarah notices how well their hands fit together, as if she could forget how perfect they used to be in motion.
"You look more like yourself." Sarah sets the teacup down, mimicking his posture of resting her elbow on the table with her cheek in her palm. She watches her fingers flex against his. "At least the Doctor I used to know."
"Yes, well, everything has its time–" The Doctor inhales a deep breath before he speaks again, looking in front of him and then back to her. "I guess congratulations are in order. Your intended's a lucky fellow. I'm sure you'll both be very happy."
"Thank you." Sarah blushes, and straightens up as best she can without releasing their hands. Their fingers begin moving slightly back and forth within one another's grip, and Sarah finds the act more than comforting.
Lavinia's words ring in the back of Sarah's mind repeatedly, reminding her of her impending obligations. Sarah looks to the kitchen clock. There are so many things she wants to ask the Doctor, so many things that she wants to sort between them, and she knows there's not enough time.
"The rain's stopped." His voice lowers, deeper and softer than she's ever heard him speak before as Sarah turns her head towards the window and then back to him. She sees something, located right in the centre of his very blue eyes that both fascinates and startles her at the same time. "Fancy a walk?"
"Why not?" Sarah says with a smile.
The Doctor and Sarah walk through the muddied grounds of Moreton Harwood, Sarah having put on her wellies before they were out the door. They're hand in hand, ruminating quietly back and forth as the trees hover over them, and a light mist of rain still clings to the air.
"I've travelled quite a bit since you've been back on Earth." The Doctor repeats himself from earlier, feeling the freedom to express himself now that he knows Lavinia isn't likely to eavesdrop on their conversation.
Sarah looks ahead, and tries her best not to pout. Oh Doctor, why must you tell me this?
Sarah sees the TARDIS off in the distance, carefully hidden between two tall leafy trees, and knows the Doctor had quite a walk to get to the main house. She's surprised he's hasn't made a move for it, but then again, nothing is turning out like she would have predicted.
"Hopefully, your companions are much more patient than I was." Sarah stops to face him, motioning to the TARDIS, trying to smile. The Doctor reaches up for a stray leaf in her hair. His hand lowers to linger on her cheek, and Sarah shudders. It hurts to think of him being so gentle when she knows that he's travelling with someone else.
"Adric's in no hurry. He's a brilliant boy, you'd like him." The Doctor's head lowers as Sarah's head tilts up, their faces inching closer together. If Sarah didn't know better, she swears he's going to kiss her. But this is the Doctor, and he doesn't do such things.
His thumb traces her cheek now. Face it, Sarah. You're lost, and always have been when it comes to him.
"I'm sure I would." Sarah's lips meet the Doctor's first, and her mind nearly explodes. She doesn't feel his hand shift up to cradle the nape of her neck as his other drops to the small of her back, pulling her flush with him.
Growing warmth slowly emanates from the Doctor's normally cool body that Sarah has never noticed before. Her arms loop around his neck as their heads switch angles, and his lips part at Sarah's request. Eventually, Sarah pulls away, taking several puffs of air as she settles against him.
His double heartbeats greet her like an old friend, thumping erratic under her ear. As his chin rests on the top of her head, it's too much sensation for her to handle. They're standing in the misty grounds of Moreton Harwood and Sarah feels as though the world is anew.
"We've crossed it, haven't we?" There is a different type of desperation in the Doctor's voice as though he's done something wrong, and Sarah feels it resonate through her as tears prick her eyes.
Her head shifts so that her eyes meet his, pressing her lips together to avoid kissing him again. Reality slowly seeps back in as she nods her head. "And, I'm getting married tomorrow."
The Doctor glances towards the TARDIS. "You could come with me. I'd have you back in plenty of time."
"If only today were yesterday, Doctor." Sarah pulls away completely, wiping at her eyes. "I'd have gone with you anywhere."
His arms are around her again before she knows it, holding her almost too tight.
"Then I'll go back." His whispers touch her ears, soothing and melodic from that deep voice of his. His lips touch her shoulder as his head bows. "I'll fix all of this, and we'll travel once more."
"But then I won't remember." Tears trickle down Sarah's face. "I'll give up almost anything to remember this."
Sarah shifts so that they're face to face without letting go of one another. She hears Adric in the distance, calling out for the Doctor and it forces her to pause. Someone else needs him now.
The Doctor's face falls as he lets go of Sarah, looking towards Adric. "I'll be right there." Sarah crosses her arms to keep from shaking, knowing that his boy companion has better timing than she wants but probably needs.
"Do you recall what you said when you left K-9?" Sarah grabs the Doctor's attention once more. He nods as Sarah reaches for him, putting her arms through the gaps near his elbows and holding him close. She recites the message from heart. "Give Sarah Jane my fondest love–Tell her I shall remember her always."
Sarah then smiles, knowing he's probably not getting it. "I never needed platitudes."
The light bulb clicks across the Doctor's face. He then leans down to kiss her. This time, it's much more familiar as Sarah allows him to lead, feeling the surge of energy that they're giving back and forth. It's almost like the Vortex, Sarah thinks, spinning and churning at a thousand miles an hour and there's nearly nothing like it in the universe.
