summary: Nobody doesn't like Sarah Jane.
fandom: Doctor Whoverse, Sarah Jane/Rose
spoilers/note: General for Ninth and Tenth Doctor, general for The Sarah Jane Adventures, vague for Classic Who (Three, Four), some just for fun.
remix of netgirl_y2k's "Homecoming"
thanks to the remixfreakingredux chat and particularly van, who totally helped fix this puppy. Van FTW!
In two years, Rose has found everyone. Her old mates from the shop, her friends from way back in secondary school, her old crushes and exes, still hanging round the same old pubs, working their same old jobs under a zeppelin-filled sky. And two years gone, she is still lonesome as ever.
The blokes she meets -- sweet as anything but dull, milquetoast -- she can't even appreciate for a quick shag, and damn if she doesn't hate the Doctor for ruining that for her. Because they haven't seen the universe, they don't see and don't care, and at the end of the night Rose goes home, back to the mansion, and climbs into bed and wills herself to dream about the man in the striped suit who changed her life.
And even at Torchwood she follows along with Mickey and Jake, and at the end of the day they go back to their flat down the East End, and Rose goes home to the mansion, to mum and dad and Zeke the baby, alone. Once she even referred to herself as the tin dog this time round, and Mickey just laughed.
It's that same Thursday when she remembers Sarah Jane Smith. Rose met her once, a reporter or something; an old friend of the Doctor, in her universe, anyway. She's easy enough to find because in this world she's a reporter too, and a quick internet search reveals her byline and e-contact. Rose can get her on the earpiece, any time. Sarah Jane Smith.
She doesn't dare hope that this world's Sarah Jane knows the Doctor; every search Torchwood's done, every possible lead followed suggests there is not, nor has there ever been, a magical man in a blue box in these parts. But there's one article in a Manchester tabloid that says tiny orange aliens appeared at two local churches and that the skies up there filled with glowing lights, and the author is Sarah Jane Smith. Rose prints it out and reads it before she goes to bed, but she hasn't told Mickey or mum yet, because it's just a crackpot article by someone they've never met, and it doesn't mean anything.
It's Monday night when she sneaks into Torchwood, scans the computer and finds Sarah Jane's house on satellite: a charming little tower in a clustered garden at the end of an ancient, winding street. It's Wednesday when she walks an hour to get there.
"Do I know you?" asks Sarah Jane, the door open only a crack.
Rose shuffles her feet. "We, uh, met at a case you were covering for the paper. Grammar school, yeah? Dodgy chips?"
Sarah gives her a blank look. "We did, did we?"
No amount of expecting it made the words any easier to hear. "Fuck me," Rose exhales. "I should have known it didn't happen here. I wasn't here, for Pete's sake, my mum never had kids in this universe, and it wasn't like..." she trails off.
Sarah's blank look fades to something like recognition, and she opens the door wider. "Come in," she says. "We need to talk."
"How'd you know that?" Rose asks, not daring to say more words because the more she puts out there, the more Sarah Jane can refute, refuse, not understand.
"'Not this universe, didn't happen here'," Sarah says with a smile. "I've heard talk like that before," she says. "A long, lone time ago, from an old friend."
Rose invites herself to sit on the couch and listens.
Sarah Jane smiles and comes to sit beside Rose. "He was called the Doctor," she says.
Rose has a quiet heart attack. "My Doctor," she whispers. "He's here?"
"Not 'here,' if I understand what you mean by here. My Doctor left me, a long time ago."
Rose snuffles, chuckling. "Did about the same to me," she says. "Bastard."
"Beautiful, brilliant bastard," Sarah agrees. "By the way, I'm Sarah Jane Smith."
"Rose Tyler," says Rose Tyler. "And I know who you are. Or, who she was, in my world. Whatever."
"Dodgy chips, eh?"
"The Doctor was pretendin' to be a physics teacher, if you can believe it. John Smith."
When Rose looks over, there are tears in Sarah's eyes.
"My Doctor," she whispers again. "My John Smith."
"Looks damned smart in specs," Rose says gently.
"I haven't offered you a cup of tea!" Sarah Jane bolts up. "I won't be a tick."
So Rose looks around. Sarah's sitting room is comfortable, classy but careworn with stacks of books along the baseboards and strange trinkets -- a brass otoscope, a crystal star, a leathery claw too big for a bear or an alligator -- propped on shelves and side tables. There's even an empty bottle of Pete Tyler's Wonder Tonic on the table beside the big armchair, lying next to a pair of smudged glasses and a book folded face down: "The Physics of the Distant Origin." Rose even thinks she can smell the Doctor here, a faint whiff of time vortex with a hint of banana.
