“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the most of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.” –Gilda Radner, In Humanity
1: The Brigadier
He thought she was as surprised to see him as he was to see her. It was Doris’ annual Christmas party, as usual thrown two weeks before the occasion, and he had been sticking to what usually worked. Greeting guests at the door with a brief nod of the head, making small talk, waiting until he’d fulfilled his duties long enough so that he could be allowed to go smoke with a few of the other gentlemen who would inevitably arrange themselves in the parlor while their wives chatted nearby.
It was a mixed get together, an odd assortment of people that had a steady set of regulars who showed up every year combined with new faces, the occasional niece or nephew someone brought, most of whom would never be seen again.
He didn’t expect her there, though. She stepped out of the snow, smile bright but edged with a sort of hesitancy. There was snow flecked on her leather jacket, and she had her arms around herself. He couldn’t help but smile fondly. “Miss Smith.”
Her smile warmed into something more genuine. “Brigadier.” They stood in the entryway grinning at each other, until someone else arrived, and Sarah moved out of the way with an apologetic dip of her head.
Alistair moved around her to shut the door, and he felt the warmth automatically start returning to the little area. “Merry Christmas,” Sarah said cheerfully when he turned back to her.
“Merry Christmas,” he said back, and then added, “Even though it is horribly early.”
“Just two weeks.” Sarah glanced about. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen your house before. It’s nice.”
“Doris decorated it.”
“It’s nice,” she repeated. “All of the holly is quite charming.”
He didn’t feel it worth mentioning how annoying he found it. “Why don’t you let me take your jacket? Then we could move to the other room.”
Sarah studied him for a moment, arms still held around herself. Slowly she uncrossed her arms, slipped it off, eyes never leaving him. As she handed it to him, there was something sobering about her eyes. She said, “You assumed I was still Miss Smith.”
The comment took him off guard, and he almost forgot he had the jacket in his hands. “I’m sorry. It must have been an old force of habit. Are you…?” He couldn’t finish the sentence, but he didn’t care about the why of not finishing it.
She shook her head. “I don’t know why I even mentioned it.” She laughed at herself, a short, dry laugh.
He smiled back a brisk smile. “Why don’t I fix us a drink?”
“That would be lovely.”
“Doctor, I think that…” The Brigadier’s voice trailed off as he noticed the Doctor was leaning close enough to Miss Smith to whisper something in her ear. She laughed and hit him playfully on the shoulder.
He coughed to announce his presence, and Sarah gave the Doctor a bemused look. The Doctor didn’t take his eyes from Sarah as he asked, “What is it now, Brigadier?”
He found himself standing a little straighter, caught himself, and tried not to. “Yes, well, there seems to be a bit of a mishap with that machine you gave us the blueprints for.” He stood waiting for the Doctor, who didn’t move from his spot and who looked like he was waiting for more.
“Is that all?” The Doctor still wasn’t looking at him.
The Doctor cut him off with a wave of his hand. “I’ll get to it in a minute.”
The Brigadier felt a wash of annoyance. “Doctor, this is a matter of urgent importance, and-”
“Do you remember when I gave you a brief tour of the TARDIS, very incomplete of course? I was just talking about doing the same thing for Miss Smith.”
Sarah seemed to miss the look the Brigadier shared with the Doctor. She nodded enthusiastically. “He said it goes on forever, though I don’t know that I quite believe him.”
“Well, you are quite welcome to try to find the end of it. Though I’ll miss you when you’re gone. I rather liked having you around.” Sarah gave the Doctor a sigh, an eye roll, and a smile before she hooked his arm.
“Then you’ll have to guide me, so I won’t get lost.”
“I believe that’s what tours are.” The Doctor turned to look over his shoulder. “Are you coming, Brigadier?”
He showed up at her flat the next day, tried to knock snow off his jacket before he stepped in the door. She retreated to where she had a pot of tea sitting on the stove. “I didn’t know if you’d come.”
“I’m not very good at refusing people.” Just his more elaborate way of saying he’s never been able to say no. Even when he knew he should. Alistair’s fingers moved to unbutton his coat as Sarah poured him a cup of tea.
“I hadn’t remembered.” It was said almost like an apology.
“I doubt I remember how I used to drink it myself these days.” He set the coat aside and stood uneasily by the door.
Sarah handed him the tea. “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.”
He tried, settled himself into an arm chair, holding the saucer in one hand, the tea in another. His hand shook a little as he raised the cup to his mouth, and finally the Brigadier ended up setting the tea on the table. “About the other night… at the Christmas party…”
“Umm hmm?” Sarah smiled at him as she looked up from pouring her own cup of tea.
He knew what he’d been about to say, but the words were suddenly flat and useless, so he let them go, stared at his own hands. “I hadn’t been expecting to see you.”
“It was a nice surprise, I hope?” She stopped near the arm of the chair and looked down at him.
“Yes, of course. It’s been a long time.”
“It has.” Sarah set her cup near his, got to her knees. “You don’t seem to have changed a bit.” She sighed as her hand drifted over the arm of the chair. Her gaze was steady as she brought her eyes up to meet his.
“You haven’t-” He almost reached out to touch her hair. It was like the past, the past was sitting in front of him. “You haven’t aged a day,” he finished, and his hand dropped back down to his knee.
“I rather think you’re mistaken about that.” She laughed and pulled herself back to her feet. Careful of the tea, she sat herself on the edge of the table facing him, hands clutching the edges, leaning forward ever so slightly. “Tell me, Brigadier, why do you think you’re here?”
“I would think it’s rather obvious.”
