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A Change for Sarah Jane Smith

Chapter Text

"Stop being ridiculous, Sarah Jane." She scolded herself as she focused on scrubbing the countertop. "You never needed anyone before, you don't need anyone now." The house on Bannerman Road felt empty. Too empty, too large. She could now imagine herself as the Doctor rattling around, all alone in that infinitely large TARDIS. That line of thinking only made her scrub harder. It was all so very much mangled up together the longer she actually thought about it.

Empty nest. That was what she suffered from. She knew that. Luke, and of course K-9 would be home for Christmas. Of course a darker voice, the one that fuelled this funk of hers, pointed out that that their visit would only be temporary. After having him as her son, reliant on her for so short a time, he was headed out to build his own life. She should have been proud of that. When she wasn't in one of her darker moments, pride was all she felt for him. It was just when she allowed herself to wallow that she didn't.

"You are a hypocrite, Sarah Jane Smith," she said to herself with a huff of frustration. "Everything ends." She quoted herself and put even more energy into scrubbing. Jealousy fuelling her latest round of cleanliness. Rose had won. No heartbreak for her. Off in that alternate dimension, her own cloned Doctor with her, in love with her. It was all well and good to be philosophical about it when you knew without a doubt that she would eventually have her heartbroken just like you. It just didn't seem fair that Rose hadn't, at least not permanently. Oh no, for her there was a clone and love, real love. Not platonic love, not choosing to raise a boy that you could imagine sometimes, in your own little fantasy, when your eyes were closed, was yours and his. Yet you never acknowledged those fantasies and never would.

What did she have? A robot dog. Well she had the dog, but now her son had taken him off to Oxford with him. A son. Off at Oxford. Leaving her with other people's children, and an alien supercomputer fighting aliens who could kill her and sometimes made her wonder if she didn't have suicidal tendencies for doing it. As well as a large, very empty house.

"Snap out of it," Sarah barked at herself.

"Oh yes, please do." An unfamiliar voice came from the entrance to the kitchen. "You're very nearly as dreary as the Doctor is when he's in one of his funks. He really did leave an indelible mark on you."

Sarah spun about to face the intruder and her brow furrowed as she took in the form of the unfamiliar woman who smiled at her in an appraising way as she took in readings on some sort of device. "Who are you?" Sarah's body coiled instinctively, preparing itself for movement.

"I, my dear, am the Rani." Her smile turned dangerous. "I suppose if I offer to take you for a turn in my TARDIS, you won't agree to come along like a good little girl." A swiftly fired beam from a wand she produced from up her sleeve ended Sarah's escape bid before it could even completely be realized. Sarah's vision was murky as the Time Lady appeared above her. "Thought not."

"Not the last," Sarah managed to mutter before she fell completely unconscious.

The Rani rolled her eyes as she adjusted settings on her wand and aimed it at Sarah's fallen form once more, her prone body lifting easily with the beam. "I wonder if he thinks as much of you as you do of him." The Rani shook her head in disgust. "At the hands of an unknown enemy and all you think of is the Doctor. Of course, that's exactly what I was hoping for." The look on the Rani's face would have sent chills down Sarah's spine had she been awake to see it.

Sarah had no way to tell how much time had passed as she returned to consciousness. Once she was, she wished she wasn't. A silent scream escaped her lips, her entire body felt as if it were on fire. On a cellular level, the substance of her very existence felt turned inside out. She couldn't move, not that she thought she'd have much strength to do so if she could.

The Rani once more stepped into Sarah's view. "I suppose you're wondering what's happening to you," she said as she made some adjustments to the lab table that Sarah was confined to. "I'm not in the habit of explaining myself to my experiments, but since I intend you to be something more than just an experiment, I will make an exception."

Sarah looked up groggily at the Rani as the Rani continued to explain. "It's obvious you know about the fall of Gallifrey and how very few of us are left in the universe." Rani looked at Sarah and took in her comprehension. "It leaves a gap, a gap in the power structure of the universe, a gap where any number of unsavoury creatures could step in."

Sarah gave her a look that clearly stated that she thought the Rani would welcome that. "I may be immoral Miss Smith, but even I would not relish a universe where something akin to the Daleks or Cybermen could step into the vacuum left by how the war was ended." The Rani shuddered slightly. "Nature abhors a vacuum." She made more adjustments and the pain seemed to increase for Sarah, even her mind seeming to be on fire.

"Still, it's so difficult to know what Nature will put in place if left to its own devices. I wasn't certain I would approve." The Rani looked down at Sarah calmly, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes in an almost maternal way. "Still, I couldn't very well just use ANY subject matter to for this experiment. That's when it came to me, the Doctor's companions. Always so resilient, such pluck."

The Rani folded her hands together in front of herself as she glanced at the ever-changing readings coming from the table. "He leaves a trace on you, not just artron energy no, something more. Only detectable by another Gallifreyan. Its strength, of course, is dependant on so many things. How long you travel with him, where you end up? How long ago it was?" The Rani paused and then fell silent, obviously choosing not to continue. "Imagine my good fortune, when I happened on you. You were teeming with it. Trace from three separate regenerations at least, with close contact. You were absolutely perfect."

"For what?" Sarah ground out, though each word nearly killed her to say and she couldn't help but think about her son and hope she'd see him again.

"Exceptional," the Rani praised. "You shouldn't be able to speak at all with all the pain you're in." She cupped Sarah's chin and decided to answer Sarah's question. "You're going to help me recreate the Gallifreyan race. Well not exactly that. You, my dear, are going to be my heir." She paused, "If you survive, of course. Right now your very genetic code is being mutated to Gallifreyan. You are dying, of course, there is no possible way you can survive that."

Sarah's eyes widened and tears she hadn't let fall before slid down her cheeks. There it was then, she'd not see any of them again. K-9, Clyde or Rani. Harry or the Brig. The Doctor. Luke. She wanted to scream that she wanted to live. That she didn't want this. No matter how much of a blue funk she'd been in. "Your only hope is that I've managed to change you enough, in which case you'll regenerate. Otherwise, I'll have to start again, with a new subject, of course."

Sarah finally found the strength to scream as a golden glow seemed to start beneath her skin and flow outwards.

Chapter Text

"Well that's disappointing," the Rani's voice filtered into Sarah's ears.

Sarah had to wonder if she was dead, but no. She was free, released from the table. She began to pat herself down.

"Yes, yes. You have two arms, two legs, a nose, two eyes, and hair. Don't count yourself so lucky, unfortunately you could have picked a more interesting form. Apparently working with a human as base subject matter limits some of the outcomes. Well perhaps once you've gone through a body or two, you might get creative. You're just as you were, only younger." The Rani moved towards Sarah and held out her hand. Sarah eyed her warily. "Oh come now, I'm hardly going to hurt you. You're a success, Miss Smith. You've regenerated." Sarah's eyes widened as she took in the Rani's words. What it could mean, even if she wouldn't recommend the process to anyone.

"I could hurt you," Sarah pointed out, still eyeing the Rani's hand.

"That would be counterproductive as well. My TARDIS doesn't know you and I am not quite so Earth obsessed as to be there still." The Rani looked amused. "Besides which, the Doctor wouldn't like that would he? Violence is never the answer. Would you care to wait until a certain someone rescues you?" She arched her brow. "Or you could cooperate and wait for a good time to escape. Meanwhile, I'll teach you a bit about being who you are now."

Sarah frowned as she struggled upwards without taking the Rani's hand. She didn't like how well this Time Lady seemed to know the Doctor. "I don't need your help."

"Ah, you learned so much about being a Gallifreyan from the Doctor then?" The Rani sighed and waved her hand towards the mirror hanging on the wall behind them. "We'll have to see about getting you some other clothing."

Curiosity, in spite of her wariness and anger at the entire situation, had Sarah looking in the mirror. She had to admit to a flash of disappointment, as she inspected herself. She hadn't even changed some of the bits about herself that she didn't like. Shaking, Sarah reminded herself that she should be grateful that she'd at least reverted back to how she'd been when she'd met the Doctor. She now looked more like Luke's older sister than his mum. "Well, I haven't been able to wear anything I did when I was the Doctor's companion in some time."

"You shouldn't have that issue any longer my dear," the Rani said absently as she studied some further read outs. She gestured to a door. "Do go and amuse yourself in the closet."

Sarah moved towards the closet, a bit put off by the renegade Time Lady's attitude. She slipped into the room and leaned back against the wall, trying to put everything together in her mind. Her hands slipped down her torso, laying them over the places where she knew the Doctor's hearts were, where her hearts should be if the Rani was telling the truth. She swallowed hard and then pressed down, her eyes closing tight as she felt it. Two heart beats.

She slid down the wall, keeping her hands on her chest, just feeling the strong beats in wonder, her mind flashing through all the possibilities. All the time that suddenly lay before her. She, Sarah Jane Smith was a Time Lord. No, she was a Time Lady. That had her in a panic. A Time Lady, how arrogant. She had no TARDIS, no great knowledge. She took several deep breaths to stop herself from hyperventilating. "I am Sarah Jane Smith, a former companion of the Doctor and sometime protector of Earth." She swallowed hard. "No matter what species I am now, I am still all of that." She pushed down on the thought that now the Doctor wouldn't have to be alone, wouldn't feel quite so alone. There wasn't time for that and she was certain he would see more downside than up to this.

She got her legs under her and stood up once more, sorting through the clothing inside until she found something that seemed serviceable. There were other outfits that interested her more, but the camouflage combat pants with its many pockets, black tank top and the matching jacket seemed familiar enough to be comforting as well as the most useful thing to be wearing. As she finished tying up the boots she'd found to go with her new clothing, she stood and moved to the door, looking out before committing herself to rejoining her host as she stepped through.

"Feeling better now?" the Rani asked enigmatically. She set a few items on the countertop where Sarah could retrieve them. "I believe those are yours."

Sarah eyed her watch, sonic lipstick and the other tools she regularly carried. "Aren't you worried I might escape with these? Signal for a rescue or something?"

"We aren't on Earth, Miss Smith. Your trinkets aren't going to help you escape from here," the Rani sighed. "I also don't see any point in trying to convince you of that, you won't believe it until you prove it to yourself. So you'll do what I have no doubt the Doctor has you well trained to do. When you see it's useless, perhaps then you'll be willing to be reasonable."

"You're not a normal villain you know," Sarah huffed and moved to reclaim her belongings, strapping her watch around her wrist and shoving her sonic into her pocket. "It would serve you right if Jack or someone came along and rescued me!"

"Harkness? That buffoon?" the Rani scoffed. "If that happened, my dear, you would never have your curiosity satisfied about me. By all means though, if you can manage it, it would only prove to me that I was infinitely correct in choosing you."

Sarah simply shook her head and started to search for her own escape route.

Chapter Text

Pandemonium was the only way to describe what Sarah's lounge at 13 Bannerman Road looked like. The Doctor counted no less than thirteen people in the room and more on a laptop screen that migrated itself around the room. Some he recognised, but others he didn't. They were all in various stages of chaotic conversation that wasn't getting anyone anywhere.

Bringing his fingers to his lips, the Doctor whistled loudly, stopping all conversation in the room. For a moment it seemed like a good thing, but then all the attention focused on him and he was soon bombarded with information and questions.

"Is Sarah Jane with you?" Martha asked first.

"Who is this guy?" One of the ones that he didn't know scowled at him.

"Torchwood had nothing to do with this," Jack disclaimed. "We weren't even in the country."

