Sarah Jane stared at the screen, the cursor blinking hypnotically on its blank page. By this point in her career, not to mention her life, you would think she’d be beyond writer’s block. What she wouldn’t give for an alien invasion to liven things up a bit.
Luke wouldn’t be home for several hours yet, and she’d told Mr. Smith to only interrupt if danger was immanent. More fool her.
Sighing, Sarah Jane switched off her computer. Maybe the garden needed weeding.
She froze halfway out of her chair. An unmistakable blue police callbox sat innocuously in the corner of her attic. In the open doorway leaned a woman with a wild mane of red hair, lips curled in a smirk.
“Sarah Jane Smith, you really aren’t quick as he claimed.”
Sarah Jane blinked. How on Earth… “It didn’t make the noise,” was all she could think of to say.
“Of course not. I don’t leave the parking break on.” The woman disappeared back into the TARDIS. “You coming or not?” she called out.
There wasn’t much choice, was there?
The TARDIS’ familiar hum greeted Sarah Jane as she stepped inside. Which was about the only familiar thing. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Despite the surface changes, the TARDIS was still the TARDIS and felt as much like home as it ever did. She just didn’t resemble it as much anymore. “He’s regenerated again, has he?”
“With a bang, apparently,” the woman chuckled. “Fortunately, the TARDIS takes care of herself. I just wish she’d take a hand with his fashion sense one of these times.”
Sarah Jane slowly approached the console as the woman flipped various switches and turned assorted knobs. “Oh, I don’t know, I’m rather fond of his fashion sense. It’s very him.” After a pause, she asked, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“Yet. The perils of time travel.” The woman held out a manicured hand. “River Song.”
“Sarah Jane—never mind. You clearly already know me.” She shook River’s hand. “So, what’s going on?”
“The Doctor’s trapped and you’re the only one who can free him.”
Sarah Jane’s heart sped up. “What ha—”
“It’s nothing so dire as all of that. He was just mucking about and, well…it’s better if I show you.”
And wasn’t that ominous?
River pulled a lever. “Follow me.”
Several minutes and even more turns down a twisting hallway, River stopped in front of a rather harmless looking door and knocked once. “Sweetie, everything all right?”
Sweetie? The Doctor certainly could pick him.
“Will be as soon as you get me out of here.”
“I’ve brought help.”
“You didn’t—Sarah, I’m so sorry. I hope she didn’t interrupt anything important.”
“Just boredom,” Sarah Jane admitted. “You got lucky, this time.” Suddenly this all made sense and she smiled. “You’ve forgotten the combination to the Zero Room again, haven’t you?”
River quirked an eyebrow. “Zero Room?”
“It’s really just a catch-all of a storage room. Some regenerations like to make it seem a bit more important.”
The sigh reverberating through the door reminded her of Luke’s more normal, teenage moments. How much younger could the Doctor possibly get? Yet the thought didn’t depress her as it once might have.
“Hold your horses, I’ll have you out shortly.” Retrieving her sonic lipstick from her front pocket, she ran it over a blank patch of wall until a keypad emerged.
River plucked the lipstick from Sarah Jane’s fingers. “Oh, this is bloody genius. How did you ever convince him to make this for you?”
“He didn’t.” Sarah Jane took it back and pocketed it. “I made it myself.” With a bit of help from Mr. Smith, but River didn’t need to know that.
Leaning in close, River whispered, “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share your secret.”
“We’ll see.” Sarah Jane tapped in the code and a moment later the door to the Zero Room creaked open to reveal a disheveled and dusty Doctor who was indeed much younger than the last time she’d seen him. “I see what you mean about the fashion sense,” she told River. The Doctor didn’t look unlike the doddering Latin professor she’d suffered under her first year and uni. Complete with bowtie and braces.
The Doctor glowered at her. “Need I remind you of a certain pair of red stripped overalls you were so very fond of?”
Sarah Jane shuddered. Those had been rather…hideous. “I was young,” she said, straightening her shoulders. “What’s your excuse?”
“Now, now,” River tsked as she hooked an arm through each of theirs. “You see each other infrequently enough as it is. Do you really want to waste that time bickering?”
“No,” the Doctor grumbled.
Sarah Jane just smiled sheepishly.
“Good, now let’s pick up Luke and his friends from school. They’ll never forgive me if they miss out on the setting of the Pleiades on Emmis Gamma.”
“But they’re not allowed—” Sarah Jane and the Doctor both started to protest.
“What the Judoon don’t know won’t hurt them,” River stated. “Besides, we’re already at the school.”
As River left them at the console, Sarah Jane turned to the Doctor. “Where did you find her?”
The Doctor shrugged. “I haven’t gotten there yet. Our relationship’s a bit unorganized.”
Sarah Jane looked from River to the Doctor and back. “Good. You need someone to keep you on your toes.”
“At least someone understands,” River said as she opened the door. “Luke, Rani, Clyde…you guys ready?”