She bit her lip, shook her head just enough for her hair to sway a little back and forth. It reminded him of the Sarah Jane of several years ago, and it hadn’t struck him until now that she was a different person from the one sitting in front of him. She swallowed, leaned closer. He could see her open her mouth to say something, but then she closed it again, sat back up.
Before he knew he’d done it, he’d reached forward and grabbed her arm. It might have been the look on her face, or maybe it was an innate fondness he’d always had for her, nothing like love, but a fondness nonetheless, but he smoothed his thumb over the material of her shirt and said, “You know why I came.”
She gently pushed his hand off her arm and stood up. Sarah watched him as her fingers worked deftly with the first buttons on her blouse. She brought one eyebrow up slightly above the other. “You should finish your tea before it gets cold.”
“Why is there an empty room with a couch in it?” Sarah asked, turning back to the Doctor.
“Why not? It gives one a place to sit.” As if to show her, he promptly sat himself on the couch, a green thing that- while it looked clean- was rather ugly.
Sarah promptly said so. “It’s not very attractive.”
“It’s quite comfortable. Do you want to come join me?”
She shook her head and crossed her arms. “I don’t think so.” She did take a couple of steps closer to him. “What does it feel like?”
“Velvet. I think it might be made of velvet.” He ran his hand across the back of it, leaving a dark pattern in the material. “Are you sure you don’t want to join me? There’s more than enough room.”
She uncrossed her arms and looked at him. He just watched her patiently, making no effort to move from the little couch. With a growl of frustration, she carried herself across the rest of the distance and sat beside him. “There! Are you happy? I’m sitting on it.”
He chuckled which just made her more upset. After that sound died down, they sat in the relative quiet of the empty room, Sarah’s legs kicking lightly as they dangled off the couch.
“It’s an empty room,” she said finally. “We’re just sitting here on an ugly couch in an empty room.” A grin slipped through her determinedly angry expression, and then she burst out laughing. “It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?”
“I kind of like it.” He leaned back, crossed his hands over his stomach. “Nothing like a bit of quiet.”
“You’re talking about the Brigadier, I assume.” Sarah giggled. She stopped suddenly. “Doctor, when you were showing me around the TARDIS the other day…” Her finger absently traced a pattern in the velvet surface of the couch. Sarah frowned. “Nothing, I suppose it’s nothing.”
The Doctor didn’t say anything, and when she looked up he was studying her. “What is it, Sarah?”
“Nothing.” Sarah turned her eyes back towards the couch. She looked back towards the door to the room, barely an outline against the white of the walls. “A person could go insane in this room.”
He embraced her, a smile lighting his features. “Harry, if you call me anything starting with old, I’m going to turn around and walk back out.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He let her go, but then at the last minute pulled her back for another hug. They stayed pressed together for a second too long, and Sarah watched people pass over Harry’s shoulder.
“Still working on things you won’t tell me about?” she asked as he led her to a table.
“Can’t tell you about,” he corrected. He pulled out her chair for her, which made her roll her eyes at him. “It’s nice to see you. I’ve thought about calling.”
“Harry, that’s sweet, but…” She played with edge of one of the plastic menus laying on the table, peeling back a corner that had already started to separate from the paper. “Well, we’re having lunch now.”
“Yes. Yes, we are.” He peered at his own menu. “Sarah-” She was a bit startled at the sound of her own name, and he was cut off by the waitress. “We need a minute,” he told her.
“I wasn’t expecting you to be the one to call.”
“Is it so hard to believe that I’d want to see you?” She laughed, but she was looking down, reading food items instead of looking at him. Sarah finally met his eyes. “I enjoyed your company.”
He didn’t say anything. “Surely we didn’t come to talk about this,” she said.
“I was rather worried… Well, never mind. You’re right, I’m sure.”
“Of course, I’m right.” Sarah tried a smile, and Harry tried to smile back, but the whole thing came off flat.
“We need a drink. Or at least I could use a drink. We could make a toast to old times.” He looked about the room like a bottle of something might appear.
“Drinking to a bunch of things we don’t do anymore.” Sarah looked out the window, past the people, at the clouds bunching together in the sky. She seemed to snap out of it, turned back. “I don’t think so. I think we should just enjoy lunch.”
The waitress chose that moment to come back.
Sarah frowned as the Brigadier ran his hand over a large dresser with intricate looking carvings. “Have you been decorating, Doctor?”
The Doctor glanced at it briefly. “I don’t know how that got there.”
“So what, it just moved itself?” Sarah asked.
“The TARDIS isn’t like a house, Sarah. It doesn’t stay the same. There aren’t a set number of rooms, and you don’t necessary find the same thing in the same place all of the time.”
“What’s the point in that? Everything would get lost.”
“You find what you need to,” The Doctor answered simply.
Sarah just shook her head and continued on with him. She stopped when she noticed the Brigadier wasn’t following them but instead was staring around.
“Did you notice something peculiar, Brigadier?” she asked, walking over to the spot where he was standing.
“Oh, I was just remembering something.” Sarah turned to see that the Doctor was already well out of sight by this time, and she sighed.
“Good memories, I hope.”
He put his arms behind his back. All he said was, “It was a long time ago.” He turned his head to look at her. “I’m afraid we’ve lost the Doctor.”
Sarah shrugged. “He’ll realize in a minute. He’s probably still talking to himself.”
“Probably.” They shared a laugh, and Sarah fell silent first.
“How long have you known the Doctor, Brigadier?”