"Dad, it's the Doctor," said the girl on the computer screen. "It has to be." She appeared relieved at the Doctor's arrival.

"We haven't been able to find any clues where she went," Rani's voice added to the din.

"Is he Sarah's son's father?" Jo's voice was a stage whisper that blended in with the rest of the noise as she addressed the Brigadier.

With a sigh, the Doctor dug into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew the noisemaker he'd used at Sarah's aborted wedding. Spinning it with one hand, he was relieved when everyone looked at him in silence. "All right, that's better. Luke, you'd better tell me what's going on."

"Mum's gone." Luke swallowed hard. "K-9 and I came home to surprise her, but she wasn't here. Clyde and Rani helped me look, but we didn't have any luck finding her. So."

"You called in the rest of the family." The Doctor put his hand on Luke's shoulder. "We'll find her Luke, I promise." He pulled Luke close to him, keeping one arm around his shoulders. "All right you lot," he turned his attention to everyone in the room. "For those not in the know, I'm the Doctor. Sarah Jane is my best friend and I came as soon as my phone started to ring off the hook." He held up his mobile. "Now, I need every one of you."

"That's the Doctor?" Jo seemed shocked then her voice dropped a level lower as she leaned in towards the Brigadier. "And Sarah's son is his son?" Her eyes seemed impossibly wide.

"I'm fairly certain that's not the case, Jo." The Brigadier looked at the woman disapprovingly, though she wasn't paying him any mind. He sighed and focused on the newest version of the Doctor. "I take it you'd like me to bring UNIT resources to bear, Doctor?"

"Good man. Absolutely," the Doctor grinned. "Thank you, Brigadier." His face lit up as he finally paid attention to the two women with the older man. "Oh! Jo Jones and the lovely Liz Shaw." He let Luke go and made his way over, hugging each of the women in turn. "I'm betting Luke hasn't eaten since all this started, at least nothing decent. Jo could you and…" His eyes fell on Wilf. "Wilf, come over here. Jo Jones, this is my friend Wilf. Wilf, Jo used to travel with me the way Donna did. I don't suppose you two could go to the kitchen and scare up something decent for the kids to eat."

"We'll fix the lad a cuppa and a proper tea," Wilf nodded approvingly. "Nice to meet you, Jo Jones." He held out his hand.

"Oh it's very nice to meet you too." Jo beamed at the older gentleman. "Absentee dad, eh. Never would have expected the Doctor to have a little one with one of his assistants. Still, never mind."

"Now she's got that idea in her head, it's stuck." Liz smirked at the Doctor, finding his exasperation amusing. "There will be no convincing her otherwise. Even with a genetic test."

"I suspect you're right, Liz, but I'm sure Sarah Jane will attempt to set her straight." The Doctor sighed then turned to her. "So, Liz Shaw, they dragged you all the way down here from Moon Base." He rocked on his heels. "I didn't even know you knew Sarah Jane."

"We didn't back when she ran with you, but Alistair introduced us some time ago. I was the one who let her know something odd was going on with Bubbleshock," Liz admitted.

"Well those aliens didn't stand a chance now did they?" the Doctor grinned. "Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith." He shook his head, "Would have scared me. Could you dig into your contacts you shared with Sarah? See if they'd tipped her off to anything that she might have been investigating."

Liz nodded. "I already thought of that, Doctor, when Luke called Alistair. I just haven't had the chance."

"Good, good," the Doctor nodded amiably but was already fixated on the next person in the group, causing Liz to roll her eyes in annoyance, even if this was what she expected from him. The Doctor nodded to the Brigadier even as he looked towards Jack. 'Alistair and Liz are rather chummy, aren't they?'

Jack burst out laughing causing everyone to focus in on him with an evil eye. "Hey, it's him. I love Sarah Jane as much as anyone here."

"You'd better not or we'll have more to talk about," the Doctor glared at Jack.

"Funny, Doc, funny." Jack rolled his eyes at the Time Lord. "Sarah Jane has more class than that and you know it. You want me to get Torchwood involved?" He looked worriedly at Luke for a moment.

"Yeah," the Doctor nodded after a moment. "Sarah won't like it, but I don't think we have much choice. Just keep him," he nodded towards Luke, before continuing, "out of it. Clear?"

"As crystal," Jack agreed without argument.

"Martha. Mickey. You two have contacts with UNIT in America don't you?" The Doctor's attention turned to the younger pair of his companions.

"You don't think she'd be there do you?" Martha looked puzzled.

"Honestly," the Doctor frowned, "I don't know, but better to leave no stone unturned. With any luck, we'll have her home in time for tea tomorrow. If they can't find anything, then at the worst you can help the Brigadier." He clapped Mickey on the shoulder and tried to give him a reassuring look. Mickey had seen enough in his time with the Doctor so was perceptive enough to see right through it."

"What about us, Doctor?" the girl on the computer screen called out. "We want to help too."

"And who might you be?" the Doctor peered at the girl, getting impossibly close to the camera and giving her and her father a very odd shot of his face.

"That's Maria and her dad," Luke explained.

"Right, I remember Sarah mentioned you two after the bit with the Daleks," his eyes narrowed.

"Mr. Jackson can hack into anything. He even hacked into UNIT for us once," Luke said in pure innocence.

The Brigadier cleared his throat. "I'm certain I didn't hear anything, Doctor."

The Doctor nodded back at his old friend with a grin. "Good then. You, Mr. Jackson."

"It's Alan, actually," Alan interrupted. "Whatever you want me to do, Doctor, I'll do."

"Excellent. Sarah choses her friends well, I can tell," the Doctor grinned. "We'll need Mr. Smith to focus on extraterrestrial computers, so I need you to focus on everything Earth bound. And I mean everything. No stone unturned, Alan."

The man nodded solemnly. "No stone unturned, Doctor."

"All right, who do we have left?" The Doctor focused on the young well dressed man and the young woman in the wheelchair.

"You're the bastard who hurt, SJ," Josh scowled at the Doctor.

The Doctor eyes narrowed. "Sarah and I already had that out, Mr?"

"Townsend. Josh Townsend." His glare didn't change.

"Josh, stop it. Picking fights won't help Sarah Jane." Nat shook her head at him. "I was going to offer to hack, but you've got Alan."

"No, that's good." the Doctor cocked his head. "And you are?"

"Natalie Redfern." Her eyes were bright even with the worry in them as she looked up at him.

At hearing her surname, the Doctor couldn't help but take a closer look at her, searching for something, then looking away as a shiver went through him. "And how do you know our Sarah Jane?"

"I was a researcher for her, back when she worked for Planet Three. I hacked for her, helped set up covers when she was doing exposes." Natalie answered then watched as she could practically see the thoughts whirring through the Doctor's mind.

"Oh, that means you're familiar with all her aliases. You probably helped set them up." The Doctor finally grinned. "Get out your equipment and get set up. You're going to help Alan. He might be a hacker, but you're a hacker plus you know the names Sarah would use."

Alan nodded and smiled at the pretty young woman. "Hello Nat. Let's get to work."

Some of the tension in the room eased as the two new friends set to begin their search for Sarah Jane, even as the others had yet to be sent out on their quests.

"Now you," the Doctor turned back to Josh. "Other than open hostility, what do you bring to the table?"

"For a long time, I was the one protecting Sarah Jane, after you abandoned her." Josh scowled.

"I thought she understood. I was wrong and she and I have made our peace." The Doctor drew himself up and the air seemed to spark around him, if only slightly. "Now what do you bring to the table?"

Josh's eyes narrowed. "SJ always told me, if I was ever to meet you, I needed to tell you one word. Mandragora."

The Doctor's eyes widened and his stance became less aggressive. "The Mandragora Helix. I'd completely forgotten. You mean to tell me that Sarah got involved with it again?"

"It's more complicated than that and very difficult to explain." Josh's aggressive stance fell back too. "Let's just say, a book that Guiliano wrote because of his experience with you nearly caused Sarah's death and did cause the death of far too many others." There was obvious guilt in his expression.

"You and I will have that difficult conversation sooner rather than later," the Doctor's voice was stern, but he nodded. "So how can you help?"

"I'm Sir Donald Wakefield's heir. When he died, I inherited everything," Josh said quietly. "If anyone has trouble, I'm fairly certain I can open doors and smooth things over." He paused. "As well, I could find out if there's anything left of the troubles that SJ was having from before."

"Then I'll leave you to that." The Doctor scrutinized the young man and then turned to the final remaining individual in the room that he wasn't familiar with.

"I never thought I'd meet you," Brendan stepped forward and held out his hand. "I'm Brendan Richards. I was Lavinia Smith's ward. I was there when Sarah unpacked K9. It really meant a lot to her." He glanced at Josh, clearly unimpressed with the other man's reaction to the Doctor. "I tried to help her rebuild him after he broke down. But of course, we just didn't have the technology."

"Yes, I know. I've had to rebuild him a time or two myself," the Doctor smiled gently. "I thought you lived, oh where is that place? Silicon Valley?"

Brendan's eyes widened at the thought that the Doctor knew about him. "I caught the first flight out when I heard from Luke. How did you know?"

"Oh, well, Sarah may have mentioned you a time or two. You are family you know," the Doctor grinned at him. "Recently, mind you, she was worried about you during that hullaballoo with the Daleks."

"Right." Brendan drew himself up, knowing how much Sarah thought of him now. "So what can I do?" Brendan held the Doctor's gaze.

"Honestly, I'm going to need you to step in as Luke's guardian. You don't need to stay here, I'll do that, but legally I need someone to who's not going to ask a lot of questions. He's still a minor and it'll look better, since you were Sarah's Aunt's ward, if you return the favour and act as his guardian."

"Without question, Doctor," Brendan smiled at Luke. "I could stay here you know."

"No, that'll be all right. I'm not leaving until we have Sarah home." The 'one way or another' went unsaid, but was visible in the Doctor's expression. "If we need you, we'll definitely come for you. By TARDIS." He smiled at Brendan again then turned back to the crowd.

"What about us, Doctor?" Clyde stepped forward. "We want to help too."

"Didn't doubt it for a minute, Clyde." The Doctor put his hand on Clyde's shoulder. "You and Rani are going to help me and Luke search with Mr. Smith. All right? I need you, just like I did at Sarah Jane's wedding."

Clyde nodded once quickly then the Doctor turned back towards the assembled crowd, his expression growing pensive once more as he took in their expressions.

"Wherever Sarah is, she's depending on us to find her, to help her and to bring her back. I don't intend to fail in that." He looked at each of them, watching as they nodded. "And I don't think any of you do either. Now, let's get to work."

Chapter Text

Given that Time Lords didn't need nearly as much sleep as humans, Sarah had many hours in the day to realize that the Rani wasn't lying about the chances of her being rescued at random from her TARDIS. "Oh come on," she complained to the time machine, "I know you lot talk to people other than your Time Lord. You could at least keep me company." She stroked the wall of the TARDIS and listened for its hum. "Fine then," she huffed at it. "Be that way."

"I'm afraid my Type 80 is a bit less personable than the Doctor's Type 40," the Rani kept her commentary non-confrontational as she stood in the doorway to the console room.

"So I noticed." Sarah glared at its walls before turning her gaze nervously to her 'host'.

"I've told you before, Sarah, you're perfectly safe with me." The Rani gestured towards the console room and disappeared through the doorway.

Becoming a Time Lord hadn't changed one thing, her curiosity. Sarah slipped around behind the renegade but stayed well back of the console. "Sarah Jane," she corrected. "There are not very many people I let call me Sarah."

