Beta: by hhertzof and aervir
Spoilers: For all of series 2 really.
Summary: For netgirl_y2k's prompt: Sarah decides to go with the Doctor, Rose and Mickey at the end of School Reunion.
Notes: Various bits of speech are taken from the series 2 episodes: School Reunion, Age of Steel, Army of Ghosts and Doomsday.
Part 1: Over the Rainbow
Earth. It was the only planet I knew well, until I met a man who called himself the Doctor. He took me away and showed me wonders I hadn't known existed. I thought it would never end. But one day he had to go home and he left me in Aberdeen.
I waited for him. For the next twenty-six years of my life, nothing happened.
Then he came back and my life began again. But then came Torchwood and Cybermen.
This is the story of how I died.
As Sarah walked through the corridors she found it was all just how she remembered. Well, apart from the Doctor having redecorated but then he had done that before. It was definitely the same TARDIS though, and definitely the same Doctor, even if everything was different now.
It was only when she came across a box hidden away in a cupboard that she remembered leaving some of her things here, thinking she might need them when the Doctor came back for her. Part of her was curious to know exactly what he had done after she had left and whether he had thought of her at all. She did not ask, though, because she only wanted to hear one answer.
Rose had pointed out her own room, to Sarah and Mickey as she proudly gave them a tour, not realising it once used to be Sarah's. Sarah did not say anything to her because it was not important. She could find another room; anywhere on the TARDIS would still be home. After a while she left Rose and Mickey to it and wandered off on her own, delighted to find the kitchen still had some tea, with a best before date ten years in the future.
As she sat sipping her drink she looked around the room, wondering if she had made the right choice. There was a well-known saying: 'You can never go home again'. She had no doubts that travelling with the Doctor again could not be the same as it was before; the question was would it be too different? She was quite grateful to Rose for coming in and interrupting her musings before she had second thoughts about the whole thing.
"You settled in and everything?" Rose asked, standing on tiptoes to peer in one of the cupboards.
"Yes, thank you." She held up her mug. "I found the tea at least."
Rose grinned and put a slice of bread in the toaster. It popped out a second later, perfectly toasted. Sarah raised her eyebrows - it must be something new the Doctor had picked up. Rose transferred the toast to the table and proceeded to butter it. Sarah refrained from telling her to put it on a plate. She did not want to sound like Rose's mother, and when did she get that boring anyway?
"I really want to hear about the Loch Ness Monster," Rose said, before taking a bite.
"It was actually in the Thames when I saw it."
Rose's eyes widened and she swallowed. "Really?"
Sarah grinned and decided to get something to eat for herself while she told the story.
Rose, Sarah found, could not get enough of her tales of the Doctor she had known (both of them) and the monsters she had met. Sarah, in turn, was interested in hearing about Rose's adventures. Mickey drifted in and out as they talked, occasionally telling them what he was learning about the TARDIS from the Doctor. He seemed very excited about it and Rose made encouraging noises at him, but without him being able to see the expression on her face. Sarah hoped that Rose and Mickey together in the TARDIS would not lead to too much tension but said nothing in case she made it worse.
As it turned out she need not have worried. There was nothing quite like a bit of life-endangering peril to help bond and the Clockwork men worked very well. It was while they were strapped down and threatened by robots in grinning masks Sarah realised how much she had missed this. Not that she particularly wanted to die, but the idea of going peacefully in her sleep had never really appealed. She was beginning to appreciate the idea of never having to leave the Doctor again.
Rose spent some time with Mickey after that, which Sarah suspected was partly to make the Doctor jealous and partly to avoid the Doctor because she did not know how to deal with him. Sarah was willing to brave his reactions, though, and found him half under the TARDIS console.
Bending down next to him she asked, "Is there really something that needs fixing or are you playing about with the TARDIS just for something to do?"
The Doctor's only answer was, "Ow," followed by, "Can you pass me the sonic screwdriver?"
She rolled her eyes and looked above her. It was sitting on the console, so she picked it up and held it out. When he took it, she did not let go, forcing him to stop and raise himself on one elbow to look at her. She was going to ask him if he was all right but since she was unlikely to get an honest answer she went with, "You saved her life. She would have died much sooner if you hadn't been there." There was no question that the 'she' she spoke about was Reinette.