“Quite awhile.” He paused. “I think I hear him coming back. We should probably head back and see if we can’t find him.” When Sarah listened she didn’t hear any footsteps, but she followed him down the hallway.
Harry stood with her in front of her building. “You could come in,” she offered. Her vision of him was blurred by several lines of her hair that the wind kept whipping across her face.
He swept them out of the way with his hand, tucked them behind her ear. “I’m not sure I should.” He smiled.
“You act like I’m doing more than inviting you up for a cup of tea and asking for a few more minutes of your company, Harry!” He studied her for a moment.
“Maybe it wouldn’t hurt anything.”
Sarah hit him lightly on the shoulder. “Of course it wouldn’t hurt anything.”
He followed her out of the wind, and they ended up huddled in the stairwell. She had to push the hair back out of the way of her face. “At least we’re out of the wind.”
There wasn’t a lot of room, and they were mostly pressed together in the small space. Sarah could see Harry swallow, and she smiled. “We really haven’t seen each other in awhile, have we?”
He shook his head. “It’s been a long time.” He started to reach for her cheek, instead put his hand on her shoulder. Harry pulled away. “So you mentioned tea?”
Sarah took a deep breath. “Yes, I believe I did.”
Her flat was cold as she pushed the door open, and Harry had to pull his arms around himself. “Sorry, I can’t seem to keep it any warmer in here.”
“Harry.” He snapped to attention at the tone of her voice. Sarah stood in the middle of her living area looking at him. “Don’t you ever miss me?”
He sighed, let his arms fall to his sides. “Of course, Sarah. What do you think?”
“I don’t know. You act like- I don’t know.” He stepped around her armchair and pulled off his gloves before he put one hand on each of her arms.
He opened his mouth to say something, but he closed his mouth. Harry pulled her forward and pressed his mouth to hers. His lips were chapped from the cold, and his fingers were cool as he moved his hands to her waist.
Part 3: The Doctor
He watched Sarah run her hand over the TARDIS console and wondered absently if she was picking up the habit from him. The TARDIS seemed to like it well enough, he noticed with a wry smile.
Sarah kept her back to him, so he was forced to just stand and watch her as she moved about the TARDIS, particularly noticing the material of her blue dress brushing about her calves.
The Doctor shook his head. “What is it about this time, Sarah Jane?”
She turned and gave him a cold look. “I have no idea what you’re taking about, Doctor.”
“I can tell when you’re upset, but I’ll have you know I did nothing to deserve-” The Doctor was cut off by the arrival of the Brigadier. “I suppose you’ve fetched me the photos of those supposed aliens they’ve been reporting around Cardiff?”
The Brigadier handed him a folder, but he was watching Sarah. “How can you tell if they are false by just looking at them?”
The Doctor glanced over. “I can’t, but I can tell if they look like the genuine thing, and if they do then someone has been doing their homework.”
Sarah seemed to notice the Brigadier watching her and gave him a little nod. “Good afternoon, Brigadier.”
He nodded back. “Good afternoon, Miss Smith.”
She started to turn back to the console, but then she paused. Sarah walked over. “So you’ve brought the Doctor photographs?”
“Yes. We’ve had a bit of an incident involving glowing creatures crawling out of the sewer.” The Brigadier seemed to notice how close she was to his shoulder, and he took a step towards the Doctor. “Do you recognize them?”
“Yes, unfortunately.” The Doctor looked at Sarah for a moment before he continued. “Luckily for us, they are relatively peaceful and easy to take care of, so we should be able to convince them to leave without too much trouble.”
Sarah leaned against the console, looking perfectly bored, and seemed not to listen to the rest of what he had to tell the Brigadier. The Doctor’s voice got progressively more annoyed, and finally he thrust the folder back at the Brigadier. “Tell Miss Smith if she wants to behave like a normal, reasoning human being, I’ll be waiting in the back.” He disappeared down a hallway, and the Brigadier glanced at Sarah.
She shrugged at him. “What?”
Harry had her against a wall and, from what the Doctor could tell, had quite a bit of his tongue in her mouth. “Slow down, Harry. It’s not a race.” The comment made Sarah huffy, and she glared at him.
He propped his feet up on the arm of the couch, noticing the dents it left in the green velvet. He rested his head on the other arm, pleased to find the couch was just the right length for him. “Well, don’t let me get in your way.”
Sarah pulled off her jacket, some awful yellow thing she’d picked up who knows where, and tossed it at his head. The Doctor caught it easily. Harry looked at Sarah and then at the Doctor. He sighed. “I give up then.”
“Aww, don’t give up, Harry. It’s quite unfair to poor Sarah.”
Sarah smiled at him. “Don’t worry about me, Doctor. I can take care of myself.”
“I know you can.” He held out an arm, and she settled into his side on the couch.
“How big is that bloody thing?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know, Harry.” There was something overly playful in Sarah’s expression as she said, “You could try to join us on it.”
Harry looked at her like she was crazy, but Sarah reached up and tugged on his arm. “Oh come on, Harry. It’s not going to bite you.”
“I wasn’t afraid it was going to bite me. I was rather afraid you were going to get me for sitting on your hand or something.”
“Well I promise I won’t, so come down here.” Sarah moved over to make room, which ended up leaving her half on top of the Doctor.
He uncrossed his feet. “Since when did we decide this was going to be a three person affair?”
Sarah tried to turn back to see him, but she couldn’t. She sighed and rested her head against his chest. “A long time ago.”
Harry, who was still trying to adjust to being on the couch and who looked rather awkward, wore a confused expression. “It was really just a few moments ago.”
