CHARACTERS: Twelve, Sarah
SUMMARY: Time for his best friend to meet the latest incarnation.
Shutting the driver's door of the Figaro, Sarah instantly knew something was off. She walked around and looked in the back garden of her home on Bannerman Road. Everything seemed normal, except for the blue Police Box parked in the corner. She frowned. 'My favourite begonia,' she mumbled.
She took a deep breath and stepped over to the TARDIS, reaching out to run her hand along the wooden exterior. 'What's wrong? You're not in your usual spot.'
'I wasn't sure we'd be welcome,' an unfamiliar voice came from behind her.
Sarah spun around and took in the grey hair and severe look of the latest incarnation of her best friend. 'You're always welcome, you know that.' She lifted her hand and gestured towards the new face. 'When did that happen?'
The Doctor ignored her question as he stuck his hands in his pockets, revealing the flash of red lining on his jacket. 'What do you think?'
She stepped closer, but sensed the emotional wall he'd put up. She tilted her head and regarded him for a moment, weighing her response. 'Why do I get the feeling that ultimately, it doesn't matter what I think?'
He narrowed his eyes, his voice cranky. 'Of course it matters, Sarah Jane, or I wouldn't have asked. I don't make a habit of asking questions unnecessarily.'
'Since the questions matter. Have you always countered my questions with your own? You should be a journalist.'
She crossed her arms. 'I am a journalist, Doctor, or has your post-regenerative trauma made you forget that? Seems this regeneration of yours is a bit different than the last few.'
The Doctor pulled his hands out of his pockets and matched her crossed arms gesture. 'Oh the lowly human knows all about Time Lords and regeneration now.'
Sarah sighed and rolled her eyes. Instead of sniping back at him, she walked around him, taking in his new form from all the angles. 'How old are you now, Doctor?'
'Are you checking me out, Miss Smith?'
She smiled to herself as she heard the turn in his voice, the smile behind the alien glare. 'You didn't answer my question.'
'And you didn't answer mine,' he said as she came back around to face him.
Sarah reached out, hovering over the sleeve of his jacket. 'You're very distinguished this go round.' She gestured towards his face, but made a point to not touch him. 'This looks to be very expressive. Reminds me of the first you I met all those years ago.'
'Strong eyebrows,' he added.
'Strong personality.' She gestured over her shoulder towards her back door. 'Would you like some tea?'
He nodded, and she saw a flash of vulnerability in his eyes.
'I don't know who I am anymore, Sarah Jane.'
Without another word, they both walked into Sarah's kitchen and she began to make tea. The Doctor sat on the edge of one of the dining chairs, his nervousness palpable. 'I'm over 2000 years old,' he finally said.
She turned towards him. 'You said you were only 730 when we met.' When he nodded in acknowledgement, she added, 'We've known each other over 1200 years, at least from your perspective.' She smiled, 'Not bad for a lowly human, eh?'
'You're not the average human.'
Sarah set a mug of tea on the table in front of the Doctor, then sat down beside him. 'I worry that you've gone through so many regenerations.'
'Ah, yes, but that's not a problem. I lived out my last life to a ripe old age. Turns out Gallifrey isn't gone, I just hid it. The Time Lords seeped through a small crack in the universe. A crack of my own creation really, but they sent me a new life cycle. Essentially, I'm starting from scratch again.'
Sarah physically sat back, absorbing the disconnected information he'd just thrown at her. 'Was anyone with you when you regenerated?'
The Doctor nodded. 'Clara. Clara Oswald. She doesn't know what to make of me. I'm not in a young and handsome body anymore and she tends to look right past me.'
Sarah took a sip of her tea. 'Did you explain to her what happened?'
'I don't know how. I'm still trying to figure out who I am. How can I explain something to someone else, when I don't understand the full implications myself?'
'How about "I'm not a human being, I walk in eternity." That may be pretentious enough for this you.'
The Doctor frowned. 'That's horrible, who said that?'
'You did. Every time you wanted to remind me that you were different.'
'You have your moments.' She finally reached out and put her hand on the sleeve of his jacket. 'Regeneration is disconcerting—'
'You're telling me, and you're not even the one that goes through it,' he interrupted.
'No, but we're the ones that have to live with the consequences. We watch you die, usually in some painful manner, and we lose the version of you that we've grown attached to. While we have no concept of what it must feel like for you, our human instinct tells us we should mourn the version of you we lost, and very often we don't have time to process that loss before the new you drags us on to the next adventure.'
'Is that how it was for you?'
'I don't understand humans. Never have, never will.'
'And yet you prefer our company. Clara will come around to your new face, but it won't be the same. It's never the same.'
'It's important to me that she knows that I'm still her friend.'
Sarah slid her hand down from the Doctor's sleeve to his hand and gave it an easy squeeze. 'Make sure she knows you're still a good man just in a different exterior.'
'Am I? Am I a good man, Sarah?'
'You're not perfect, no one is, but you always try to do the right thing, even if we don't understand the full consequences of your actions in the moment. You respect life in all its forms and you hate seeing anyone taken advantage of. You're frustrated when people don't use their brains and you have less patience for soldiers following orders than almost anyone else.'
The Doctor finally turned his hand in Sarah's and held hers tightly. 'Thank you, Sarah.' After a second of looking into her eyes, he stood up quickly and headed for the door, putting distance between them. 'Now, there's something I'm forgetting.' He tapped his temples with his index fingers. 'Nope, it's just not clicking.'
Sarah stood up. 'Give yourself time, the synapses will settle down and that oversized brain of yours will be back to normal.'
'Coffee! That's it, I was supposed to get coffee.' The Doctor strode outside and made a beeline for the TARDIS.
'Until the next time, Doctor!' Sarah called after him with a wave.
Opening the TARDIS door, he turned on the threshold and smiled at her, giving her a silent acknowledging nod before disappearing into the depths of his time machine.