"I stand corrected." The Rani glanced at the woman. "My actual name is Ushas. The Rani is a title I claimed much as the Doctor and the Master did. As you must know, names carry power."

"No, not really," Sarah shook her head. "I just don't like people getting too familiar with me."

"Because that too, is a form of power you withhold from them." The Rani inclined her head as she considered Sarah Jane once more. "However, I invite you to call me Ushas. It will be pleasant to hear that name once more."

"It's Gallifreyan?" Sarah Jane asked, not certain that she wanted the dubious honour of referring to the renegade Time Lady by her given name.

"It is," the Rani paused briefly. "It is something that you should learn, given time."

"Apparently I have the time now." Sarah sighed and moved slightly closer. "Couldn't you just," she stopped to gather her thoughts, "I don't know , download the information you want me to have?"

"I could," the Rani agreed, "It isn't beyond our capability." She could feel the tension in the room increasing, pushing against the former human's curiosity. "For some of the information you need, it may be the most expedient method of learning, however there are other things, like the language, that will be better learned in a more traditional manner."

"I don't know that I want to learn anything from you." Sarah remembered who she spoke to and reverted to a more hostile stance.

"So you've said." The Rani knew there would be a back and forth between them for some time. Still, she wanted to keep the other woman listening. "Are you not curious about how I survived the Time War, Sarah Jane? Surely, you must have heard about that from the Doctor."

"He said everyone died," Sarah answered reluctantly. "I assume you were off planet, hiding." Her disdain for that course of action was evident in her voice.

"There was no point in dying, Sarah Jane," the Rani said, looking back at the other woman. "Not when it was so easy to survive. I found a race willing to give me shelter, one very much like yours. I used a chameleon arch to take their form." The Time Lady continued her narrative, knowing that so long as the tale held Sarah's interest, she wouldn't have to worry about her heir's attention wavering.

While Sarah Jane and the Rani were somewhere in the time vortex, the Doctor continued to co-ordinate efforts to locate the missing matriarch of his Earth bound family. He hadn't realized just how important she had become to everyone personally, until she was gone. He paced around the room as he spoke into his mobile. "All right, Turlough. Or should I say Vizlor Turlough. I'm fairly certain you don't make Sarah Jane call you by your proper title. Yeah, well she is prettier than me, but you haven't seen me in a while. You trust Jack's judgement? Well, there's your first mistake. Alright, if you hear anything. Right, thanks." He snapped shut his mobile.

"No love?" Clyde asked with a frown.

"He's going to let us know, but so far," the Doctor frowned and shook his head in the negative.

"In the past three Earth weeks, I have scanned the databases of over five thousand passing vessels and we have lodged several missing persons reports at various points in time with the Shadow Proclamation." Mr. Smith's normally monotone voice seemed to hold a note of sorrow.

"Oy," the Doctor scowled at the Xyloc driven super-computer. "She's out there and we're going to find her."

"I am merely trying to point out," Mr. Smith tried again.

"OY!" This time the Doctor's voice nearly crackled with anger. "She. Is. Out. There."

Clyde decided distraction was the best option. "So, this Turlough, right? How would Sarah Jane know him?"

"Turlough is the leader of a planet called Trion," the Doctor continued to scowl at the Xyloc's supercomputer shell. "They have a habit of dropping their political prisoners here on Earth."

"So we're like Australia to them, then?" Clyde asked.

The Doctor grinned and turned towards his young friend. "Yeah, and you need to stop hiding all that clever you've got locked up in your head, Clyde Langer." He tapped the boy's forehead.

Clyde shrugged. "Yeah, that's what Sarah Jane is always telling me too." He paused. "So how are you going to get Luke to go back to Oxford? They gave him time off, but he's going to have to go back soon or drop out for this semester. Sarah Jane wouldn't like that."

"I know," the Doctor sighed. "I don't think I can make him go, Clyde. I mean, how do I make him when I wouldn't be able to make myself." He thought of Luke, Sarah's wonderful son camped out in his mother's room. It reminded him of when he'd had to leave her behind, the hours he'd spent in her room, how he'd had the TARDIS reconfigure herself so that her room was adjacent to his own. Sarah Jane Smith was not easy to get over, no matter what she thought.

"You need to talk to him about it anyway," Clyde offered. "Even if you don't intend to make him go back right away, there needs to be a plan."

The Doctor looked at Clyde in wonder. His advice was practical advice, and the Doctor could almost hear Sarah's voice behind Clyde's own. "You're right, of course. Maybe you could check in with Alan and Nat while I'm with Luke." The Doctor grinned a little at that. While doing their level best to keep it quiet, it was obvious to everyone that their two resident hackers had grown very friendly, more so than was to be expected given the long distance between them. He was fairly certain that Sarah Jane would be thrilled with that when she returned.

Clyde rolled his eyes, but was thankful for the small bit of positive news that a new couple gave to the group. "At least I don't have to worry about them kissing." He pulled a face then headed downstairs towards the lounge where Nat was working.

"Keep searching, Mr. Smith," the Doctor requested, though his voice held a hint of warning as well, then he moved down the attic stairs to the level where all the bedrooms were. "Luke?" He tapped on Sarah's bedroom door.

"I'm here, Doctor," Luke's voice was quiet and solemn.

The Time Lord pushed open the door and was struck by how exceedingly young Luke looked, curled on his mother's bed, a stuffed owl cradled in his arms. "I won that for your mum, you know." He poked the well-worn owl with one finger as he settled beside Luke on the bed. "Took her to a fun fair here on Earth. Back when I was all velvet and ruffles before I was all teeth and curls." He grinned at the memory. "Tossing darts. Some horrible young fellow," he smiled and snorted at himself as he fell back into his old pattern of speech then stopped himself. "Your mum's date stood her up, so I offered to take her. She didn't want to admit that she wanted someone to win her something, but I was always good at knowing what she needed, even if she didn't want to admit it."

Luke nodded slowly. "She trusted you, Doctor, no matter what. You were always special to her."

"Oy, none of that past tense," the Doctor tapped his arm. "I am going to get your mum back here. If she were gone, I mean really gone, I'd know." He tapped his temple. "Up here. She's out there, Lukey-boy."

Luke nodded. "I'm not going back to school, Doctor. Not until Mum is home."

"You know that's not what your mum would want, right?" The Doctor's tone held no judgement. Luke nodded once more. "All right, I'm not going to force you. Still, I think if we haven't found your mum by the time your next semester starts then you should go back."

"No," Luke shook his head. "I won't."

"Look, Luke." The Doctor paused and licked his lips. "I'll make you a deal. If we haven't found your mum before your next semester, you go on back to University." He took a deep breath, knowing he was about to offer to exile himself. "I'll stay here, at least until she's home safe and sound, then even beyond that if she wants me."

Luke's gaze came up to the Doctor's, widening for a moment as he realized how much it cost the Time Lord to offer that. Considering going back to University and continuing on if his mum weren't back by then seemed unthinkable, but he knew the Doctor was right. She'd want him to carry on. "Doesn't the universe need you, Doctor?"

"I reckon it can wait a little while." The Doctor reassured Luke. "It's like I told her back at the non-wedding. She's important and not just to me." He reached up and ran his hand over Luke's hair.

"I wish," Luke started.

"So do I sometimes," the Doctor cut him off already knowing what the boy would say. "Let's just concentrate on what we can do." His nose wrinkled. "Like the fact that you need a shower." He plucked the owl toy from the Luke's arms. "Now you leave Owlie here and go deal with that terrible pong. I won't even tell your mum if you use her bathroom." He ruffled Luke's hair again. "Off you go now."

As the Doctor left the room, he found Wilf standing outside it. "You're lucky I'm the one who came up to find you, son. After that, Jo would be back to thinking you were the lad's dad without a doubt."

"Bringing us more food?" The Doctor looked at the other man in amusement.

"Freezer's so full, I don't think your Sarah Jane'll have to cook for months when she gets back." Wilf had the same unconditional belief in the Doctor that Sarah did. "Plus Jo's got some sort of mushroom stew on the table. Says it doesn't freeze well."

"Doesn't Jo have a husband and grandchildren that should be driving her around?"

"Off saving the world aren't they?" Wilf frowned. "Can't help but think that'd be my Donna," his words trailed off.

"It's better the way it is, Wilf. Donna did more than her share already." The Doctor shook his head. "You wouldn't want her to be stuck like the rest of my companions are."

"Stuck? When I was here the other day, they didn't look stuck. They looked like a family, Doctor." Wilf scowled at the other man.

"A family because they have no choice. Because of my interferencem their lives stalled out," the Doctor spat.

"Now you're talking about her, aren't you?" Wilf read between the lines. "You think that boy in there isn't enough for her?"

"Don't get me wrong. Luke is everything I'd expect from Sarah Jane's child." He sighed. "It's just she deserves so much more than just him. He deserves more."

"So, when she gets back, you make sure she gets what she deserves." To Wilf it seemed all too simple. "That they both get what they deserve."

"I should have offered to leave Handy with her," the Doctor said with a slight smile.

"You're rubbish on your own," Wilf said with a smile. "And it's obvious that you've been a father before. From what you've told me about your Sarah Jane, she's clever enough to share you with the universe. In fact from the stories I've been hearing, you'd probably have to share her just as much with the world. Two peas in a pod, the pair of you."

"She's my best friend," the Doctor admitted. "Donna came close though. Donna and Sarah Jane would have got on like a house on fire you know. If they'd had time to get to know one another, that is. Neither one of them took me seriously."

"Should they have?" Wilf asked with a grin.

Chapter Text

"Oh come on now you," Sarah grumbled in perfect Gallifreyan. It hadn't taken her long to learn when Ushas had shut off the translation circuit. It was learn or be completely without company.

"You are a bad influence on him, Sarah Jane. He's been showing more personality since you started doing his maintenance." Ushas chuckled as she looked down at Sarah's legs sticking out from beneath her TARDIS console.

"The personality of a bad tempered mule, maybe." Sarah scowled and slid out from beneath. "I'm beginning to think you only turned me into a Gallifreyan because you stink at TARDIS maintenance. Did you, the Doctor and the Master all skip classes at the Academy that week?" She sat up and stretched before she stood, then patted the console. "All better now, mule?"

"I had no way to know which subjects your mind would take to best, Sarah Jane," Ushas shrugged. "I do wish you had taken more to the biogenetic sciences, but overall I can not fault your grasp of temporal mechanics and engineering. Do you see now that your worry about me overwriting your personality was unfounded?"

"I still don't trust you," Sarah said stubbornly, though she and the Rani both knew that was untrue. It was mainly a fact of her confinement, but a sort of Stockholm Syndrome had settled over the Doctor's former companion. "I will never trust you. We've been out here in the vortex for two years, I just want to go home. I want to see my son."

"You needed those two years to learn, Sarah Jane," Ushas said patiently. "You know enough now that I am certain that you could graduate from the Academy."

A part of Sarah couldn't help but preen a little at that. Now she was a Time Lady in the truest sense. She understood so much more about why the Doctor did what he did, about how the universe worked. She'd learned so much as a human, but she knew so much more now. "I need to go home, Ushas. My son, Luke. Rani. Clyde. They all need me. I can't stay here."

"Yes," Ushas said simply. "You can go back to Earth now, if you wish."

"I can?" Sarah's eyes widened in shock. She'd never expected to be freed. A laugh escaped her and she began to move around the console, setting co-ordinates. "I'm going to set it for just after you took me."