"We'll meet again, Sarah," he says.
"I'm counting on it." She smiles as he walks towards the TARDIS. He looks back to her twice, and each time she nods and waves. Her chest aches at the familiar whoosh of the TARDIS, and then he's gone.
She sighs, and slowly makes her way back to the house.
It's pouring rain outside, much like Sarah's seen it do in the last week. She's in the attic, sitting at her desk and finishing up an article on her laptop with a cold cup of tea nearby. Clyde and Rani left a half hour ago, claiming that they had a big project that needed to be done.
Sarah knows that they're starting to see each other as more than just friends, and it's refreshing. She remembers being that young, and all things considered, it doesn't feel like it was that long ago. She wishes nothing for them but the best, and knows that Luke approves.
"Sarah Jane, my scanners are detecting an enormous concentration of artron energy," her supercomputer says from across the room, his panels hanging open. "Were you expecting the Doctor?"
"No, I wasn't." Sarah stands, and crosses the room towards Mr Smith. She studies his screen for several seconds, wondering what's happened. "Where exactly are you detecting him?"
"I am detecting him in this–" Before Mr Smith could finish his sentence, Sarah hears the TARDIS dematerializing behind her on the landing. She turns just as the Doctor pokes his head out.
The tall Doctor with curly hair that left her standing in the misty rain of 1985. He's still wearing David's clothes.
"I told you we'd meet again, Sarah." His grin is blinding and infectious, and Sarah feels her soul nearly leap out of her chest as she smiles back. And here you are, aren't you, Doctor?
"And I told you I was counting on it." Sarah crosses her arms, and tilts her head. One eyebrow lifts, and the Doctor is swift to pick her up and spin her around.
"Oh, my Sarah, I am here just like I promised." He cradles the back of her head, and Sarah leans into the embrace. Sarah is never gladder for those days where age never matters and time is but a blip on his radar.
"Doctor, you said you needed to get your coat back." Adric interrupts them, much like he did in 1985. He takes a look around Sarah's attic. "It's very nice in here."
"Indeed it is," the Doctor smiles, putting his arm across Sarah's shoulders. "Go on, finish up what I gave you. We're going to Logopolis to fix the Chameleon Circuit soon, and I'll need those calculations."
"Oh, alright." Adric shuts the TARDIS doors, and Sarah turns her attention back to the Doctor. She touches his face, almost as if she's forgotten for the second time in her life what he looks like when he's front of her.
"Is he talking about that great big thing?" She touches the Doctor's face, and he nods as she pulls away, her hands on her hips. "Well, you're in luck. Be right back."
Sarah goes up the landing, carefully manoeuvring around the TARDIS to get to the attic door. She then goes down the steps, making her way to her bedroom where she knows she's kept his things. After all these years, she now knows why his future selves haven't asked for them back.
She grabs the neatly folded pile of question mark shirt, trousers, and scarf from the bottom of her closet, behind her mountain of boots. The coat is a much easier find. She's got it thrown over her overstuffed chair near her bed. She piles it on her as she makes her way to the door.
Halfway back to the attic, Sarah stops and smiles. She takes a deep whiff of the burgundy coat, knowing that while a great deal of his scent has faded, there is still a great portion of him and the TARDIS there. She's going to miss wrapping herself in it on cold lonely nights when there's no one in the house but her.
The Doctor's studying Mr Smith when Sarah enters. She's wearing his coat with his clothes in her hands. The scarf loops around her neck, the excess trailing behind her, and the Doctor's grin widens.
"I must admit my coat looks much better on you. I never knew you had such a sense of style," he smirks, taking the clothes from her and tossing them to the side. He reaches for the coat, straightening it around her as his expression falls and his voice lowers. "I'm not disrupting anything by being here, am I, Sarah? David won't walk in suddenly and be upset, will he?"
"I'm sure David was–upset for a while." Sarah sighs, a deeply happy sigh that the Doctor's standing in her attic though she's not quite sure he gets it yet. "We had a nice chat about ten years ago. Met his wife. They have three daughters, and a grandson to boot."
Sarah could see the Doctor doing the math in his head, and unloops the scarf from around her neck. She then loops it around his. "I don't know that I'll ever be used to this you wearing all this getup, but if it's what you want–"
"I never meant to stop your wedding–" He catches her hands, and the light-hearted Sarah fades ever so slightly. "I only wanted your happiness."
"And I am happy, Doctor," Sarah replies. "I have a family that I never expected to have, a life that's full and more than unusual, and it's enough. Some other life I can be an ordinary wife, perhaps." She smiles, pulling his coat from around her and holding it out. "You need this back."
The slight bulk of the coat wraps around the Doctor as his arms go through the sleeves. He looks uncomfortable buried once again, Sarah thinks. She moves forward, wrapping her arms around his inner waist. Her head fits snug under his chin as her eyes close, and she focuses on his heartbeats.
"This coat smells like you," he says. Sarah's eyes crack open as she blushes slightly and looks up at him, biting her lip. "But I suppose if you're not going to travel with me, I'm more than glad."
"It belongs to both of us, Doctor," Sarah says, with a bit of defiance. "Which means one day, you'll have to bring it back."
"Count on it," he smiles.