“Indeed it was, Harry. Indeed it was.” The Doctor adjusted Sarah better so that Harry had more room, for which Harry looked grateful for.
“Well this is odd,” Harry announced. “Why are we in a blank room?”
“Do be quiet, Harry.” Sarah pulled him up far enough to kiss him awkwardly, and he sat up to reach her better.
The Doctor settled into the couch. He could feel Sarah’s hair tickling him just below the chin, the top of her head coming up to somewhere near the base of his throat, and Harry, well Harry had his elbow firmly settled into his side. “Harry, do you mind?”
“Sorry.” Harry took the opportunity to slip his jacket off, and the Doctor watched the brown material pool on the white tile floor. He sort of liked the contrast it created, not that the green of the couch wasn’t contrast enough.
He felt Sarah shift on top of him, and he held her arms just below the shoulders. She didn’t seem to notice, most likely because she was quite otherwise engaged. Harry looked as if he were considering joining the vertical pile of bodies they had made, but the Doctor gave him a warning look. “Step around the arm if you must. I won’t have you sticking your knee in my side. Your elbow was quite enough.”
Harry’s face flushed pink for a second, but Sarah had already started unbuttoning the buttons on her silk shirt. He scrambled to his feet, and the Doctor shook his head. He let his hands drop from Sarah’s arms, and she stopped what she was doing.
He could almost feel the spread of muscle as she inhaled sharply. She leaned her cheek into his chest, closed her eyes. He patted her shoulder, and she nodded. Sarah ran her tongue over her mouth, and he could hear her release her breath slowly.
She lifted herself enough for Harry to pull her skirt off, and the Doctor held her arms again, and she gave him a little smile. Harry ran a hand up the inside of her thigh, and the Doctor could feel Sarah shudder.
He couldn’t see much besides Sarah’s hair, but he was part of the subtler things. He could feel her press her back into his chest, noticed other parts of her clothing join the pile on the floor. The Doctor could hear the change in her breathing next to his ear, every hitch of her breath, every small gasp, could hear the little things she whispered that he thought he’d never get out of his head.
He noticed she’d clutched his scarf into her hand, material sticking out from between her fingers. He ran his thumb lightly over the top of her hand, and she let it go, indentions slowly leaving the fabric, and the Doctor watched her head turn in the direction of their hands.
Her fingers had to search before they found his, each one sliding between two of his before her hand slid closed around his. He could feel her squeeze his hand ever so slightly in tune with each movement of her body, a slightly erratic rhythm like a heartbeat, the personal two-four time of Sarah Jane. A pulse that lay in her palm, a slight tightening of her fingers, the slide of her body against his, and he counted the beat in his head.
It seemed proper that her grip would tighten most when her body had paused, like it was the pinnacle in a Mozart symphony, when the instruments where hovering, waiting to break and fall resolution.
Sarah fell back against him, a tumble of loose muscles, and he whispered in her ear, “I met Mozart once.”
The Brigadier followed him inside the TARDIS. “What are you doing, boy?”
“I was simply going to ask how we are supposed to reach you on this… thing.” The Brigadier looked around the inside of the TARDIS, seeming almost weary about it.
The Doctor looked annoyed at his TARDIS being called “this thing”, but he glanced away from the Brigadier. “I’ll be around.”
“Yes, but what if we need to get a hold of you?”
“Then you’ll have to wait until I get there,” The Doctor said, like the Brigadier was quite daft.
The Brigadier stepped further inside. “How do you fit the inside…?”
“Around the outside? You ask the most original questions.” He waved his hand at the Brigadier as he turned a few knobs, pulled a lever. “I’m not even going to bother to answer. Not like you’d really understand anyhow.”
The Brigadier coughed. “Yes, well. Could you show me around a little?”
“Around the TARDIS?”
“Yes. It is quite remarkable.”
“I suppose.” They started off down the hallway. The Doctor could feel the Brigadier watching him. He stopped and turned. “You seem quite fascinated by me, Brigadier.”
A smile curved on the Doctor’s mouth. “Right this way, Brigadier.”
He could hear them outside the door. “And there’s an ugly couch,” Sarah said with a laugh. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault we’re stuck trying to find him in this maze.”
“It’s quite alright.” The Brigadier didn’t say anything else.
Her footsteps stopped suddenly. “You know, Brigadier, I really do admire the work you do here at UNIT.” The Doctor rolled his eyes and rested his cheek on the back of his hand.
“Why, thank you. I do try, you know, but with these aliens running around all over central London half of the time…”
Sarah’s voice was sympathetic. “Very hard on you.” There was a pause, and the Doctor leaned forward. “We really should find the Doctor.” He nodded to himself.
The Brigadier agreed, and the Doctor soon saw Sarah’s head appear around the door. “There you are.”
He threw up his hands. “Here I am.” He rested his head back where it had been on the back of his hand. “Have you decided to be more amicable?”
Sarah lowered her head enough to look at him through her eyelashes. “Yes, Doctor.”
“Good, then.” He sat up straight, put his hand on his knees like he was about to get up. “Oh, Brigadier, what were you trying to find me for?”
The Brigadier was peering about the room. He shook his head. “You never said where these aliens were from.”
The Doctor studied the Brigadier for a long second. “And, pray tell, what would you need to know that for?”
“Filing purposes?” The Doctor leaned back and sighed. “Next you’ll be telling me you want me to start drawing you pictures and writing labels underneath them.”
The Brigadier started to say something, but the Doctor held up a finger. “Keep the sentiment to yourself, Brigadier. I’m quite sure I don’t want to hear it.” He turned. “Sarah, were you wearing that jacket before?”
