[Doctor Who] Lost For Words
Sunday 12th August 2012
Summary: Sarah Jane Smith discovers the importance of words.
Notes: For kayjayuu
Note: There's a remix of this by Dancingsalome: Men of Few Words
Now that London was free of dinosaurs, Sarah was getting to spend some time at UNIT HQ. She'd been here long enough now to understand how it all worked and hear stories about previous alien invasions UNIT had dealt with and she'd never even noticed had happened. In passing she'd also learnt about her predecessors, who were universally liked, but both very different from her - not least because they had officially been the Doctor's assistant and she was a journalist first. If only she could convince the Brigadier to let her publish something, but he'd made her sign the official secrets act at the earliest opportunity and she was hard pressed even to tell her editor where she'd been spending her time.
Benton had warned her the quiet wouldn't last long, so she'd brought her typewriter into the Doctor's lab to write a report of recent events. Maybe she'd be able to sell it in thirty years time, but in the meantime she wanted a reminder of what really happened. She didn't want to think back on this time and wonder if she'd imagined it all.
She first noticed something strange when she read back over the page she'd typed. She didn't usually make many mistakes, but there were blank spaces where words should be. It was one thing to accidentally miss out a word, another to type spaces in its place. There was no way she'd hit the space bar that many times - she'd have remembered - and she hadn't seen those spaces on the page as she wrote.
"Doctor." She looked around but he wasn't here. Earlier he'd stolen the cup of tea she'd made for herself and then added five spoons of sugar so she hadn't wanted it back. After that she'd been concentrating on what she was writing and hadn't noticed where he'd gone. The door to the TARDIS was open, so she wandered in and found him under lying with his head under the console, tinkering with something. "Doctor, there's something strange happening with my typewriter."
She sighed. She could be more forceful, but he should listen to her, no matter how much he might be concentrating on whatever he was doing. "What are you doing?" she asked.
It was still a few moments before he really noticed she was there. "What was that, Sarah?" He came out from under the console, but stayed on the floor and looked up at her.
"What are you doing?" she repeated, craning her head round to see for herself, but it wasn't as if the TARDIS was a car and she didn't understand it that well.
"Just a ten thousand year service." He sat up and wiped his hands on a rag. "Was that all you wanted to know?" He sounded like he didn't think it was.
As much as she was curious about the TARDIS there were more important things to worry about. Like how her typewriter typed things she didn't. "No, there's this." She passed him the piece of paper as he stood up. "I didn't type all those spaces."
He glanced over it. "What did you type, then?"
She turned to read what she'd written over his shoulder, although she found she also had to stand on tip-toe - the Doctor didn't make any allowances for her height. "London invaded by..." she read. After that there was a space on the page.
"What word should be there?" He pointed at the space.
It was clear, it should be obvious. She knew what the next word was. Except she didn't. "I don't know." She had a moment of panic. She was a journalist, she couldn't spend all her time looking things up in a dictionary. "I've forgotten the word!"
The Doctor put a hand on her shoulder and smiled comfortingly at her. "Never mind, Sarah. I think the word you're missing is..." He frowned. "Do you know, I've forgotten it too."
"That can't be normal." For them both to have forgotten the same word was too much of a coincidence and Sarah didn't believe in coincidences. She'd never have anything to report if she did.
"It's certainly not," he agreed. "And... what's that?" Outside they heard running feet and shouting, along with the odd gunshot. The Doctor rushed out of the TARDIS to investigate, Sarah right behind him. They reached the door to the lab just in time to see some soldiers run past. The Doctor caught at Benton's arm as he brought up the rear. "What is going on?"
"Some sort of a...a..." He looked around him, as if the word would be there.
The Doctor wasn't prepared to wait, though. "Well, out with it, man."
Benton gave up on whatever he had been going to say. "A not human."
"So, it's taking words, is it?" The Doctor looked thoughtful. "I always thought Logovores were apocryphal."
Sarah frowned. "An eater of logs?"
"No, words," the Doctor said, testily. "The quicker you catch it the better."
Glad to be released, Benton hurried after the rest of the soldiers.
"You're saying they eat words?" Sarah had seen all sorts of strange things since meeting the Doctor but this was something else. No one could possibly eat words.
"Yes, and take them out of the language in a localised area. It's just as well the internet hasn't been invented yet, they'd be able to take words from the whole world in one go." He frowned. "Although that could explain a lot."
Not knowing what he was talking about, which was nothing new, she ignored it. "Do you think they'll catch it?" Presumably they'd found the culprit and that was what they were now chasing.
"Probably not." The Doctor went back into the lab and started sorting through piles of things on the bench.