The Doctor said nothing, not even changing expression but tugged on the sonic screwdriver and Sarah let him take it. As he disappeared back under the console she sighed and sat down. "I meant to thank you," she said, hoping that he would listen, "for everything you showed me. I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
The noises from under the console stopped and the Doctor pushed himself up to face her. "You wouldn't have said that if I had got you killed."
Sarah shook her head. "Back then, I didn't care about that." She frowned and thought for a minute. "I still don't really."
"I'm a dangerous person to be around."
"Is that what you meant, back in the school when you told me everyone died?"
He stood up and walked around the console, hands in his trouser pockets but staring down at the floor. Sarah stood too but he did not look at her. "There was a war," he said eventually. "A terrible war between my people and the Daleks."
"I'm sorry." She could understand that he did not want to talk about it, wars were not pleasant things, after all.
"I should have destroyed them when I had the chance."
"They should never have asked you to do it."
When he did not reply she went around the console in the opposite direction to his pacing and stopped him with a hand on his arm. "That's not who you are."
He looked up at her then.
"You're the most caring, compassionate man I know. Maybe the universe would have been better off without the Daleks but then maybe something worse would have taken their place. Reinette still died young," she continued, more softly when he said nothing, "but lived longer than the clockwork men wanted her to. And her life was only better for knowing you. The same as mine is, the same as Rose's."
"I nearly got you killed, more than once."
"And I don't regret any of it. Except maybe not saying goodbye properly." She smiled.
"Perhaps you don't know me as well as you think."
He knelt down and disappeared under a different bit of console. Sarah sighed and decided to leave him to it. Despite the death and destruction that always accompanied the Doctor she was glad she had accepted the Doctor and Rose's offer to come along, especially when they found themselves on a parallel world.
It took Sarah some time to understand what was going on, but once she did, seeing Rose's father on a poster gave her an idea. The Doctor had been torn between Rose and Mickey, but that he would choose Rose was never in doubt. So she kept quiet, never promising anything and being unnoticed by everyone else. The Doctor only looked at her briefly as he ran off, not saying anything.
Once she was on her own, she sat down on the bench the others had just vacated and pulled out her mobile phone. She watched the screen as it connected to the Cybus network, just as Rose's had. She could ring anyone she wanted to; anyone who was here.
There were no guarantees but she scrolled through the entries in her phone book anyway, coming back to the beginning quite quickly. She should have deleted the number long ago but had never quite got round to it. The phone dialled once she pressed the button. When she held it to her ear, her hand shook.
At the sound of the voice on the other end, Sarah took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment. When she could speak she said, "Aunt Lavinia?" It was not really a question, for she already knew.
There was a pause at the other end. Sarah realised it was possible she might not exist in this universe and wondered how she could convince her aunt she suddenly had a niece. She waited, though, not knowing what might be going on; not wanting to say the wrong thing.
Eventually Lavinia spoke again. "I'm sorry, you sound just like my niece, but she--"
She stood up. "I am, it's me, it's Sarah Jane." She practically shouted in her excitement and desire to be heard and understood.
"Oh, my god. I.... Where are you?"
She was sure she looked like an idiot, shouting into her phone with a big smile on her face. She forced herself to sit down and take a few deep breaths. "Um, London. Don't...don't go anywhere, I'm on my way."
She did not wait for an answer but headed towards where the nearest underground station would be if it was laid out like her London. She nearly broke into a run but since she would have to get a tube, a train and a taxi to get to Moreton Harwood anyway, it was not going to get her there any faster.
If Rose could see her dead father, she could use the twenty-four hours they had to spend time with her dead aunt. There was enough time to get there and be back by the time the TARDIS was ready. She told her conscience the Doctor should be used to the idea that she never liked the idea of just waiting for him, but sent a quick text message to Rose anyway, just in case. Surely the Doctor could not get into that much trouble in one day.
The taxi dropped her at the end of the road, it being more expensive than she thought it would. It had not even occurred to her to think about how much money she had. It was just as well the coins here looked similar enough that no-one noticed they were not right until she was far enough away for it not to worry her. The village looked no different from the one she remembered - there were no zeppelins here. They must be local to London or cities or something. Or it was just coincidence but Sarah did not really care. The Doctor could probably explain it if he was here, but he was chasing Rose and did not know where she was.
She slowed as she approached the house. She had not spent that much time here, so it was not home, not really, but everyone knew who she was. It was a small place and all the village's inhabitants knew each other's business. As much as her aunt complained about the papers making everything up, Sarah had always sent her copies of everything she had written and Lavinia had kept them all, locked away where she thought Sarah would not find them.