"Sarah Jane," Ushas watched, a slight smile coming to her lips. The smile was replaced by a grimace as a bolt of pain went through her. She could no longer hide the pain she was in. She stumbled to the deck and gasped for breath.

"Ushas?" Sarah couldn't stop her caring nature from drawing her to the other Time Lady. "What's the matter?"

"I never told you the rest of the story of why I didn't die in the Time War." Ushas allowed Sarah to help her up.

"That doesn't matter. How can I help you?" Sarah pleaded.

"Ah but it does matter, my daughter." The Rani looked up at Sarah Jane.

For once, Sarah Jane didn't protest that she wasn't the Time Lady's daughter. "All right then, you'd better tell me."

"I told you that I found a race that was willing to allow me to hide amongst them. What I didn't tell you was that I had promised to help them in payment." Ushas breathed out slowly. "Their kind had a disease, an engineered disease. I was supposed to cure them."

Sarah felt herself recoil, remembering exactly who and what this woman was.

"Yes, you guessed correctly. I didn't do as I promised." The Rani coughed and a bit of blood trickled from her lips. "Even though I became as one of them, I thought myself immune. Normally the chameleon arch gives perfect health."

"You caught the disease?" Sarah guessed as she brushed Ushas' hair from her forehead.

"Hoist by my own petard," the Rani nodded. "I thought when I opened my fob watch that I would revert, and that the disease would leave me. It did not." She looked up at the former human. "It took my ability to regenerate and started breaking down my body's biofields." She could feel Sarah stiffen. "I can not pass it to anyone, Sarah Jane. However I also can not stop its inevitable conclusion, which is the end for me."

"You're dying." Sarah swallowed hard, wondering if she should run.

Ushas snorted. "You still will not believe me that I do not wish for immortality. I am not about to take your body, Sarah Jane. If I was going to, then I would have done so already. There would have been no point in teaching you what I have."

Sarah's head dropped. "You can't blame me."

"No I can not. Do not apologize. I am just as amoral as the Doctor told you. You remember how I treated you before, as you should." The Rani coughed again. "It is only because you are now my legacy that I value you so much more." Sarah Jane wouldn't know just how far her legacy would carry until well after Ushas' death.

"I know I should hate you," Sarah Jane started but couldn't bring herself to finish. In truth she couldn't hate her. As much as she'd feared all of this, exhilaration filled her as well.

"The Doctor would think so." Ushas looked up at her. "As much as he may seem to regret the loss of the Time Lords and Gallifrey, my Sarah Jane, he values your humanity more than he desires to not be alone. I took that from you."

Sarah swallowed hard. "There's no going back is there?"

"There is not." Ushas looked up at her. "I believe you have the strength to persevere."

"I hope you're right." Sarah's eyes widened as Ushas convulsed once more. "What can I do?"

"For me, nothing. There are things you must do though." The Rani pushed herself upwards. "Help me to the console."

Sarah didn't think it was a good idea, but she helped the renegade Time Lady get to her feet, getting her arm around her waist as she guided her to the console. "We have to reconfigure the Rassilon Imprimatur. The TARDIS must be yours or when I die, you will not be able to get back to Earth." The Rani paused. "I do not wish him to die with me."

Sarah's eyes widened at that then nodded. She keyed in the appropriate sequence and watched as an aperture on the console opened. "Take my extract from within," Ushas instructed. "That must be destroyed, Sarah Jane."

"All right, but," Sarah's eyes widened as the Rani held out another extract.

"This is, as you guessed, your extract," the Rani said as she held it out to Sarah.

"How?" Sarah took it carefully from the Time Lady.

"There are advantages to being less than moral," Ushas said with a slight note of humour in her voice. "Place it in the receptacle, Sarah Jane."

Following the Rani's instructions, Sarah Jane slid it into the aperture and watched as it was drawn down. As soon as it was encased, a shudder seemed to run through the TARDIS. The Rani breathed out slowly. "He is your TARDIS now." She watched as Sarah's eyes widened, knowing the new Time Lady heard the whispers of her vessel for the first time. "He will reconfigure himself to suit you." The Rani coughed again and became a dead weight in her heir's arms.

"Ushas?" Sarah was drawn out of her mind by the horrible death rasp sound that the other Time Lady made. She gently guided her down to the deck of the TARDIS.

"You must destroy me, Sarah Jane. No part of me can remain." Ushas' voice was barely a whisper now. "Take me somewhere and build a pyre."

"I will," Sarah said softly. There were no tears. This woman was her captor yet Gallifreyan emotions were cooler, just as their bodies were.

"You are the future of Gallifrey, Sarah Jane Smith. Do not allow the Doctor to make you hate what you are now, as he hates what he is." Ushas voice was barely audible now.

Sarah watched as her captor's eyes closed and she breathed one final death rattle. She stepped away from the body as it began to glow then the energy streamed out and away, but no new life rose from its departure. Sarah moved to the console, changing the coordinates to somewhere other than Earth. She could feel the shift of her TARDIS. It had already begun changing itself to suit her.

She smiled as she set the brake and heard the tell tale song the Doctor's TARDIS sang. "That's more like it." She felt the complaint from her new friend. "All right, I promise to find a way for you to make that sound without setting the brake."

It didn't take long before the TARDIS announced their imminent re-materialization in her mind. She opened the door and looked out at a planet that had been desolate the first time she'd visited. "Karn," she murmured softly, before she turned her attention to the Rani's body.

Mixed feelings flooded her as she made the necessary preparations, transporting the Rani's body the way she'd once kidnapped her, then building the pyre. The TARDIS produced the accelerant that she doused the pyre with, then she stood back to watch it burn. This was both her enemy and her creator. The woman who'd taken her from her family and made it possible for the Doctor to no longer be alone. The detachment she'd learned from the Doctor serving her well as she waited, tending the flames over the long night.

Returning to the TARDIS was a pleasant surprise. "Oh yes! This is more like it." Light refracted in multiple colors and patterns through the stained glass roundels and ceiling panels, reminiscent of the auxiliary control room but grander still. "It's beautiful," Sarah murmured in approval as she ran her hand along the dark panels of the walls, accented with brass fittings and lights.

She laughed out loud as she felt the TARDIS preen, obviously pleased with itself for reading her so well. "I think that has as much to do with our link as anything else," she said playfully to the time machine. "All right, I admit it, I love what you've done." Running her hands over the brass and glass of her console, she moved to start punching in coordinates, moving at a frenetic pace, grinning as the alternating glass rods of her time rotor began rising and falling in a rhythm that only she and the TARDIS understood. "Now let's go home!"

Things were more sombre on Bannerman Road. Everyone was once again assembled in the lounge. "We need to come up with a new plan," the Doctor said as he paced in front of them all.

"Doctor, perhaps it's time," the Brigadier started.

"No, it will never be that time," the Doctor scowled at his old friend. "I would have thought you would agree with me on that, Alistair."

"I know you don't want to consider this, Doctor," Martha said softly.

"No, for once I agree with him." Josh scowled at everyone. "SJ is still out there, she's still alive."

A familiar wheezing grinding sound drew everyone's attention. "But you're here, Doctor," Jack said as he began moving towards the door that led out to the garden with everyone else following curiously.

They all stood stunned as a police box materialized right on Sarah's begonias and the door creaked open. The person who emerged wouldn't have shocked them more if it had been an earlier version of the Doctor himself. "Oh, not my begonias. I was aiming for the attic." She smacked the TARDIS' side. "Silly thing do try to stay out of my garden and just because in my mind that's what I think you should look like, doesn't mean you should look like that."

"Uh," Jack ventured, wanting the young woman to turn around. "Hello?"

"Oh," Sarah turned around slowly and smiled brightly at the assembled crowd after swallowing hard, leaving everyone, young and old in stunned silence. "Surprise?"

Chapter Text

The silence was broken by Luke's soft voice as he took a tentative step towards the woman that he knew was his mother, yet he'd never seen her looking like this except in photos. "Mum?"

"Oh Luke," Sarah completely forgot about scolding her TARDIS and began to move towards her son, her bright smile lighting up her entire face.

The Doctor's actions caused the smile to fade as quickly as it had appeared. He pulled Luke behind him, stopping his progress towards his mother. "No, Luke."

"But Doctor, it's my mum," Luke looked at the Time Lord, confusion evident.

The Doctor heard the singing strands of time echoing around them, a melody he hadn't heard since his last encounter with another Time Lord. "Your mum isn't that young and she isn't a Time Lord." He immediately distrusted what his senses were telling him.

Sarah couldn't stop the flash of hurt that crossed her face. "Oh Doctor, I understand. I really do, but it's me. It really is." She smiled at him softly. "You're not alone any longer." She took a slow step towards him, her hands held upwards in a surrender position.

"Do you think I wouldn't recognize your TARDIS, Rani?" He hissed and pulled out his sonic in one movement, scanning both Sarah and her TARDIS. "I don't know how you survived the Time War or what you've done to Sarah Jane, but I swear I will save her."

A frown crossed Sarah's face as Ushas' warning came to the forefront of her mind. She shook the thought away and swallowed hard. "You're right. It is the Rani's TARDIS, but she's gone." Sarah tried to reassure him. "She died."

"And I suppose before she did she changed you into a Time Lord?" While the Doctor was correct in his assumption, his tone told her that he didn't believe anything she said.

"Look," Sarah snapped, putting her hands on her hips, frustrated with the situation already. All she wanted to do was hold her son and for her best friend to be happy, maybe even a little thrilled that all those barriers that kept them apart for so long were now gone. "What can I do to convince you? She did change me. I was her legacy, her way of ensuring the continuation of the Time Lords, but I'm still me. Two hearts aside."

The Brigadier pursed his lips then stepped forward. "Doctor, what harm could it do to hear her out?" Some instinct told him that this young woman was indeed their Sarah Jane.

"Thank you, Sir Alistair." Sarah Jane's smile beamed towards him in gratitude.

"HA! Sarah Jane would never call the Brigadier that!" the Doctor voice was full of unfounded certainty.

Clyde rubbed his neck then shook his head. "Actually Doc, she calls him that all the time."

"It seems silly to call him 'Brigadier' when he's retired." Sarah agreed, smiling at Clyde gratefully. "You don't think perhaps we could go into the lounge and sit down? My fella here," she patted her TARDIS Type 80's side, "is remaking himself to suit me, but it's not exactly homey yet." Her eyes rolled and she looked towards the blue box. "Hush, now. I do appreciate the effort."

The Doctor looked at the assembled crowd with a 'you see I'm right' expression but Nat only shrugged and piped up. "Sarah Jane named her car Ethel. It would be just like her to have a conversation with her time machine, if it's really her."

"I seem to recall you had a car you named Bessie," the Brigadier pointed out with a slight grin, attempting in his own way to lighten the mood. The Doctor shook his head, unwilling to be appeased, and guided both boys back into the house ahead of the crowd.

Sarah watched as the others followed him inside leaving only Jack and Mickey watching her. She closed her eyes for a moment to bring her emotions under control, reminding herself that she should be grateful that the Doctor cared for Luke as if he was his own son, protecting him from the perceived threat, even if that threat was her.

"Looking good if it is you, Sarah Jane." Mickey grinned at her. "Mrs and the ex might go a bit different now."

"You're married, Mickey Mouse, or did you forget Minnie just followed the Doc inside," Jack reminded. "I, on the other hand, am free, unattached and immortal."

"And not entirely hung up on who I am?" Sarah Jane eyed Jack appraisingly.