She shook her head. “Well where did you get it?”
“The Brigadier.” She pulled at one of the sleeves. “I was cold. He offered to lend it to me.”
“That was awfully kind of him.” The Doctor pressed his fingers together and studied Sarah over the top of them. “I hope you said thank you.”
The corner of her mouth twitched upward briefly, and she gave a casual shrug with one shoulder. “I hadn’t got around to it yet.” She turned to say something to the Brigadier when the Doctor cut her off.
“Sarah, take off the jacket.”
Her head shot back to him, and she opened her mouth but nothing came out. “I didn’t-”
“I didn’t ask you to do it. I told you to do it.”
“Doctor, if you think you can order me around, just because you-” Sarah stopped mid-sentence and shrugged the jacket off. She handed it to the Brigadier. “Here’s your jacket, Brigadier. Thank you.”
Sarah stood perfectly straight as she turned back to the Doctor, arms crossed. “Is there anything else you want me to remove?”
The Doctor just kept watching her, unmoving, and Sarah didn’t move either. She put her hands down. The Brigadier started towards the door. “I think I’m going to just-”
“Don’t you dare.” Sarah didn’t turn to look at him as she spoke. He sighed.
“Sarah, there is really no reason for you to delay the Brigadier. I’m sure he has important work.”
“It can wait.” Her hand trembled as she reached around to her back and unzipped her dress. The room was quiet except for that sound which seemed to echo off the empty walls. The blue material pooled at her feet, a tiny lake in the middle of a snow field.
She held her head up high, defiantly. The Doctor held her gaze, never letting his eyes drop from hers. Finally he pushed himself to his feet, walked over to where she stood. He lifted the dress from the floor, settled it back around her shoulders. “I should show you Kalanoa. It really is quite lovely in the spring time.” He brushed past her, and neither him nor the Brigadier tried to meet each other’s eyes as he walked out of the room.
“What are you doing, Doctor?”
He turned around, lifting himself from the pole he’d been leaning on. “Nothing, Tegan. Just checking up on an old friend.”
“On the rooftop? There’s no one here.”
“No.” He took one more look at the darkened window across the street. The Doctor pulled himself away from the edge of the building, started back towards the TARDIS.
Tegan trailed with a glance back at the window. Nyssa, who had been waiting by the TARDIS the whole time, gave it a glance too before she followed the Doctor inside.
“You could have stayed with Rose,” she said again as she opened the door to her flat.
“Rose is a big girl. She can take care of herself. Besides, she has Mickey to play with.” The Doctor brushed past her, looked around the little flat. “You’ve redecorated.”
“I didn’t think you’d ever seen it before.”
“I haven’t?” He lifted a finger to his mouth for a moment. “Oh right. I haven’t.” He scratched the back of his head. “So, could I bother you for a cup of tea?”
“Just let me put a pot on the stove.” The Doctor settled into an armchair, his fingers drumming on the arm. He noticed a ring on the coffee table, traced his finger around it. He was doing that when Sarah got back.
“That’s been there forever.”
“It’s nice. Makes it feel lived in.”
“Much like an old green couch would?” She joked, but he could have sworn he saw something besides laughter in her eyes.
“It’s not quite the same. This only changes when you’re here to change it. Carpet only stains when you’re here to knock something over on it, and the dust only settles when you leave something alone long enough that it never has a chance to just… fly back,” he lifted a photo of her aunt Lavinia that she hadn’t touched in a long time and watched the flurry of particles it sent fluttering, “into the air.”
“I would think the TARDIS would be your home.”
He looked at her for a second. “Well yes, she’s not really a home. More like,” he pursed his lips in thought. “An old friend.”
“I was- I better check on the tea. I think I hear it whistling at me.” She laughed before she pulled herself up from the couch.
The Doctor watched her go, caught his reflection in a mirror she had hanging on her wall. He ran his hand over his hair, frowned at himself, licked his other palm and ran both hands over his hair. He shook his head, rustled his hair, shook his head again, then shrugged at his reflection.
He sat back quickly as Sarah reentered the room. She handed him the tea and sat back down. He gave her a grin and took a big drink, promptly spluttering it back up.
Sarah tried to suppress her laugher. “Too hot?”
“A little bit, yes.” He wiped his mouth, still grinning, sure he looked like an idiot. He sat the cup down on the little ring. “And here I am. Making my mark.”
Sarah shook her head. Her voice was quiet, “You didn’t have to be here to make your mark.”
He reached across the table, and his hand was cold as he pressed it against her cheek. “No, perhaps not.” He shifted off the chair, squatted beside the couch. He studied her intently for a minute before he lifted himself up enough to press his forehead against hers. The Doctor closed his eyes. “You’ve grown up, Sarah.”
“I’m pretty sure you don’t say that to people my age, Doctor.” Her laughter wasn’t quite steady.
“No,” he pressed his cheek against hers, breathed in the smell of her hair, some shampoo that smelled faintly of lavender. He enjoyed the feel of the material of her pants as he slid his hand over the top of her thigh. “I like it better.”
She took in a sharp breath, closed her eyes. “You can’t just come back and get caught and then expect me to act like…”
“Like?” He pulled on her ear lobe lightly with his teeth, nuzzled behind her ear with his nose. He could feel the shiver run through her.
“You aren’t taking everything I ever wanted you to take.” She shook her head, laughed at herself. “I sound ridiculous saying things like that.” She pulled on his arms, fingers clutching at his jacket, and he stretched himself over her. They worked on her jacket, laughing when her arm got caught behind her.