This world, though, was different. Lavinia had obviously not been expecting to hear from her and she wondered just where the Sarah in this world was. Once at the house, she stood a while on the doorstep. She could not just leave, given that she had come all this way, but if she did, she could go with the knowledge that her aunt was alive and well in this world. She could still not quite believe what she had heard on the phone and still imagined the new owners would answer the door, perplexed at her questions and send her away.
She screwed up her courage, thinking how silly she was being, and pressed the doorbell. Sounds of a person inside came closer before the door was opened and Sarah practically threw herself into Aunt Lavinia's arms after taking a moment to verify it really was her.
"I thought you must be dead," Lavinia said, as she held Sarah tight. "No-one had heard from you for so long and I was afraid..."
Now that she was here Sarah was overwhelmed and could not reply for the tears.
Lavinia let her cry for a minute before pulling away and giving her the exact same look Sarah had seen many times when she was younger, usually when she had done something she knew better than to try. "Just because you're grown up doesn't mean I'm not responsible for you any more. I promised your parents I'd look after you, what would they think?"
Sarah was slightly stunned by the anger in her aunt's voice, not that she could blame her. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking." Which was the truth - she had no way of knowing where the Sarah in this world was and what had happened to her. She was not at this moment inclined to think too highly of her. "What...when did I go missing?" she asked.
Lavinia looked confused but shut the door before leading Sarah inside as she answered the question. "1980. You were doing some work with UNIT, that much I was able to find out. Then you disappeared, along with their scientific adviser and that's the last anyone knows."
Sarah bit her lip, wondering if in this world the Doctor had never left her back on Earth or whether she had died and he had not thought to bring her home afterwards. Assuming there was anything left to bring, that was. "I went travelling with the Doctor, um, UNIT's scientific adviser," she said eventually. "He showed me all the wonders of the universe." She could not help but smile, thinking about it.
"And you didn't come back until now. Or think to let anyone know where you were."
Sarah felt guilty, even though it was not something she had done. When she had travelled with the Doctor, the first time, UNIT had known what had happened to her and had given her a cover story. She did not know why it had not worked here. Perhaps you could only cover for so long.
They reached the lounge and Sarah was surprised to see how little had changed. The furniture was all the same, there was even the same horrid wallpaper that she remembered. Had she really had such a small influence on her aunt's life?
"I'm sorry. I never meant..."
"That's your trouble," Lavinia said with a sigh, sitting down, "never thinking, just rushing off all over the world, always chasing a story."
"That's me." Sarah smiled and perched gingerly on the edge of a comfortable chair by the fireplace. She still was not entirely convinced Lavinia was not going to throw her out. She was probably not in her aunt's good books, and besides it looked like she had a life that did not include her. "I can't stay long. I only have twenty-four hours here."
"Why not? What's out there that's so good you can't visit your aunt in nearly thirty years?"
"I..." How could tell Lavinia where she had been? Her aunt was a scientist, she would never believe her. "I wish I could explain."
She seemed to accept that at least but Sarah knew she would get quizzed later, anyway. She sighed and said, "Well, you look good on it, at least."
Sarah smiled. She could not tell her that was because she had spent most of those thirty years at home, visiting her aunt on occasion, before burying her just a few years ago. She looked just as Sarah remembered but to Lavinia she must look strange, having aged so much since they last met. A part of her felt like she was still the girl Lavinia had last known her as. "Can I stay here tonight?" It was getting late and she would not make it back to the TARDIS on public transport until the morning. She wished she knew the answer to that question without having to ask it, as she once had.
"Of course, you can. I'll make up your room." Lavinia smiled at her and kissed her on the cheek. When she stood up, she sighed and looked down at Sarah. "You nearly gave me a heart attack, hearing your voice on the phone. At least you didn't just turn up at the door, you might have been the death of me."
Sarah bit her lip but said nothing. There was only so many times she could say sorry, after all.
Lavinia stopped at the doorway to look back. "How did you know where I'd moved to?"
The truth was obviously not going to work here. So she went with, "I'm a journalist, I'm good at finding things out." She gave a smile as she said it but she could tell Lavinia was not convinced from the way she said "Hmm," before going upstairs. That Lavinia's hands shook was not lost on Sarah. What had she been thinking?
She sighed and sat back in the chair. Even so, it was good to be home.