"The Doctor is being an idiot. Probably because," Jack started with strange certainty. "Well, you're Sarah Jane Smith."

"Are you telling me what I want to hear or do you know something?" Sarah's gaze turned to one of curiosity.

"Maybe a bit of both," Jack shrugged. "But I'm certain I'm right."

That had Sarah smiling at him gratefully. "Thank you, Jack."

"No thanks necessary, Miss Smith." Jack grinned and held out his arm to her. "Shall we?"

Sarah laughed out loud. "Mutiny is it, Jack?" She slid her arm through his. "Into the lion's den?"

"Actually, it's the lioness' den." Jack reminded her. "Your house. Your friends. Your son. We all love the Doctor, but that doesn't mean he can't be wrong."

Looking up at the immortal Captain, Sarah nodded quickly, his statement of faith in her giving her strength. So when she entered her house by the garden doors, she was as regal as any Time Lady could be on the arm of Jack Harkness. That only made the Doctor scowl harder. "Jack," he warned.

"Just because you think she's this Rani person," Jack shrugged. "I thought Rani was that cutie there." He nodded towards Sarah's young friend.

"Far too young for you, Captain Harkness." Sarah said warningly, her eyes glittering dangerously.

Jack pouted. "Awww, what happened to Jack?"

"He flirted with a very young woman," her brow arched.

"You're no fun," Jack continued to pout.

"I might be more fun when my identity isn't in doubt." Sarah's gaze fixed on the Doctor, but her attention was drawn away by a gasp from a laptop.

"Sarah Jane?" Maria's eyes were wide as she caught sight of her friend on the webcam.

Sarah beamed. "Maria, it's so good to see you."

"Blimey, you did do your research didn't you?" The Doctor being obstinate took the smile off of Sarah's face.

"No," Sarah scowled, "I didn't. I didn't have to. I'm Sarah Jane Smith. Formerly your companion and up until today I thought I was still your friend."

"Sarah Jane," the Brigadier's voice was gentle. "Why don't you explain what happened to you?"

Sarah nodded, soothed by her old friend's logical suggestion. "I was here and I'll admit, feeling a bit sorry for myself, when this odd woman appeared in my kitchen." She shook her head. "She knocked me out with what I found out later was a neural paralysis rod. When I woke up, I was in her laboratory in her TARDIS and wishing I hadn't woken. The process to change me was basically killing me. If it was successful, I'd regenerate. If not, I'd die."

The Doctor scowled, his defensive posture of his arms crossed over his chest never changing. "Which you'd have us believe happened but you still look like you. Pretty convenient really."

"Actually, not convenient, just the reality of my genetic code," Sarah answered tartly. "Gallifreyans reproduce via the looms, which had the genetic code of every possible Time Lord. That means you have an infinite number of genetic combinations lurking within you simply because you don't come from a straight linear bloodline. You're an amalgam with genetic variables from a diverse number of Time Lord genomes; a little like how Luke was produced. Even though I'm Gallifreyan now, I'm still the product of my rather base human genetics. Eventually, Ushas felt that I might change somewhat; a little taller, darker hair, lighter hair, maybe different eye colour; but it would still be limited on the possible combinations in my genetics."

The Doctor snorted. "And we're supposed to believe you aren't the Rani after that."

"Stop being so obstinate," Sarah planted her hands on her hips as her expression became stormy. "This is pointless if you're not going to listen."

"What happened after you were changed, Sarah Jane?" Clyde asked, becoming more convinced that this was their Sarah Jane.

"The Rani let me see myself, then let me see that there was no escape," she shrugged slightly, looking at her hands, feeling strange about admitting defeat to one of her kids. "She kept talking to me, trying to win me over." She looked at the Doctor once more. "She even warned me you would be like this."

"It doesn't sound like my Sarah Jane, being won over by her captor," the Doctor snapped at her.

"No," her head dropped, feeling the shame again. "And it wasn't an overnight thing. I suppose it was because I was with her so long. I came back to now, from your perspective, but I've been gone over two years. Two years in the vortex before she died, and there wasn't anyone else. No one. If she decided I wasn't successful as an experiment, she'd have put me down." For the first time since the person he was certain was an imposter had appeared, the Doctor doubted himself as he watched her wring her hands. "My only chance was to keep myself alive and hope someone would come for me, or that I could somehow get myself home. I had to make certain that she would think I was a success, that she was happy with me."

Suddenly Sarah felt a set of arms around her and looked up to find herself in Luke's arms meeting his gaze. "You did that, Mum. You're home." He grinned at her. "I'm so glad you're home." He settled his head on her shoulder as Sarah's eyes filled with tears and she gasped in relief at the sudden feeling of homecoming that shot through her.

It was as though a floodgate had opened. "Welcome home, Sarah Jane," she could almost hear the emotion in the Brigadier's voice as he pulled her into his still strong embrace.

"Oh honey," next Jo Jones pulled Sarah into a giggling hug. "Now if you could bottle that." She pulled away. "I'm jealous."

"You wouldn't be if you knew how much it hurt," Sarah smiled at the other woman only for a moment before Mickey Smith had swept her away swinging her around like a rag doll.

"Eat your heart out, Rose Tyler." Mickey shook his head. "Oy, you were quite the looker."

"I think she is quite the looker." Jack swept her away next. "Go back to your wife, Mickey Mouse." He dipped Sarah Jane before she could protest and stole a kiss. "Welcome home, beautiful."

Sarah couldn't fight the blush in her cheeks as Jack set her back on her feet and she pressed her hand against his chest. "Jack," she started, only to find a somewhat familiar back in front of her and Josh Townsend advancing on Jack. "Josh, leave him be." She pulled Josh around by the arm to face her. "Don't you want to say hello?"

"SJ," Josh allowed himself to be distracted and pulled her into a bear hug, though he still eyed Jack threateningly over Sarah's shoulder. "You like him slobbering all over you?"

Sarah Jane laughed, "Oh that's just Jack. Don't mind him."

"Give it up, Josh. Sarah doesn't need you playing chaperone," Nat said.

"Oh Nat," Sarah pulled away from Josh and stooped to hug her. "It's been so long. You look wonderful."

"I'm not even going to say it because you're going to hear it way too much, but I'd watch out for Luke's university chums if I were you." Nat grinned playfully then she swatted at Sarah. "And you were holding out on me."

"Holding out?" Sarah didn't have to feign confusion.

"Alan," Nat hissed. "Complete dish. Now that we know where you are, I'm on my way to Washington."

"Well, to make it up to you, I'll give you a lift to the airport." Sarah offered, eyeing the man on the screen who didn't seem to have eyes for anyone but the young woman in the wheelchair. She hugged her friend a little tighter. "Good for you, Nat."

As she pulled away from Nat, Sarah found herself facing the children as a group. "Hello you lot," she said softly, opening her arms to them.

"Sarah Jane," Rani's eyes glittered with relieved tears and she was the first to grab hold, then both the boys.

"Oy, you already got your hug, Lukey-boy," Clyde complained.

"I'm her son," Luke hugged tighter, "I get all the hugs I want."

"You all get as many hugs as you want," Sarah said playfully, as her dark hair blended in amongst the rest. "More than enough of me to go round." A whirlwind of welcoming followed the children, until the gathering took on the appearance of a party.

Sarah smiled at the sight of her friends, 'No, my family,' she thought to herself then looked up the stairs feeling her mood drop sharply.

"He's up there," Wilf said softly, "He did miss you, my girl."

"He has a funny way of showing it," Sarah snapped, then sighed. "I'm sorry, Wilf. This isn't exactly how I pictured my homecoming." The smile she flashed didn't reach her eyes.

"No, wouldn't think so." Wilf settled his hand on her shoulder. "You and him need to fix this."

Sarah put her hand on top of his. "I know. I'm just not certain he'll let me." She looked upward once more, then nodded at Wilf before setting off. Climbing the stairs slowly, she took the time to put her thoughts in order and to formulate a plan that would convince him. She didn't realize she'd reached the top and pushed open the door of the attic until she was already there, seeing the Doctor in front of Mr. Smith angrily pushing buttons.

"Hello Mr. Smith," Sarah called out softly. "I don't suppose you recognize me."

"Your vocal patterns are somewhat different as are your bio-signs. However, extrapolation from your former human bio-signs to a Gallifreyan standard based on the only available model stands at a seventy-five percent chance that you are Sarah Jane Smith." the alien supercomputer calculated and relayed.

"Which isn't near enough to one hundred when you're dealing with the Rani," the Doctor groused. "No matter what they think." He scowled at the attic door.

There didn't seem to be any way to convince him. The thought sent a ripple of pain pulsing through her. Closing her eyes she searched her memories for something, anything to convince him. If only he would read her mind. It was how to convince him to do that when he thought she was the Rani.

Inspiration struck.

It was reckless.


From what she remembered, the outcome could as easily be her death as the Doctor believing her. Even if the Doctor believed her enough to agree. Especially given she was practically a newborn Time Lord.

It was the only way.

She kept her voice completely neutral. If he had any doubts that she was the Rani, he'd never agree and she'd never convince him once and for all. "Doctor, I challenge you to a mindbending contest."

Chapter Text

"Mind bending contest?" A snort escaped the Doctor. "I somehow doubt that Sarah Jane has the proper equipment in her attic. No matter how many gadgets she collected."

Taking a deep breath, Sarah pushed back her ire. "No, but I have no doubt you have something squirreled away on the TARDIS."

"So that's what this is about, is it?" The Doctor turned and loomed over her, exuding the threatening posture that he'd gotten so used to using since the war. "You need to get into my TARDIS somehow."

"So much for you being a gentleman," Sarah arched her brow at him as she spoke, looking up into his face impassively, not letting her pain at his doubt show. "I'd offer to look in my TARDIS but then you'd accuse me of wanting to kidnap you. So instead, I'll wait right here until you bring whatever you need out here." She gestured to the TARDIS.

The Doctor pursed his lips. "Mr. Smith, contain her." He pronounced before heading to the door of the TARDIS.

Instantly the containment field enveloped Sarah Jane. "Oh that…" Her fists clenched but she knew kicking up a fuss wouldn't help. Instead she fumed silently.

"If you are Sarah Jane, I apologize for this." Mr. Smith said, his voice sounding almost hopeful.

"It's alright, Mr. Smith. I suppose I can understand it really." She smiled slightly. "You missed me, didn't you?"

"It has yet to be conclusively proven that you are, Sarah Jane Smith. However, if you are, I will be relieved at your return." There was a pregnant pause. "The Time Lord perhaps was somewhat irrational."

"That's putting it mildly, but so much like him." Sarah looked at the familiar monitor with a smile. "That knowledge is the only thing that will keep me from kicking his arse for the next century or two."

At that moment, the doors of the TARDIS opened and the Doctor pushed out a piece of equipment Sarah remembered from Karn. Instead of the nervousness she'd expected to feel, nothing but grim determination remained. She'd prove who she was, even if it killed her in the process. The Doctor wheeled the apparatus to the midpoint between her and the TARDIS.

"Let her go, Mr. Smith." The Doctor pulled off his suit jacket and tie.

The containment field dropped and Sarah stepped forward, wondering if she'd even be able to defend herself. Ushas had given her rudimentary training for her telepathic abilities, but given the Doctor had defeated Morbius, all she hoped for was to defend herself long enough for him to discern the truth.