"He saved my life," Sarah Jane says, coming back with tea.
"Mine too," Rose says. "Oh, a couple dozen times over?"
Sarah sits down, but nobody drinks any tea. "Yes, naturally, when we were traveling we got into some fascinating scrapes. But I meant before that. Before I knew him, even."
Rose nods, picks up her teacup and sets it down again. A little splashes over the edge, and she licks it off her thumb and somehow it tastes like the Doctor too, bananas and magic. She's willing to be silent for a year if it means she gets to hear Sarah Jane's stories; new old stories about the new old Doctor, like he's real again.
"I was thirteen," Sarah Jane says. "A friend and I had wandered off from a school day out, and I fell, I think. I was hanging on to the pier, crying out for my friend, for anyone to hear me, and next I knew I was home, with my mum, safe. And it wasn't until years later when this white-haired gentleman in a velvet smoking jacket came and took me away in his blue box." Sarah Jane looks around, her gaze resting on mysterious objects, a chunk of wood, a plastic cup, like they're filled with memories. "He never told me he was the one that saved me, back on that pier, but I know it was him."
"But there's one like you in my world, too," Rose says. "Or, my old world. Whatever. Where I was born and that. I met you, at the school, like I said! And you definitely weren't thirteen years old. You looked, you know. Like now, like this."
Sarah laughs. "Old, you mean."
That wasn't what Rose meant, and she's surprised to hear Sarah Jane say it. "No," says Rose. "Beautiful." Sarah Jane just smiles.
"So you assume that means I wasn't saved from your timeline and brought here," Sarah Jane muses. "I mean, if there's still one of me -- her -- over there. Interesting thought, though." She taps her lower lip. "When I was in school, maybe fourteen or fifteen -- have you ever heard of a rock and roll band called the Beatles?"
Rose busts out laughing. "Have I?" she asks. "There's nobody who hasn't heard of the Beatles unless -- you don't have 'em here!"
"That sorts it, then," she says, triumphantly. "All my life I thought I'd made them up, this music group from Liverpool that took the world by storm when I was young; but they did, didn't they?"
"They did," Rose nods. "Though between you and me I didn't really think they were all that."
"Of course, people thought I was crazy, that I was making it up, and several years later a band did come out of Liverpool by that name, but they never made it past one hit on the radio and no one remembers them now."
They look at each other a little, trying to piece it together.
"So, no Beatles over here," Rose nods. "And, plus, zeppelins, you must have noticed that." She waves vaguely at the sky.
"I told my mum that same thing!" Sarah Jane exclaims. "All of a sudden, zeppelins, everywhere. One Sunday when I was a thirteen years old I looked up and asked, 'where did all these bleeding blimps come from?' And mum looked at me like I was barmy. She said it was because I was such a bookworm, nose in the pages and all that, never bothered to look at the world around me."
"No zeppelins in my world," Rose says. "We had Daleks, though, and Cybermen, and the Slitheen..."
"Daleks," Sarah Jane sighs, like it's a word she hasn't heard in decades, which it probably is. "I thought they had all been destroyed."
"So'd the Doctor," Rose says. "When I first met him he was this tall bloke with a Leeds accent who said he'd just come back from the war -- the Time War, he called it -- and the Daleks had been defeated. But then they turned up in London."
"As they do."
They sit quietly for a while and look at each other some more, scanning for hints of time travel in each other's eyes.
"Did yours regenerate?" Rose asks.
Sarah Jane goes a little white. "Yes," she says. "It was awful."
Rose laughs. "Wasn't it, though? Like, hello, brand new man here, got you all alone in a big blue box!"
"Mine was a little more awful than that, even," says Sarah Jane. Then she smiles, and for an instant she looks exactly like the Doctor. "But it worked out, in the end."
"My new Doctor came back incredibly well fit," Rose says. "It was a bit alarming at first."
"They're meant for falling in love with, I think," Sarah says. "My new Doctor was a raggedy chap with gap teeth who refused to part with his grubby old circus scarf, and even so. Never met a soul who didn't fall in love with the Doctor, not deep down, anyway."
This time Rose doesn't say anything. Sarah Jane nods.