They stayed up late talking, or at least Sarah did. Lavinia fell asleep just after midnight, which reminded her of how old her aunt was. After she had put her to bed, Sarah could not sleep. She wanted to stay for longer but there was only twenty-four hours or forever. If she stayed forever this Aunt Lavinia would die too, and Sarah did not think she could bury her twice.
And yet, had it really been fair to either of them to have come here? It was only now that Sarah remembered what she had been missing. Time had given her a chance to get used to the idea that Lavinia would not be around any more and now she would have to go through that process all over again. On top of that, she had given her aunt a glimmer of hope at getting her niece back. Maybe the Sarah here would come home one day, but on the other hand she could be dead. It might have been better if Lavinia had never seen her and could go on believing and hoping whatever she wanted.
It was, on the whole, a restless night. So Sarah was surprised when she heard the doorbell ring and realised she had been asleep. It was still dark outside, which told her it must be very early in the morning. She did not want to wake Lavinia up, so she got up and went downstairs to answer the door.
She stopped in the hallway and pulled a long coat on. Her possessions were still here, in boxes, but it they were all old and musty, so Sarah had slept in her shirt. She did not know for certain who would be at the door but she had a pretty good guess.
She was right. "Doctor," she said in greeting once she opened it.
"Ready to go, Sarah Jane?" he asked. Was it really twenty-four hours already? He was looking a little subdued and a lot less bouncy than he usually was. Perhaps he was tired, for once. He was also dressed in a DJ, which was odd.
When she did not say anything he came in past her and she shut the door to keep out the cold, but did not take her hand off the handle. "I don't know," she answered, when he kept silent. "I like it here."
"If you want to stay, you can never come back."
"I know. It's just, I don't have anyone at home, that's why I came with you again. But here, I have family. Why would I want to give that up?"
The Doctor did not have a good answer to that one and he just looked at her.
Eventually Sarah said, "Let me get dressed," determined that she would make a decision while she did it. It did not really take long, since all she really had to do was pull on her jeans but it was long enough for Lavinia to have got up and met the Doctor, and she sounded a lot less frail than she had the previous night.
"So you're the reprobate my niece has been travelling with?"
Sarah winced but she knew the Doctor could hold his own. She rounded the corner to find the two of them in the lounge and saved the Doctor the trouble of answering because Lavinia's next question was directed at her.
"Have you been wandering about with a man half your age?"
"He's older than he looks," Sarah replied, just before the Doctor muttered, "Families. Never goes well."
"It's complicated," she continued, "I wish I could explain."
"You missed Cybermen," the Doctor put in, saving Sarah from an argument.
"I...what?" She blinked, slightly taken aback by the sudden change of subject.
"We defeated them of course. Me and Rose and Mickey. And Ricky and Jake and Mrs Moore. And Pete." He frowned.
"I can't believe you were saving the world without me. That all this excitement was going on and I was stuck in a sleepy village."
"I wouldn't say stuck," Lavinia said.
Sarah had, for a moment, forgotten she was there. She turned to face her. "I have to go." The Doctor knew her too well; had known exactly what to say to her to make her leave here.
"You haven't even been here a day."
"I know. I'm...." She gave a smile she did not quite feel. "Maybe I'll come back sometime."
"But you can't promise anything."
"That's right." She could feel her eyes filling with tears again, so she hugged her aunt goodbye instead.
"Stay safe," Lavinia whispered.
She did not look back as she left the house and headed for the TARDIS, parked neatly in the road. It might have been funny at any other time. It was probably just as well it was still early and no one was up because a disappearing police box would have been something to keep the inhabitants talking about for years to come.
There was not really time for second thoughts because as soon as they were inside they took off. Sarah hovered in the control room for a while, reminding herself that this was home and where she was meant to be.
The Doctor paused in his working of the controls to turn to her and say, "Go and see Rose."
"She's probably in her room."
She wondered what had happened that the Doctor was not willing to talk about, and was not talking to Rose about either. She really wanted to be alone for a bit but if the Doctor thought Rose needed her she would do as he asked.
There was no reply to her knock, so she pushed the door and peered inside. Rose was lying face down on her bed, dressed in a waitress outfit, which probably explained the Doctor's attire, at least partially. Rose turned her head a little to see who had come in and Sarah could see she was crying. So she sat on the bed next to her and pulled her into a hug.
After a few minutes her sobs reduced to sniffles and Rose told her, "Mickey left me. I know I've been a terrible girlfriend but he always came back. I thought he loved me."