She must have paused long enough for the Doctor to notice, because now he had a slightly smug look on his face as he finished rolling up his sleeves. "Second thoughts? You don't have to do this, Ushas. You just need to tell me where Sarah is so I can bring her back here. I don't want to hurt you. We're the last two Time Lords left."

A frown crossed Sarah's face, wondering how far the Doctor would take that if she were Ushas and not herself. Still true to what she discovered was the norm for Gallifreyan emotions, there wasn't any of the jealousy that she'd once felt towards Rose, now it was just an icy chill that flowed through her. It added a rather cold glint to her gaze as she looked at him. "I don't think you're prepared for that yet, Doctor."

"Your choice, Rani." He took his position at the apparatus. "Don't make me kill you, please."

"Not in my plan to die today." She took a deep breath and stepped up, putting her hands onto the grips and locking her gaze with his.

"Mine neither." The Doctor held her gaze, then nodded and leaned forward into the contact interfaces. "Last chance, Rani."

Memories of her second version of him, lying in her arms dying, if it hadn't been for the act of kindness of the Sisterhood flooded into her mind. She briefly wondered about her own sanity as she leaned into the contact interface in front of her. "En garde, Doctor."

If the familiar words rattled the Doctor at all, he didn't show it, his fingers flicking out to hit the switch and activate the apparatus. It was as though he'd flicked a switch in her brain as well, a sort of mental kicking the door in that had her grinding her teeth as she felt him begin to rifle through her memories. Her life. Her very existence.

"I don't know how you managed this Rani, but I know it's false." the Doctor snarled as he ripped into the memories presented to him.

A flash echoed through her. 'Personality of an old mule.' It wasn't the first time the Doctor had touched her mind, but it was the first time that he'd treated her like an enemy. The pain gave her something to focus on, to stop herself from losing herself under the weight of his mind.

Another flash. Ushas looking at her coldly. 'If you survive, of course. Right now your very genetic code is being mutated to Gallifreyan. You are dying, of course, there is no possible way you can survive that.'

"This isn't real." It was like an echo, hearing the Doctor's physical voice and his mental one at the same time.

'Don't forget me, Sarah-Jane'

'No one's ever going to forget you, Doctor'

"Sarah Jane would feel more. She loved Peter. Asking him to die was one of the hardest things she ever had to do." The Doctor lashed out at her, not understanding or realising how much had changed.

"I don't understand it either, Doctor." She shot back. "It doesn't feel like my own life. I don't feel the love that I think I did for Peter. I feel guilt that the Trickster pulled him into that farce because of me, and anger towards the Trickster. But the sorrow, and that love, it's a faded memory, like it was part of someone else's life."

The echoes in his own memories drew her into his mind like a magnet. Instead of using words to prove who she was, like a missile, she targeted the memories they shared.

'Say it, please. This time. Say it.'

'Yes, some things are worth getting your heart broken for.'

'No. I can't do this anymore.'

"Catch me if you can, Doctor." She focused her now stronger intellect and darted into the labyrinth of his memories. Akin to running down the corridors in which they'd run for their lives, only this time the Doctor chased her as she pulled open the memories to rush into their consciousness. The consciousness they now shared. She pushed through as the pain continued, as she felt herself weaken – having much less life to fight against him with.

'No. The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship. Everything has its time. And everything ends.'

'I thought you died. I waited for you and you didn't come back and I thought you must have died!'

'I can't believe it's you.' A scream. 'Okay, now I can.'

"If you're truly Sarah Jane, to win is to lose." While the memories were impressive, the Doctor still didn't believe anything he saw.

"Quoting Rassilon, Doctor." Sarah grimaced in pain. "I'm well aware that I have far fewer years for you to go through than you have for me. Did it occur to you I might not be playing to win?" She took a deep breath as she felt him press into the years without him. The years where loneliness had been her primary companion.

'Harry and I came here every year for dinner to catch up and talk about old times. I still come here every year hoping he'll turn up all bluff and bluster wearing his favorite blazer.'

'Mint tea for me, oh and Nat will have hot chocolate, two of them if you want to get on her good side.'

'Now I know you're imagining things.'

'Oh Brendan, stop honking!'

No way to stop the flow of memories now. The point of no return long since passed as though they both were tumbling down that hill in the Death Zone. Unable to stop the memories as they came unbidden to both their minds. Intertwining. Sharing. Merging.

'Don't forget me.'

'Oh, Sarah. Don't you forget me.'

'Bye, Doctor. You know, travel does broaden the mind.'

'Yes. Till we meet again, Sarah'

'We're talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them. You must complete your mission for the Time Lords.'

'He talks to himself sometimes because he's the only one who understands what he's talking about.'

The Doctor realised that it wasn't possible that the Rani could have done this, been this complete. Not with how their minds were linked now. He hadn't wanted to believe and yet, there was no denying it. "Sarah," he whispered, "my Sarah Jane." His gaze met hers through the apparatus.

Tears ran down her face, his recognition no relief for the pain. "Hello Doctor."

"We have to stop." The Doctor gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, trying to pull his mind from hers. A cry of pain came from his lips as extricating his mind hurt as much as twisting a knife.

A sharp cry from Sarah made it obvious they were still linked, in spite of his best efforts. "Knew this was a bad idea." The look on her face told him her thoughts.

"No. No. NO." The Doctor gritted his teeth. "You are not going to die, Sarah Jane Smith."

"No. I shouldn't. Maybe I'll regenerate." Sarah winced, even as the gallows humour escaped her lips. "If I get stuck, think you can give me a push?"

"You won't need that, not on my watch." The Doctor knew he would never forgive himself if he let her die.

Another set of memories drug them under again.

'Please, don't die.'

'A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. While there's life there's'


'Now just a minute. There's nothing "only" about being a girl, Your Majesty.'

'If you think I'm going to spend my time making cups of coffee for you...'

Terror shot through the Doctor as he realised no matter how he tried he couldn't prevent the rapid descent towards the beginning of Sarah's life. The end of the road for her and possibly both of them in this contest just because of his stubborn refusal to believe in her. He had driven them to this. He could only look into her eyes filled with grim understanding and acceptance as no amount of mental acrobatics seemed to be able to pull them back from the brink that rapidly approached.

'Andrea, grab my hand. Grab my hand. Grab my hand, Andrea.'

'Remember me.'


Lightning flashed. A clown marionette appeared to turn towards the bed. Its painted face more menacing to the young Sarah Jane as any other creature she'd met since.

Sarah's screams chilled the Doctor to his core even reliving them through her memories. He pulled their linked consciousness further into himself in a vane effort to protect her from the terror that she no longer felt.

'Sarah Jane's going to have a better life.'

'She's the best little girl in the world. We'll always be there for you darling.'

"Remind me to have a word with you about crossing over your own time stream." The Doctor refused to acknowledge any other outcome, even as he knew exactly what this oddly double perspective memory of Sarah's parents meant - one where she understood their words and the other where she only knew the contentment and safety that the two faces above her represented.

"I look forward…" Sarah's weakened voice and her white-knuckle grip on the mind bending apparatus left no doubt that she continued only through sheer will power alone. He felt rather than saw her crumple to the floor as he was drawn back into another memory. One he'd already seen before.

'Say it, please. This time. Say it.'

'Goodbye. My Sarah Jane.'

Chapter Text

When last we saw our heroes, Sarah Jane had managed to pilot her TARDIS to Bannerman Road, much to the shock of all the former companions and her children who were assembled discussing what action to take next. While the Doctor refused to believe Sarah Jane had perished, when all of their friends accepted that this new Time Lord was in fact Sarah transformed, the Doctor clung to his belief that she was in fact the Rani. In a desperate attempt to prove her true identity to him, Sarah challenges the Doctor to a mind bending contest and only too late does he accept this is his Sarah Jane.

With disastrous results...

"Goodbye, My Sarah Jane..."

Pulling himself from the floor where he'd crumpled, the Doctor moved to the unconscious Sarah Jane's side. A vague memory floated up. One of Sarah's. 'I think he's dying.' He heard her voice, worried about him right after his mind bending battle with Morbius.

"Not on my watch you don't," he muttered determinedly and repeatedly as his hands moved over her, checking her heart beats. "Come on Sarah. How many times did I scare you? That's what you're doing now, isn't it? Getting back at me by scaring me witless." His running commentary did nothing to soothe his nerves as she remained unresponsive – neither regenerating nor awakening. "Let's get you somewhere more comfortable, yeah?"

Picking up her tiny, seemingly frail form in his arms, he crept down the stairs towards her bedroom, praying to long forgotten Gallifreyan gods that something would wake her before he had to explain to Luke how he'd been so stubborn that he nearly killed the lad's mother. The only other Timelord in the universe. His Sarah Jane. Reverently, he laid her on the bed, her still body, pale skin and dark silken hair bringing to mind a fairy tale princess.

"A kiss from a prince, is it? Can't believe that's what you'd need to wake you. 'sides the fact that I'm hardly a prince. More a toad if you come to it." He kept up his one sided dialogue. "This isn't exactly how I pictured our first kiss, you know. Not that I did picture it much. Alright so that might be a lie." He rubbed the back of his neck, continuing to watch for any response from her. "You being unconscious and me panicking was definitely not how it was supposed to go. Alright, so my panicking might be a bit more realistic than, you know, what I imagined. You were definitely not supposed to be unconscious, though." It was a comparison he violently pushed aside when the realisation of how most fairy tales ended occurred to him.

"Sarah Jane Smith isn't a princess waiting to be rescued, is she now?" His hand ran through her hair and his thumb rested along her cheekbone. "You survived, on your own. And look at you, piloting a TARDIS home. You're alive. Anything else can be fixed. Where there's life, right, Sarah Jane?" The lack of response from Sarah ate at him, leaving him wondering if perhaps her earlier suggestion of giving her a 'push' might be the least of what he'd have to do.

A faint flutter like a butterfly's wing in his consciousness as another memory bubbled to the surface. 'All the cells of his body have been devastated by the Metebelis crystals, but you forget, he is a Time Lord. I will give the process a little push and the cells will regenerate. He will become a new man.' It took a moment before he realized that it was from the wrong point of view. He'd never witnessed this. Another of Sarah's memories.

Another flutter and his eyes widened. "Oh you amazing, clever girl." A broad grin crossed his face as he tapped his own temple. "You're in here aren't you?" He moved to the cheval glass perched in the corner, almost expecting to see Sarah Jane looking back at him even though he knew it was impossible. "All tangled up. Now, how do we get you back where you belong? Do I push you to regenerate?" A sharp pain hit behind his eyes. "Owww! Alright Sarah, message received. No need for that."

He could feel her rummaging about in his memories now. "Oy, rude." He mock complained. "Going to have to teach you manners about being telepathic along with reminding you about not crossing your own time line." He smiled slightly as he could sense her ignoring him while she looked for a memory to convey what she needed to. The next flutter wasn't a caress as his own memories rose unbidden. First, him kissing Grace back in his eighth body before the war, then Jack kissing his previous self, followed by him kissing Martha, then finally his previous self kissing Rose to take the Bad Wolf into himself. "Seriously, isn't that a bit cliché?"

Another mental stomp and a decidedly stomach churning sensation of disappointment communicated how Sarah felt about that. Something it took him a moment to decipher. "That's not what I meant at all. It's got nothing to do with whether I want to snog you or not. That's exactly the point – this isn't about want, it's about necessity."

A definite impression of disbelief floated up, followed by the same less than gentle fluttering as she seemed to be searching for something again. He couldn't stop wincing as she clumsily paged through his memories. He stepped away from the mirror and looked at her form still unmoving in the bed. He sat on the edge of the bed and held her upper arms. "Sarah. Sarah! SARAH STOP! What are you looking for?"