“Here, just let me…” He pulled her forward as he worked at the jacket, and she rested her cheek on his shoulder. “Do you really have to wear so many layers?”
“Sorry, didn’t know you were coming. I might have worn my bathing suit.”
He wrested the jacket free and gave her a serious look. “Don’t joke. I really liked that bathing suit.”
“Oh, so the eye roving wasn’t all my imagination?” She gave him a knowing smile.
“It, umm, might not have been, no.” He gave her another grin. He turned serious, and his hands ran lightly over her arms. “Sarah,” and it was said lightly, almost reverently.
She shuddered. He kissed the edge of her jaw, fingers pressing into her hips. He pulled her closer as he kissed her throat, a gentle lick followed by a little nip. He almost missed the “Why?” that escaped her throat.
Ten rested his forehead against her chest, gathered her into his arms. He tried to put together the myriad of answers to that question that floated through his mind, but instead he just answered, “Because it’s you. Because it’s now.” He closed his eyes. “Don’t... don’t ask for more than that.”
“Okay.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “Alright, I won’t.”
He held her tighter, squeezed his eyes shut. She rubbed his back softly until he sat up and looked at her. The Doctor shrugged his jacket off, pulled her up so that they were sitting face to face on the couch. “Like a too short teeter-totter.”
“I can’t think of any teeter-totter in the world where you end up sitting in my lap.”
“You know, I can’t either.” He titled his head to the side. “They should make one though. You’d just rock back and forth, back and… you know, now I see why they don’t make teeter totters like this.”
Sarah struggled to form words and fell back, resigned. The Doctor stopped grinning, let his eyes fall down to the buttons on her shirt. Sarah watched him. “Well are you or aren’t you?”
He shook his head and looked up. “Going to what?” He looked back down. “Oh. Oh! I was just…”
“Staring at my chest like a schoolboy.”
“Hey!” He managed to look half-offended. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“I’m not as proud of it as I used to be, but if you want to see it, I really wish you’d go ahead.”
“Right.” He pressed a finger to his mouth, glanced at her, glanced back down. “Right.” He grinned. “How much do you like this shirt?”
“Not anymore than usual. Why?”
“Don’t need it for any particular reason?”
“Excellent.” He was positively beaming as he bent down and tugged the first button off with his teeth. He spit it onto the couch, neatly bit off the second one.
“Buttons fit through holes for a reason, Doctor.”
“Oh, but it’s not nearly as fun.” He ran a hand over her right breast as he took off the third button. Sarah sighed as she leaned into his touch.
He made impressive time on the rest of them, making a little pile of white buttons on the cushion next to them, looking quite pleased with himself. He touched the bare skin that had been uncovered as the shirt fell open, kissed her just under her collar.
He slid a hand under the silky white material and pushed the shirt further out of the way. He kept his mouth somewhere near the base of her throat, murmured, “I can feel your pulse. The little beat of it. Like a tiny erratic drum.” He closed his eyes. “I love feeling your pulse.”
As if he were suddenly reminded where her pulse came from he moved down to rest his head against her chest. “Just like this.” He slid his hands up her side, shook his head. “Just like this.” He didn’t bother to elaborate on what he meant, just kept sliding downwards.
His fingers made quick work of her pants, and he slipped them to the floor, still whispering to himself about something. He traced his hands over the inside of her thighs, around to the outside of her knees, down her legs, pulled the material of her pants over her feet and then ran his hands over them too.
He stood up and tugged her to her feet. The Doctor noticed her confused expression and grabbed her shoulders. “A mark, Sarah! A mark of some sort. If I can just think of…” He looked around the ceiling, towards her small kitchen. He stomped impatiently. Sarah crossed her arms over herself and waited for him to find whatever he was looking for. “Curtains! Of course curtains!”
He grabbed her hand and started searching about the flat. Finally he found her bedroom window, the lights flashing outside in the darkness, and he pushed her up against it and kissed her hard.
Sarah pushed against him. “Has it occurred to you I might not want to be pressed up half-naked against my window?”
“It’s nighttime.” He peered out the curtain. “It’s not like I’m shining a light on you. Or taping this for the internet. I, umm, can’t tape this, can I?”
Sarah stared at him like he’d lost his mind. “Okay, I didn’t think so.” He took her face in his hands. “Just imagine there is no window.”
“But there’s clearly a window. Why do you want the window?”
“I want to be this window. I want you to see me when you look at this window. I don’t care how that sounds.” He laughed, shook his head. “You don’t think I don’t think of you every time I pass that green couch on the TARDIS or see something you used to wear or even just pick up an object sometimes and think to myself, ‘I wonder if Sarah would like this’? It’s not about whether I came back or not. Someone was going to have to leave. Way it works you know, someone leaves.” He sighed, looked out the window. “But you’re with me all of the time anyhow. I just… want the window.”
She smiled. “You could have just said so.”
He mouthed her words again, and she watched his face light up again. He lifted her into a hug. “You’re brilliant.”
He set her back on her feet. “Yes, Sarah Jane?”
“You’re with me all of the time anyhow.” He nodded, started pulling off his shoes.
He worked on his tie. “No use in only one of us being half-naked against the window.”
She stepped over. “Here, let me.” He dropped his hands and let her finish, didn’t say anything as she started unbuttoning his suit jacket. The Doctor got impatient enough he pulled his own shirt over his head, looked almost shy about it. Sarah raised an eyebrow.
“It’s, uh, been awhile.” He ducked his head a little, rubbed the back of his neck. Sarah crossed her arms. “What? It has been!”