He didn't seem at all concerned, but Sarah was. They couldn't go around taking away words. How was she supposed to work like that? She sighed, but the Doctor didn't take the hint. She wondered if he even noticed subtle hints. He might not be human, but he was a typical man in some respects. Maybe all non-humans were like men. That was a worrying thought.
"What do you use to catch an apocryphal creature?" she asked, giving up on watching him work. "Can we lure it in somehow? Offer some words as bait."
The Doctor smiled without looking up. "That's a very good idea, Jo." Sarah frowned and his face fell as he realised his mistake. "Er..." He opened and closed his mouth trying to speak, but nothing came out.
"They've taken my name, haven't they?" Even she couldn't correct him on it.
"I'm afraid so." He looked apologetic about it at least.
She couldn't be surprised about it any more, but that didn't mean she was going to let them have it. She stood up straight. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "What sort of a word is that?"
"A rare one." Depending on how many times you'd seen Mary Poppins. "And there's more where that came from," she added, louder.
At her words something that looked like a coyote that had evolved to stand upright appeared from where it was hiding behind the TARDIS. It must be the thing they were looking for because it was wearing a waistcoat with a pocket watch. She had a brief moment where she wondered if Lewis Carroll had ever met one. "More?" it asked, in a small voice, patting its stomach.
"Don't say another word," the Doctor warned, although he'd said four.
It obviously like big words, but then it had taken other words too. It was hard to guess which ones it wouldn't like; she'd just have to try a few and see what happened. She knew plenty of words, there was bound to be one that worked. "Indigestion."
It clutched at its chest. "No," it said quietly, a pained expression on its face.
She smiled. She hadn't expected to hit on the right one the first time, but now she knew what sort of thing worked, she had plenty more. "Pneumonia."
It coughed, not sounding at all healthy.
"Give me back my name," she said, taking a step closer and looming over it. It was probably only four feet tall.
It shook its head.
It clutched its head and swayed about unsteadily. She could probably have made it fall over by poking it, but there wasn't much point in that.
"Give me back the words you've taken," she said sternly. "Or I'll give you more."
It sat down suddenly, looking unhappy. "Sarah."
Sarah smiled, relieved to have a name again.
"Alien. Dinosaurs," it began, and then recited a long list of words Sarah hadn't even realised she'd been missing.
"Now leave," the Doctor said from behind her.
The alien looked up at them beseechingly before vanishing with a pop.
"I don't think he'll be troubling us again," the Doctor predicted. "How did you know the words would inflict the disease on it?"
Sarah turned round to face him and shrugged. "Not everything we can eat is good for us. I thought perhaps there were some words that didn't agree with it."
The Doctor smiled. "Well done, Sarah Jane."
"Glad to have me as your assistant, are you?" she asked breezily.
"Ah, yes, about that." The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck uneasily.
She decided not to let him suffer any more. "I understand."
He frowned. "You do?"
"You didn't know my name and it was the first one that came into your head."
He looked relieved. "I'm afraid so. Well," he added, standing up straighter, "now that's all cleared up, where would you like to go?" He indicated that she should precede him into the TARDIS.
She smiled and followed, trying to choose, out of all the places and times, which one she wanted to visit.
When Sarah woke up she found herself in a cell. She sat up on the small mattress and looked around. It was dark, with the only source of light a small, high window with bars across it. The dim light and the dark walls made it look even smaller than it was. Beside the big, wooden door with no handle on the inside, there was nothing else in here.
As she stood and went over to the door she struggled to remember how she'd got here. She remembered landing somewhere with the Doctor. They'd become separated when she'd heard a voice and wandered off. But what happened to her after that, she couldn't recall.
The door had a tiny slit the size of a letter box at slightly lower than Sarah's eye line. She bent to peer though it, but all she could see was a stone wall ahead of her. Whatever was on the other side of the door was no more bright than inside the cell. Grabbing the slit, she pulled on the door, but it wouldn't budge.
She wasn't just going to sit in here and wait so she shouted, hoping someone was in ear shot. At least she intended to shout, but no words came out. She tried coughing and found that still made the usual sound, so there was nothing wrong with her voice. However, she couldn't think of what she'd intended to shout in the first place. She panicked for a moment, worrying over what was happening until she thought to try screaming.
That worked. As she screamed she heard an eerie chorus of howls that made her stop and listen. Beneath that sound she could hear a pack of dogs running and their claws clicked on the stone floor. Sarah had never been scared of dogs but there was something not quite right about these, even if she didn't know exactly what it was.
She peered out of the slit and saw them come to a halt in front of her cell. The dogs were coyotes; they stood on two legs and wore clothes. Although she couldn't remember their name she knew these were aliens - she'd seen them before, not long after she met the Doctor, back before he regenerated.