A flush of heat passed through him, along with several memories from Sarah's point of view of times when... The heat translated to a full blush. In a sudden flash of insight he knew what she wanted. "I really was very fond of you."

Again his stomach churned as the memories of the kisses with the others rose up again. "It wasn't you, Sarah. There was nothing wrong with you, it was me." He stood up and jammed his hands in his trouser pockets as he began to pace.

A shiver went through him as her presence went icy. "I'm not lying." It got colder still. "I'm not." He sighed. "Every regeneration is different." Flashes of the three different regenerations that had definitely been kissing his companions popped up. "I was much younger then." The cold front in his mind didn't move. "I'd become very fond of Jo." It somehow didn't surprise him that he could hear echoes of his third self in his voice. A continuous dull aching hurt from Sarah rose. "Alright, yes, I was more than fond. Then she left. Completely unaware of how I felt. I was just a bachelor uncle to her, Sarah. Then this other bright spark waltzes into my life. Just as young, just as beautiful. Even more attractive, because you were just as loyal, but oh so clever. I was a coward, Sarah Jane. It seemed impossible. Why would you have ever wanted me?"

Relief flooded him as he felt her soften, the cold receding some. "When I regenerated, I tried to prove myself right. Except I couldn't. Even Harry being with us didn't distract you from me. The longer you stayed, the more important you became to me. My best friend. I wanted you to be more than that, but how? I wasn't a human and you weren't Gallifreyan. I wasn't even certain how to start and if I did, I might have chased you away. I couldn't risk that. So instead, I kept you as close as I could without taking the risk."

The Doctor knew what her next question was before she even found a way to formulate it. "When the Time Lords called, it reminded me. They could be cruel, Sarah Jane. I remembered how I was exiled and what they did to Zoe and Jamie. I couldn't risk that with you and once you were gone all my fears grew. I couldn't come back. The best I could do was bring you K-9 and leave him for you."

There was a sense of expectation from her now. "I still don't like that we're doing this because we have to, Sarah." He crossed back to the bed and perched on the side of it. Contrary to what she thought, it was hardly a hardship to kiss Sarah Jane. Only the circumstances bothered him. Lowering himself down, he claimed her lips, a buzzing that grew in volume filling his ears, and an electrical charge filling the air, making the air he breathed into her mouth feel thick. The fluttering butterfly wing sensation seemed to carry the charge, as though it escaped him all at once.

The shock of her absence in his mind; had he truly become used to it so quickly; was followed by the welcome sensation of her lips moving against his and then he felt her reluctantly withdraw and gently push him away. "Sarah?" He asked apprehensively.

"We need to talk. Actually talk." Sarah pulled back out of temptation's way.

"Might have been reluctant at first," the Doctor pouted, "doesn't mean I want to stop."

"Only minutes ago I nearly died proving to you I wasn't the Rani." Sarah reminded him, "I really think we need to talk before we go further."

"I'm sorry. So sorry for that, Sarah." He looked up, meeting her eyes guiltily. "And we'll fix this. I promise you."

"Fix it?" Sarah frowned as the Rani's warning about the Doctor's self hatred surfaced. "How can you want to kiss me, but want to put back all the barriers that keep us apart? Even if you're freer with your kisses now, you still keep everyone away. All because there are no Gallifreyans left. Because humans grow old and die. Yet I'm a Gallifreyan now and you want to change me back." She stood and crossed to the mirror, gazing at herself and wondering what he saw. "Did it occur to you that I don't want to fix it? That perhaps I'd rather just carry on. Being Gallifreyan isn't something I would have chosen for myself, but now that I am. I don't want to spend my life looking for a way to go back."

The Doctor followed her with his eyes. "Sarah, you don't know what that will mean. Luke, Clyde, Rani. All your friends. All your family. They'll grow old. They'll wither and die. Are you willing to watch that?"

"Humans face death every day, Doctor. How many times have I seen it in my life? My parents, Andrea Yates, Harry, so many people and aliens along our travels? Even if I wasn't Gallifreyan, I'm already familiar with death. Anything could happen to anyone, anytime and I would have to watch. But at least neither of us would have to be alone anymore." She crossed back to him, holding his gaze.

"I'm not worth it, Sarah. You deserve more. So much more." As Wilf's words echoed in his mind the forlorn expression that crossed the Doctor's face was enough to break anyone's heart.

"You don't get to make those decisions for me, Doctor. I'll be the judge of what I deserve." Sarah's voice was low and insistent, willing him to understand and take off the blinders that stopped him from seeing anything but his own viewpoint.

"You don't understand. You can't." With his words, Sarah's hearts sank. As much as he disliked his own race, he hated himself. She hadn't wanted to believe the Rani but it seemed as though her insight into the Doctor wasn't as inaccurate as Sarah had believed. The seeds were there even in the beginning. A sudden sense of hopelessness rose up in her but before he could see her despair, she reached out, pulling him flush against her, her mouth meeting his, hot and demanding.

For a moment, the Doctor was frozen, shocked by her actions then he pulled back and held her gaze. "Slowly," he rumbled, "No need to rush." He brought his hands up and caressed her temples, knowing it was time to give away his younger self's secret. He felt the shiver pass through her as his fingertips grazed her skin, her pupils dilating. "I like how humans kiss, but this is how Gallifreyans kiss."

"You…" Sarah's voice was breathless. "You did kiss me."

"Told you I was a coward." A crooked grin graced his face, his eyes fluttered shut as she brought her fingers up, mimicking his gentle caress. The flush of arousal he expected, but it was the sizzle of a connection, like an electrical charge passing between them that took him by surprise. "Sarah."

A soft moan escaped her as she felt it as well, "What?" She looked questioningly into his eyes as they opened.

Their eyes held each other, as their fingers brushed each other's temples once more. This time their gasps were simultaneous. The Doctor's mind was whirling. It shouldn't have been possible, not without the ceremony to facilitate it. "I don't know. It's probably just a side effect of what happened with the mind bending."

"Not permanent then?" A shot of longing passed through her. As much as what she'd found out made her despair for him, she couldn't put aside the longing to be with him. For them to be a part of one another.

He turned his hand to brush his knuckles against the same points, causing them to both shudder. "At this point, I'll worry about that later."

Sarah could feel his desire through the connection even though his body didn't show any outward signs. She looked up at him questioningly. "Something the Rani didn't think to share, eh?" He smiled reassuringly. "Gallifreyans don't reproduce this way, so this…" He ran his fingers down her neck. "… Is more about connection for those who indulge."

Sarah chewed her lip; nervously, even as she leaned into his caress.

"Everything works the same way, Sarah, its just there's no rush, no urgency." He licked his lips then brushed them against her ear as he whispered. "Time Lords have all the time in the universe, so when we indulge, we're very, very thorough. Does that agree with you?"

A shiver ran up her spine as his breath caressed her ear. "I think I could be convinced." She pushed aside her doubts and worries for the moment to concentrate completely on him and the fulfillment of something she'd been waiting a lifetime for, regardless of what would come tomorrow. Focusing on him, she pulled him closer to the bed, her hands slipping beneath the layers of clothing, her slender fingers stroking over cool skin questing for other places that seemed to send electrical current through their connection.

His hands weren't idle as they explored beneath her clothing as well. The synchronicity of their movements ended when the Doctor began to divest her of her blouse. "Can't wait any longer to see you, my Sarah Jane."

A blush coated her skin and she was once again thankful for how she'd regenerated. "At least I don't look old anymore."

"You never looked old to me." He pushed away her blouse reverently, his fingers drawing patterns over the skin he exposed.

"Liar," Sarah quipped as she turned her attention to pulling away his tie and unbuttoning his shirt. A soft smile crossed her face at his shocked gasp as she traced endearments on his skin in old High Gallifreyan.

"Sarah?" His eyes were alight. "How long did it take for you learn High Gallifreyan?"

"Not as long as you'd think. Only a couple of years in the Vortex. The Rani used virtual learning techniques for a lot of things," Sarah admitted.

The Doctor nodded, well aware of the time distortion effect of the Vortex which when added to the general lack of need to sleep in their species which meant that she'd likely spent far longer in the Vortex than she actually thought. Even with a Time Lord's perfect time sense, the Vortex was difficult for inexperienced, younger Gallifreyans.

Inexperienced, younger Gallifreyans. Sarah's transformation was becoming more real to him the more he learned about her time away.

A brush of her fingers against a psi-point pulled him out of those thoughts and into the here and now. A growl escaped him and he settled hard on the bed, pulling her with him to straddle his lap. "What you do to me." He leaned close breathing in her scent, memorizing its subtleties. Fresh like an ocean breeze and he could almost pick up a hint of the red grass that filled the valley below Mount Perdition.

Sarah gasped, her skin pebbling as he grazed his lips along the crook of her neck and over her collarbone, just barely touching her skin. She threaded her fingers through his hair, her eyes drifting shut. The slow pace was maddening and yet, she didn't feel any need to rush him. His thoroughness in exploring her body, each second he spent, more erotic than anything she'd ever experienced before.

Instinctively, she understood this mating dance, almost knowing where his tongue or lips will land next, as though he's picking up from her where brings her the most pleasure. She couldn't help but wonder if she'd be able to do the same to him. She'd always known him well, but this was something more.

"Sarah," The Doctor laughed as Sarah pushed him over and took over the exploration. "I'm actually impressed. Never thought your patience would hold that long."

"Hush you," She growled playfully, before punctuating her statement by drawing her tongue against the flat plain of his stomach. It drew a gasp from him, followed by silence. Just as she knew it would.

Her exploration of him; his neck, fingers, his belly button-less stomach, his lean muscular legs; taught her as much about her new nature as it did about him. She learned every subtlety of textures on his skin, the differences in temperature, even how sensitive it would be, just from a simple brush of her fingers. His scent was a mix of heather, mint and electricity now, but as she concentrated she could still find faint whiffs of his former selves. Some unfamiliar, like leather, or the musty smell of old books. Some welcome and familiar, like the scent of a warm wool scarf and a good glass of wine.

She relished the sense of just knowing what pleased him most. From nuzzling at his shoulder, to drawing his fingers one by one into her mouth and teasing them with her tongue, to nipping at the top on one angular hip and peppering it with kisses. Sure in the knowledge that before she did it, that he'd reach for her hand and pull her up to be face to face with him once more.

"You're much better at this than I expected." The Doctor grinned playfully at her as he brushed a lock of hair from her face and drew his fingers against her temple once more.

"I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or an insult." She groused at him. "I bet I've a fair bit more…" He put his finger on her lips to silence her.

"Still older than you, missy." He ran his fingers down her neck, grinning as her eyes fluttered shut and the annoyed expression disappeared, replaced by a look of pleasure. Just as he knew it would.

When her eyes flew open, fixing on his once more, his grin grew. "Connection. You said this is about connection for Time Lords. It's more than just feeling what the other feels."

"The Rani must have missed the finer points of the Gallifreyan birds and bees talk, eh?"

He can't help but quip, even though it's obvious she wasn't paying attention, too caught up in her internal realization.

"So when it feels like I know what you want… What you need?" Sarah's eyes widened.

"It's because you really can." He gently caught her round the waist and turned them, so that she would be beneath him once more, but this time catching her lips to silence her questions. "Sometimes my Sarah Jane, experiencing is so much better than explaining."