"I'm so sorry," Sarah said, stroking Rose's hair in an attempt to stop her from crying again. There was not really much she could say. Rose and Mickey's relationship had always been something Sarah could not quite quantify. So instead she asked her, "Tell me what happened. I heard there were Cybermen."
"They turned my mum into one."
She immediately wished she had not asked and hugged Rose again. "Oh, Rose that's terrible." She had never really considered that they used to be people, even though the Doctor had explained their origins to her.
"But I got to see my dad again. And we destroyed them. Well, the factory in London and the guy who made them. There are more out there, though, that's what Mickey's stayed to do."
"That could be a big job."
They were quiet for a moment. Sarah was wishing she had been there, that maybe she could have done something to make it turn out differently. Or at least to be a comfort to Rose.
"So what did you do while we were fighting Cybermen?"
Sarah grinned. Her story was so ordinary in comparison. "I was asleep when the Doctor arrived and it was still dark when we left. I really need my morning tea."
"I'll make breakfast, you talk," Rose suggested, getting up off the bed. Sarah followed her to the kitchen, telling her tales of her aunt and the village to take Rose's mind off her loss.
Part 2: Pot of Gold
"Mum, it's us! We're back!"
Sarah hung back, behind Rose and the Doctor, when they entered Jackie's flat, not wanting to intrude. She had intended to stay in the TARDIS but Rose had dragged her along, excited at the prospect of Sarah meeting her mother. She was not noticed, though, given how much Rose talked and how pleased Jackie seemed to be to see them. She could not help but laugh as Jackie grabbed the Doctor and kissed him before her attention turned to Sarah.
"Hello," Jackie said in a suspicious tone of voice.
Rose, who by this point had made it into the lounge, stuck her head back out. "Oh, mum, this is Sarah." This was then followed by her backpack. "I've got loads of washing for you."
Jackie's attention was turned back to her daughter and Sarah tuned them out. The Doctor flicked through magazines, pretending he was not listening but proving he was by joining in their conversation. Sarah went over to the window and looked out, trying her best to appear invisible.
Outside, children played something that resembled football and various people wandered about, going between their flats and wherever else normal people went. It would be so easy to go out there and back to that life again. She was enjoying herself and had no intention of leaving the Doctor just yet, but she had been reminded that one day she would have to. When she and Rose talked about the future Rose only spoke of the Doctor. Sarah wondered if the Doctor really had given back her future, as she had hoped he would.
She pulled her mobile out of her pocket and turned it on. It found the network as if she had never been away and beeped to tell her she had text messages. There was nothing unexpected there, just people asking where she was and to call them when she got back. Nothing urgent she needed to reply to; they were used to her disappearing from their lives for weeks at a time. It would be easy enough to ask the Doctor to bring her back to tomorrow, even if it was years before that happened.
Out of the corner of her eyes she caught something odd. Outside there were ghostly figures walking around the estate. She stared for a minute trying to work out if she had gone mad. That could not possibly be normal and yet no one out there reacted at all. She turned to ask if anyone else saw what she did, except the Doctor and Rose were already on their way out of the flat and Jackie was talking to another ghost in the kitchen before following them.
Sarah could not quite believe what she was seeing. That disbelief only grew when they were all back inside in front of the television and Jackie caught them up on what had been going on. Although she still managed to ignore Sarah as much as possible as she did it. Sarah did not know quite what to think about that but she focused on the important point, which was the mystery they now had to investigate. Something which always made her feel better and in this case, had the additional benefit of getting her out of this flat, which was much too small for the four of them. She hated having nothing to do for too long.
"What's your plan?" Sarah whispered to Rose as she watched her feel around inside the Doctor's coat pockets.
"I don't know yet," Rose replied, "but this should help." She held up the psychic paper. Something Sarah wished she'd had - it would have been very useful for getting into places for stories. "How about you?"
"I'm a journalist. I'm going to do what I do best."
With that they sneaked out of the TARDIS and went their separate ways.
Sarah walked as if she knew where she was going and was supposed to be here. She had found it was usually the best way of not getting caught. There was definitely something strange going on here. Even if tracing the ghosts back to this building had not been enough, there could not possibly be this many people who knew about the Doctor.
What would be helpful would be to find someone low down in Torchwood she could convince that their boss okayed her to speak to them and who she could butter up a little until they told her everything. First, though, she needed some names, so for now she carried on walking around, hoping to find something interesting or useful, and if she ran into anyone, she would try to bluff her way through.