When they opened the door she was ready for them and she leapt out of the cell, not caring about how many of them there were. They were ready for her, though, and grabbed her, lifted her off her feet and carried her back to the mattress she woken up on. She thrashed about, trying to break free, but there were too many and no sooner had she dislodged one, another took its place.
They threw her onto the mattress and she was still as she watched them leave. She heard them lock the door with two bolts and a key, then they ran back the way they'd come. They must have been expecting that experience to have subdued her, but they'd never locked Sarah Jane Smith up before.
However, she stayed where she was for now, needing a better plan to escape. Not being able to use words made it harder to think and remember her ideas, but she always carried a notebook with her. She pulled it out of her trouser pocket and unclipped the pen from the spiral binding. Although writing usually came as naturally as talking, she found she couldn't do that either. The best she could manage was a scribble. When she flicked back through the pages she found the words she had previously written made no sense. She could no longer talk or write or read.
If she thought that aliens taking a few words from her was bad enough, this was far worse. They'd taken all the words she knew. Just now, Sarah didn't care where she was. Words were her livelihood, despite not having stayed on Earth long enough to write many articles recently. Without words she couldn't be a journalist and she didn't know how to do anything else. She didn't want to do anything else. Worse, she wouldn't even be able to communicate, except in mimes and she'd never been very good at that game. She couldn't even remember it was called.
A tear slipped down her cheek, followed by another. It was all too easy to despair when you were in a dark cell on your own. But she was fated not to be there much longer because there were three clunks on the other side of the door. As the door opened Sarah dried her eyes and looked over to see what was coming in, but stayed where she was.
Silhouetted in the doorway was the Doctor. Sarah jumped up, beaming and ran over to hug him. It was the only way she could tell him how relieved she was to see him. Although even if she'd been able to talk she'd have done the same thing. The Doctor patted her on the back and said something, but she didn't understand.
The only way she could tell him what had happened was to point at her throat and show him the page of scribbles in her notepad. The Doctor asked her a question, but she didn't know what the right answer was and she wasn't sure he'd understood her predicament. He turned and strode out of the cell, beckoning for her to follow. She was hardly going to stay here on her own, so she kept close behind him and tried not to tread on his scarf.
When he stopped she found they were in a lighter room, where the aliens were lounging around on comfortable sofas and chatting. When the Doctor shouted at them they didn't react, but one of them spoke back. They exchanged a few words, with the Doctor looking increasingly angry and the aliens looking increasingly resigned.
All of a sudden all the aliens started retching. Sarah jumped back, eyes wide and hoping they weren't going to be sick.
The Doctor turned to her with a smile and said, "Don't worry, Sarah."
"I can understand you." She smiled, realising she could use words again. "I can speak!" She laughed. "I can use any word I like."
The Doctor beamed at her.
The aliens had stopped retching by the time she'd resisted the urge to jump up and down in her excitement. "What happened?" It had never felt this good before to talk or to listen.
"I'm afraid I brought you here by accident," he explained, his eyes wide. "I think the Logovores redirected the TARDIS somehow, wanting revenge for you poisoning them."
She frowned. "But that was ages ago."
"Not to them."
Time travel, of course. "What did you say to get them to give me my words back?"
He turned to walk back down the corridor and this time Sarah was at his side. "I gave them a very special word."
She waited for a minute before realising he wasn't going to continue. She supposed that he no longer knew that word, but there must be a synonym or a definition he could use instead. "What was it?"
"My name," he said, solemnly.
He'd mentioned once, when she asked, that he had a name, but didn't use it. He'd hinted that he'd forgotten it, but he couldn't have done. Not before today anyway. Now he'd never be able to.
"I don't use it for just anyone," he said. "Names can be taken in vain, you know."
She couldn't tell how much he was joking with his straight face, but she grinned anyway. "Thank you," she said sincerely, since she was grateful for the rescue either way. If he didn't want to discuss how much he'd given away just to free her, she thought it best not to bring it up.
"Now," he said, throwing one end of his scarf over one shoulder, "I believe we were on our way to Florana." By this time they'd reached the end of the corridor, where the TARDIS was now parked. They stopped in front of it and he unlocked the door. "Shall we?" He motioned for her to precede him.
She stepped inside, glad to see the brightness of the console room. She was still smiling as she turned back to face him. "I'll believe you can get us to Florana when I see it."
"Sarah!" He looked offended, but she knew him well enough now to know he was only pretending. "Of course I can."
He didn't, of course, even after spending an inordinate amount of time with the controls. She didn't mind, though, she never did. Life with the Doctor was an adventure, after all.
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