"And yes, I've been alone all this time," she says, gesturing to take in her cozy home. "Somehow, after him, nothing could compare."
"Ruined sex for you too?" Rose asks.
"Bastard!" Sarah Jane laughs. "If he didn't at that."
Rose looks at her trainers a little. "When we ran into you, at that school, right? The Doctor, he was so glad to see you. I mean, I could see it in his eyes, in the way he hugged you. He loved you."
"I wish I'd been there," Sarah Jane sighs.
Rose thinks, I should tell her about Torchwood, invite her to join us, tell Mickey all her stories, but she doesn't. She thinks maybe she wants to keep Sarah Jane all to herself, at least for a little while.
"You miss him," Sarah Jane says. "Believe me, I understand. And I'm so glad we found each other! Or, rather, you found me -- how did you find me, after all?"
So Rose doesn't say Torchwood. "Oh, it's amazing what you can find on the internet," she says.
Sarah looks at her. "Would you mind, us getting together like this some times? Share memories of the Doctor, things we can't tell anyone else?"
"Things no one else would believe, more like," Rose says.
And it's like something's breaking when they part, when Rose gathers up her jacket and her bag and they stand in the doorway, just gaping. There's too much to say, too much to talk about and while it's amazing it also hurts, and seems the sort of thing to be taken in small doses.
"Come back soon," Sarah says.
"Count on it," Rose says, and when they hug it's heartfelt and broad-armed, the kind of hug that only the Doctor could have taught.
Instead, she comes back that same night. Gone two am and the streets are quiet in South Croydon, but she knocks anyway, and Sarah Jane answers at the first knock.
"Come in," says Sarah, when she sees Rose is crying.
"He blew up a star for me," Rose says, and she comes inside.
"I'll put the kettle on," says Sarah Jane.
Rose swipes a hand across her face and sits on the couch, maybe still warm from where she left it, hours back. "Got anything stronger?" she asks.
Sarah Jane laughs from the other room. "I'll see what I can find," she says.
An hour later they've done away with a full bottle of expensive red, and are working their way through a white, and Rose has told Sarah Jane about how the Doctor came here, just for a moment, to say goodbye in Bad Wolf Bay.
"He said he loved you," Sarah Jane says, and the envy in her voice is barely softened by the wine.
"He said my name," says Rose. "Rose Tyler, he said, and then he was gone, back to that other universe, the one where I can't ever, ever go home to."
"He loved you," said Sarah Jane, more decisively. "Hell, even I love you, and I scarcely know you but for the bit of him I see in your eyes."
Rose takes Sarah Jane's hand in both of hers. "I know exactly what you mean," she says, and she does.
"Do you think he'll come back again?" Sarah Jane asks, and Rose gets a quick chill because it means Sarah Jane doesn't have all the answers.
"I don't know," she says. "I try not to think so."
"I've stopped trying," Sarah Jane says. "Oh, I go to work and come home and have supper like a normal person, but I've also made a point of following every lead that could possibly suggest paranormal activity. Like if I get there, he'll be waiting for me."
"It worked," Rose says. "In my world, anyway. You went, and he went, and you found each other again. So maybe it's possible here. Maybe anything's possible."
"Or maybe it's not," Sarah Jane says. "Maybe that other me got to meet the Doctor again because that's where he is. Maybe if it were going to happen here it would have happened already."
"He burned up a sun to do it once," Rose says again.
"For you," Sarah Jane says. "He did that for you, Rose."
Their hands are still tangled, Rose's fingers clutched around Sarah's slender hand on the couch between them.
"You look so much like him," Rose says. "I can't explain it."
"I know exactly what you mean," Sarah Jane says this time. "Your face. Those eyes."
They lean in, together, close, and when she kisses Sarah Jane she tastes like time vortex and bananas, but unlike the Doctor, she kisses back.
"See?" Rose whispers. "We don't need him." But she's not at all sure she means it, and Sarah doesn't answer, just runs her hands up under Rose's shirt and leans Rose back, deeper into the sofa.
Later, maybe a week, maybe a month later Rose will tell Sarah Jane about Torchwood, and Sarah will tell Rose and Mickey about UNIT, and perhaps they'll find some clues to the Doctor's whereabouts, and perhaps someday even find a way, using Torchwood's technology and Sarah Jane's ancient memory, for Rose to cross back over to him. But with Sarah Jane around now it doesn't matter as much, it's not as desperate a call, somehow. Like it's not the end of things out here anymore; it's a beginning!