She held out her arm. “Come here. Just-” She shook her head. “Come here.”
He rested against her, let her cradle him in her arms for a moment. His hands snaked up her back, messed with the latches on her bra. Sarah sighed. “For a time lord, you’re such a man.”
He grinned against her shoulder. “Sometimes humans have the right idea.” He pulled on her bra strap with his teeth. “Sometimes… it is best to just follow by example.”
“No one’s asked to include a window before.”
He shrugged. “I’ve never been very good about following precedents.”
Sarah slid her hands down his back, stopped. “You’re…”
“Yes?” He smiled like he was anticipating what she was going to say.
“I’m not what?”
“Wearing anything under your trousers.”
“I know. It’s great, isn’t it?” He pulled her bra out of the way. “Speaking of not wearing anything… I think…” The Doctor paused to run his eyes down her body, and Sarah tried her best to keep her arms to her sides. “You’re not quite close enough yet.”
He ran his hands over her arms, back up over her abdomen, let his fingers splay over his ribcage. His hands ran up her sides, lingered for a moment to take in the weight of her breasts in his hands before his hands moved up and over her shoulders. He latched his fingers at the back of her neck, pulled her into a kiss.
His tongue was gentle but insistent as it explored her mouth, and she sighed into his. He pressed her against the window, and she was half-enveloped by curtains, half by him. The Doctor thought she looked pretty like that, enjoyed seeing the darkened lights outside. He looked up for a moment at the rooftop across the street, the outline of a figure standing against the night sky.
Sarah wrapped a leg around him, and he pulled it higher, forgetting about the window. They made quick work of what little was left of their clothing, and the Doctor stopped for a moment to catch his breath, to run his hand down her cheek.
“Sarah. Beautiful, beautiful, Sarah.” He ran a thumb over her mouth. “Wish I could keep you like this, in my memory.” He brushed her hair away from her face. “Just like this.”
He lifted her in one fluid motion, and she ended up with her back against the cool glass, the curtains straining from her weight tugging on them. The Doctor pulled her legs around him, tongue sticking out in concentration, and she could see the muscles in his arms straining to hold her.
“There is a bed, you know.”
He shook his head, leaned his head against her shoulder. She ran her hand over his shoulder. “We don’t have to do this.”
He laughed against her skin. He could feel every little place where she pressed up against him, the soft contours of her body. “Do you want to?” The Doctor struggled with the words, with finding the breath, the courage. “Stop?”
“You can’t be serious.” She searched his face, laughed. She kept laughing until he joined her, the vibrations tickling against her skin.
They shifted, Sarah trying to avoid hitting her head against the window, and he let out a breath he’d been holding as he entered her, a rush of air across her skin. Sarah gasped, tried futilely to gain leverage with the smooth glass and thin material behind her, ended up holding desperately onto his shoulders.
She watched him, tried to help him find some rhythm, could feel the beat of it with each tiny impact of her back on the glass. He noticed and pulled a hand off her thigh to grab her hand from his shoulder, interlaced their fingers. He squeezed her hand as he tried to compensate for the lack of support his action had caused, and Sarah squeezed back.
He groaned, teeth grazing her shoulder, fingers clutching at hers. Sarah closed her eyes, breath hitching with each meeting of his skin against hers, each tightening of his fingers.
Somewhere in the bedroom a clock was ticking, a steady click, click dissonant against the small sounds they were making. It was an altogether quiet affair, a hesitating of muscles, the tight curling of the Doctor’s fingers around her hand, a hushed, almost pained moan. Sarah panted in the silence, still hearing the ticking of the second hand, felt the breath pushed out of her lungs as he thrust her one last time against the window.
He licked her skin, tongue rough and warm, unlatched his fingers from her. His hand snaked down between them, sliding across the slickness between their legs. He brought her off with his thumb, smiling at each arc of her back, let her unwind before he set her back on her feet.
She held onto his arms, and they stared at each other for a long moment. The Doctor took a good long breath. “A shower. Right, then.” He latched onto her hand and dragged her towards her bathroom.
Part 4: Things Not Said
After she shut the door behind him, Sarah turned and pulled back on her shirt, fingers mindlessly working on buttons. She double checked that the stove was off before moving back to the living room.
Their two cups were on the table, and she noticed one had sloshed a bit. Sarah sighed and made a mental note to get a cloth to mop it up. The other cup was sitting off its saucer, and she lifted it to find an almost perfect ring on her table. She muttered, “Perfect, just perfect.” Except her voice lacked any real sort of bite, so she ended up sounded more awed than angry.
She had started back towards the kitchen when she noticed the jacket left thrown over the couch. She picked it up, almost like it would break, let her fingers take in the feel of the fabric. Something poked her hand, and she found the note sticking out of the pocket, so big she’d wondered how she’d missed it. There were two words in the Brigadier’s just slightly messy scrawl. “Keep it.”
Sarah gave the jacket a tight smile, held it out so that the sunlight caught it. She nodded, just slightly, and wordlessly slipped the jacket on the hanger before she fetched the cloth from the kitchen.
Harry pulled his jacket on. He sat on the couch to slip on his second shoe, stopped and looked at her. Sarah was sitting on her couch, watching him.
“You know, if you ever-” Harry shook his head, put on his other shoe. “You know how to reach me. You’ve always known how to reach me.” His smile was genuinely friendly if not brief.
“Harry.” Sarah pulled herself up and bent down to help him tie his laces.
“Off to more work. It’s been quite interesting actually, I’d-”
“I’m sure you’d tell me all about it if you could,” Sarah finished. “It was nice of you to come.”