Their fingers knit together as he pinned her hands above her head, their eyes locked together, as his body settled into the cradle of her legs. She lifted her hips and he slid forward, his length sheathing itself inside of her. As their bodies moved, it was a perfectly choreographed dance, graceful and beautiful. Knowing without thought how precisely to move to give the other pleasure.

Pleasure that amplified between the two of them, building and reflecting back and forth, increasing as they experienced what the other felt. The sensations heightened as he thrust into her and her body pulsed around him. Before, she'd felt trapped within his mind, now it was as though they were filling each other, bits of themselves filling every empty space within the other.

It seemed to Sarah that it was everything she ever hoped for with the Doctor, as they sank further and further into one another. Moving closer and closer to their release with each thrust, each time their bodies met, their minds and bodies ebbing and flowing together as they moved.

Even with a Time Lord's innate sense of time, it seemed as though time froze in the seconds where their pleasure peaked, their bodies unable to contain the sensations any longer. As though eternity passed in those seconds, a feeling of completion filling both of them in a way neither felt before.

It couldn't last, even as much as both wished it would.

Their minds began to slip away from one another as their bodies came down from their release, even though neither of them released the other from their embrace. Sarah rested her head against his chest, unwilling to break the spell they'd woven together by letting the reality that she'd been trying to escape back in.

She should have known it would have been his guilt that broke it, something that when she first met him would never have been an issue. As the final threads that were their connection slipped from her mind, echoes of his current thoughts made their way through. 'I should never have taken advantage of you like this, my Sarah Jane. I'm so, so sorry. I promise I won't be so selfish as to make you live like this. I will find a solution.'

Even as his hand stroked her hair, making her never want to leave his side, she closed her eyes as she resigned herself to what she must do.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: All this belongs to the BBC in some form or another. I'm just borrowing their sandbox for a bit, I promise to put everyone back where they left them.

This one is going to be darker than Taking in Strays. Consider yourself warned.

Thank you to Spydurwebb for the beta. Much needed and much appreciated.

"Rise and …" The Doctor started to quip as he snapped awake. "Now where did you go?" A frown crossed his face as he looked about. He wasn't used to either sharing a bed or having the person he shared it with wake before he did. "More proof you really are a Time Lord. Oh, there's going to be no dealing with Jo now." His voice gave way to a groan as the realization hit him and he swung his feet out from Sarah's bed. "Maybe you've had better luck convincing her now than we did before. Although now we actually are…" He shook his head and focused on getting back into his suit.

"Right then, time to face the masses." He finished tying his Converse and stood once more, preparing himself for the question he was certain he was sure to face.

Trotting down the stairs, soft words drifted through the walls. "So we're supposed to keep an eye on things here?" Mickey sounded duly proud of himself. "Us?"

Martha chuckled. "Us and the Brigadier, but she doesn't want Sir Alistair fussing, so she wants us to report to him."

So Sarah planned on coming with him. A smile crossed his face. He certainly wouldn't mind that. He came down the last flight of stairs and focused on his former companions. "Couldn't have chosen better myself."

"Doctor," Martha smiled at him, but something was off about it.

Slipping an arm over each of their shoulders, the Doctor grinned reassuringly. "I'll take good care of her, no one here needs to worry. I know her going so quick after coming back is a shock."

Mickey spared a quick glance at Martha. "Doc, maybe you should find Sarah Jane."

"Too right, Mickey." He glanced around. "Where is she?"

"I think she went to spend some time with Luke and the other kids." Martha responded. "Out front by Luke's car."

"Right then," the Doctor strode away, only to stop by the front door for a moment, feeling someone's gaze on him. Looking back, he could see that Wilf joined Mickey and Martha watching him with a slight frown. Turning back towards the door and slipping through it, the Doctor couldn't shake a sense of unease.

"So why can't we all have our mobiles modified to reach anywhere?" Clyde complained while Luke focused on the device in his hand.

"Mum needs to be able to keep up with me." Luke said happily. "Without having to depend on K-9 or Mr. Smith. Besides you're right here, so you'll still be able to go on adventures with Martha and Mickey. They'll keep in touch with mum. I'll be back in Oxford."

"It won't be the same," Clyde groaned. "Besides she promised you that she'd take you travelling once you were done university."

"Clyde," Rani sighed. "It's not Sarah Jane's fault we're grounded. She said she'd appeal the Judoon's judgement with the Shadow Proclamation."

"Oh, I wouldn't like to be on the other end of that tirade. Be interesting to watch though." The Doctor pulled a face as he strode up and then rocked on his heels. Even as he made the quip though, something didn't sit right about what the children had said. That Luke would travel with Sarah Jane. Didn't they mean with 'them'? "So where's your mum, Martha thought she was here?"

Luke's brow furrowed slightly. "I think she's in the attic with your TARDIS."

A bit of the unease began to pass, until a black SUV pulled up along side the house and Jack slid out, but leaned in to speak to the driver. "So Gwen, you and Rhys hold the fort. Get in touch with the Brigadier or Martha and Mickey if you need help. They'll get in touch with Sarah Jane and I if we're needed."

The air seemed to crackle as the Doctor's expression darkened, the reason for his unease becoming blatantly apparent. He turned on his heel, his coat billowing out behind him. As though Jack could feel the change in the atmosphere he turned and blew out a breath. "I'm going to have to apologize to Sarah Jane, aren't I?"

"Going off without me. Probably wasn't even going to say anything. Just disappear." The Doctor didn't seem to realize just how hypocritical it was for him to be upset about that as he passed Martha, Mickey and Wilf who could only shake their heads in disbelief.

He took the stairs two at a time as he rushed to confront Sarah Jane, coming into the attic and striding into his TARDIS, when the sound of Sarah's voice brought him and his self-righteous anger to a halt. "Just because I can't stay, doesn't mean I don't want to."

For a moment, the Doctor was certain she was talking to him. He listened as she continued. "No, I really can't, my dear old friend. As much as I love you." The Doctor was about to speak, but Sarah broke the silence and he realized she was talking to his TARDIS. "Yes, you're right, I love him too, old girl. Almost as much as you do."

"Then why can't you stay with us?" The Doctor couldn't hold back the words even as he hated the almost pleading tone of his voice. Somehow it didn't surprise him as she slid out from beneath his console. "And what are you doing under there?"

"Maintenance. Helping out. Remember, I'm a fully qualified bio-mechanic and TARDIS engineer now." She said flatly as she stood up and stroked the TARDIS's console. "Just because I can't stay with you, doesn't mean I don't want to help her."

"That's the second time you've said that. After last night, am I really so easy to leave?" He kept his voice cool not wanting to give away how much it hurt.

"No, you're not. That's the entire problem." Sarah moved to gather up a pile of clothing on the floor he hadn't noticed. Obviously, she'd raided his wardrobe as well as the clothing she'd once worn, from the look of the fedora she settled on her head and the scarf and velvet cape wrapped in her arms. "But that doesn't change the facts, no more than last night changed how you feel."

"Of course it didn't. Why would getting my hearts' desire change how I feel?" The Doctor crossed his arms over his chest, in denial about what would upset Sarah this much.

"Don't be coy, Doctor. I know very well that you have no intention of allowing me to remain a Time Lord. You want your hearts' desire so much that you're willing to throw it away. Do you really hate yourself so much?" Sarah caught and held his gaze. "The only reason you want me with you is so you can find a way to make me human again. Though why you haven't just tried to force me into the Chameleon Arch…"

"I wouldn't… Not like that." The Doctor denied with a shake of his head, he should have known she'd have 'heard' his guilt last night. "You wouldn't be … you if you went through the arch. You'd be a Sarah Jane shaped stranger. I can't lose you like that or do that to Luke."

"It's nice to know some things are too much for you." Sarah groused as she strode out of the TARDIS and into the attic, arms full. "It's really too bad you won't respect my choices."

The Doctor followed after her, deciding not to bring up her thieving from his closet. "Sarah! SARAH… You don't know what you're asking for."

"That's what you said last night." She moved down the stairs ahead of him, not letting him catch up or stop her. "You're going to have to come up with something more convincing, Doctor."

He watched as Jack met her at the bottom of the stairs, taking the bundle of clothing save for the hat and scarf with an apologetic look and headed out to the garden where Sarah's TARDIS still stood. "So, you're taking Jack." He couldn't help the jealousy that rolled off of him.

"Now you're jealous." Sarah rolled her eyes. "That's rich, Doctor. You can't wait to put barriers between us, but you're upset because I want to take an experienced companion with me to help keep me from messing up."

"You could come with me, Sarah. I could teach you." He offered.

"What would be the point in that, when you just want to make me human again?" Sarah fumed, glad that she'd seen Wilf and the others go out to keep Luke and the children away from this train wreck. "You're my oldest, dearest friend and I love you. There's so much about you that I admire and respect, but Ushas said there's no way back for me and I don't want to end up hating myself the way you do."

"You can't trust, Ushas, Sarah. She's manipulative. Pure evil." The Doctor couldn't believe Sarah believed the Rani over him.

"Manipulative, yes. Pure evil? No one is pure anything, Doctor. Except a Dalek. She understood you so much better than you realize. She warned me." Sarah started.

"And there you have it. That was her game. Take away someone I care about." He looked at her pleadingly.

"I don't want to go back, Doctor. I want to go forward." They kept walking as their exchange continued, finding them outside the door of her time capsule. "Besides, Ushas isn't taking anything away from you. You're the one putting those barriers up. This wouldn't be happening if you could just accept this. Accept me." Sarah shrugged, "Maybe that was part of her game, but you don't have to let it happen." She moved forward, taking his hands in hers and that electric charge between them rushed back, forcing her to admit the other part. "That's not totally true. I don't know if I could go with you now, even if you didn't feel as you do about me being a Time Lord."

That hit like a knife to his hearts, stopping the song they began to sing when she'd touched him and their connection roared back to life. "Why?"

"Because," Sarah struggled for words for the first time in her life. Words were her forte, her weapon of choice and they nearly failed her here. She started again. "Because I need to know I can do this. If I went with you now, I never would know. I'd always wonder. Am I a real Time Lord? Can I really understand and use the things I have locked up in my head now? Am I still Sarah Jane Smith or am I something less? Something more?" Her hands shook as she cupped his cheek, intensifying the feeling of connection. "Please understand, in the state I'm in now, I'm not strong enough. I'm not strong enough to learn how to do this from you but not learn to hate what I am now. I need to do this on my own."

There was silence as they watched each other. Then slowly, reluctantly, the Doctor nodded. "You're going to be brilliant." He watched her, memorizing her face. Wanting to etch this in his mind, so he'd never forget.

"None of that, Doctor." She understood instantly what he did and why, that bond still vibrating between them. "That's the best part about this. No more withering. No more dying. I will always know in my hearts whether you've regenerated or not. This isn't a goodbye." Sarah looked up at him with such hope in her eyes that he couldn't keep a slight spark of the same from igniting within him. "Once I've done what I need to, and you've accepted what I am now, we'll find each other again."

His hand moved to her cheek, mirroring hers. "My Sarah Jane."

"Always." This time they both felt the rush of connection, the permanent bond between them. It was too much of a temptation to lose herself in it, so she let her hand drop from his face stepping back towards her TARDIS and disappearing into its depths. He watched for a moment, still trying to work out how to make her stay, then turned away, walking slowly back towards his house while trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his hearts. Only the wheezing grinding noise of dematerialization drew his attention back to the flower patch where her TARDIS disappeared from sight.