He laughed at the possible second meaning of her words, but it was quickly replaced by a fond grin. “I mean it, Sarah, about… If you ever-”
She just nodded as they both got back to their feet. He pulled her into a hug once they were near the door. “The Doctor’s not all there is, you know,” he whispered against her shoulder. Harry gave her one more quick smile before he disappeared through the door.
Sarah woke up to a tangle of bed covers and an empty bedroom. Her heart stopped before she heard the variety of sounds coming from the kitchen. Some of them sounded like curses, but she couldn’t completely make them out.
His head appeared a moment later, in her doorframe. He nodded to himself for a minute before he said, “I may or may not have ruined your toaster.”
“What were you doing with it?”
“Making toast,” he told her, like she was being stupid. “But it came out too dark, and then it came out too light… You really should get one of those ones with the little knob, you know it has the settings so that you can adjust how much it heats the- anyhow, I thought I could just…” He stopped and gave her a smile before he dropped his hands to his sides. “I think you can pick up some Thesian radio stations on it, though.”
“Is their music any good?”
“No, no. Not really.” He gestured to his throat. “They have two vocal chords that prevent them from achieving any real sort of harmony. You know, two of them match up two notes, but then their other two notes are all in discord… Where was I before the Thesians? Right, I don’t know.”
“You were making toast?” Sarah asked.
“Oh, yes, right, I was trying to make toast… Didn’t quite work though.” He sat beside her on the bed, fully dressed except for his tan jacket he’d left near the couch. “I’m not very good at these things.”
She ran her hand over the top of his. “I don’t much like toast anyhow.”
“No, I meant…” He looked out the window, and the corner of his mouth quirked upward. The Doctor turned and met her eyes. “I’m never going to… but that’s it. I’m never going to be good at making toast. I don’t even really care about toast. Toast is rather stupid when you think about it. A lot of things are stupid when you really think about them.”
“Doctor.” Sarah put a hand on his arm. She rested her head against his arm, felt the rough material under her cheek. “I know.”
“I wasn’t sure if you did.” He ran his fingers through her hair before he stood up. “I used your shampoo. Probably go around all day smelling like lavender now.” He wrinkled his nose. The Doctor looked confused as to what to do with his hands, so he stuck them in his pockets. He rocked on his feet for a moment. “You should probably get dressed. Things to do.”
Sarah nodded. “Right.”
“I’ll go clean up the mess with the toaster.” She watched him disappear again and sighed.
Rose appeared in the doorway. “What are you doing?”
He looked at her. “I’m sitting on this couch. What does it look like I’m doing?”
Rose frowned at the couch, at the various dark imprints where the material had been pushed against the flow of the material. “It’s ugly. What’s it even doing here?”
“Memories.” The Doctor petted its back fondly, a bit of sadness touching his features. He sighed. “Just… memories.”
Rose ventured a few more steps towards the couch. “Well, can I sit, then?”
He moved aside for her, and she took a seat beside him, looked around the room. “It’s an ugly couch.”
He grinned. “Yes, it is.”
“In a blank room.”
“Yes, it is.”
She turned to look at him. “Why’s it blank?”
He leaned back so that his head was resting against the back of the couch and he was looking towards the high ceiling of the room in contemplation. “Contrast.”
“But there isn’t any. It’s all white.”
The Doctor laughed, a good full laugh. “You’re missing the point, Rose.”
“I’m starting to think there is no point.” Rose stood back up. “I’m going to find Mickey and talk to him like normal people talk.” The Doctor seemed pleased with that assessment.
Part 5: Denouement
The Doctor leaned against the pole and sighed as he looked across the street. Rose looked with him. “Okay, what are we doing?”
“Checking up,” he said.
“Checking up on who, Doctor?” She pulled her arms around herself and stared at the empty rooftop. “There’s no one here.”
“No. No, there’s not.” He pulled himself away from the pole. “Is there anywhere you’ve ever wanted to go, Rose?”
“Like where? France?”
“Think bigger.” He took her hands. “What about Kalanoa? It really is quite lovely in the summer.”
“Kalanoa sounds fine,” Rose said cautiously, like she didn’t quite trust his mood. “What’s it like?”
“There’s flowers! Lots of flowers. And this pristine blue lake in the middle of this beautiful white snow field.”
“In the summer?”
“Yeah.” He grinned at her, and she couldn’t help but grin back.
Sarah’s voice wavered only a little. “Harry?”
“Sarah, how are you, old-” he coughed and then corrected himself, “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Harry, I’m fine.” She smiled at the picture of her aunt Lavinia. “Listen, I had these tickets to a play tonight, and I realize it might not be your thing- I really doubt it is my thing, but I was thinking it might be something to try.” She took a deep breath. “Besides, you still owe me for that dress you spilled your tea all over.”
“That was ten years ago!”
She laughed. “But still. I did like that dress, Harry.”
“It was the wrong shade of blue…”
“I don’t think so.” She could remember it against the white, pooling at her feet. She smiled a little. “You still haven’t said if you’ll come.”
“But you know I will. Even if I have to cover my face with the program and sleep through the whole thing.”
“If it’s that boring, I’ll gladly join you.” Harry laughed, and she joined him. Sarah stared at the phone. “Eight then? On Saturday.”
“On Saturday. At Eight.” Harry paused. “You sound happier, Sarah.”
Sarah looked at the ring on her coffee table, the sunlight falling over her bed. “You know, I think I am, Harry.” She nodded, briefly, to herself. “I think I am.”