She was lucky that there were enough people looking as if they were doing the same as her that none of them questioned her. The building was so big and the corridors all looked the same so she was not sure where she was. It did not help that she did not know where they had come in. Sometimes travel by TARDIS could be frustrating, even when the Doctor managed to get it to go to where he wanted it to. Although since she did not even know where she wanted to be it did not really matter that much.
She watched the people carefully as she went, being sure not to let any of them see her do it. In doing so she discovered you needed an ID card to get into the rooms and that was not something she could risk trying without more information. Unfortunately her pickpocketing skills were not quite up to that and there were too many people about to notice anything flashier.
By the time she made it along enough corridors that she was at the top of the stairs she wondered where to head next. She had not come across the Doctor or Rose, proving that this must be a big place. As she stood at the door she heard voices from the other side of it. She pushed it open and peered through the crack.
On the other side she saw a young woman, who was smiling and a young man looking confused. They were both dressed in suits and went behind a layer of plastic sheeting. Sarah came through the door quietly so she could see, if not clearly. The woman urged the man on.
"Yvonne's going to be back any minute," he said.
'At last!' Sarah thought, 'a name.' There was no telling exactly who Yvonne was and how high up she was, but if she was someone's boss then at least it was a start.
"Just go to the left," the woman said, repeating what Sarah had heard her say as she had approached.
"What, you mean in here?"
He stepped to his left and disappeared from Sarah's sight. She heard plastic sheeting being moved and footsteps. It looked like this was an abandoned section of the building and she would probably not find much here. Except she did not want to go back and she could not go on while they were there - they would certainly get suspicious, if not of her then that she would tell on them.
She was just trying to decide whether it was worth getting closer when she her a sound that chilled her to the bone: it was a drill and a scream and there was no way that could be a good thing. She pushed the door open all the way and ran through in time to see the woman walking away calmly, which suggested she knew this was going to happen. Checking on the man was more important so she peered in through the plastic curtains. She started to push one of them out of her way but it made such a noise Sarah feared being discovered if she went any further.
The sound of someone approaching made the decision for her and she stepped to one side to avoid them. It was the man she had seen earlier, coming back out of the room with no expression on his face and no visible injuries. He did not even look in Sarah's direction, just headed off the same way the woman had.
Puzzled, she pushed aside some of the plastic that was still moving where the man had walked through it. She saw a red glow and a shape she thought she recognised, but she had to be wrong, there could not be Cybermen in there. As she stood there the shape came closer and there really was only one thing it could be. She backed out quickly before any of them saw her.
Back at the top of the stairs she took a minute to regroup and consider her options. She could not hurt them with just her bare hands, she knew that from experience. The Doctor seemed to have enough to deal with at the moment anyway, and besides, not only did she not know where he was but Torchwood was also not supposed to know she was here at all.
That the Cybermen had done something to that man was obvious and presumably they had done the same thing to the woman too. Why they had not just converted them into Cybermen or killed them she did not know. Whatever was going on, she did not want that happening to her. Or anyone else for that matter. What she really needed to fight them was a weapon. From what she could tell the place was set up to deal with aliens, perhaps not in the way UNIT had, but it did mean they should have something useful. It was handy that she knew just what hurt Cybermen.
She headed back down the stairs, making careful note of her route so she would be able to find her way back again. Annoyingly, she found that Torchwood seemed to be mostly full of perfectly ordinary offices that would be unlikely to contain any useful weapons. After searching two floors she found herself back on the staircase. She swore and kicked the wall. She did not have an infinite amount of time on this.
Her luck was in for she had caught someone's attention. She leant over the banister to see the face turned up to hers. The place seemed to be staffed entirely of youngsters, this one a woman with long dark hair and dressed in a suit.
"Where are the weapons kept?" Sarah asked before the other woman could say anything.
The woman did not answer immediately but just frowned at her.
Sarah had to admit that if she worked here she would probably not answer a request like that from a stranger either. She had to use the one name she knew and hope it would be enough. "Yvonne sent me but I'm new, I don't know my way around yet."
This had the desired effect because the woman answered, "Four floors down from you, end of the corridor turn right."
The woman was already through the door as Sarah thanked her. She wondered who this Yvonne person was and what had spooked her so. She dismissed it as unimportant and ran down four flights of stairs and along the corridor. At the end of it, on the right was a steel door.
"This is more like it," Sarah muttered, glad the directions were correct and her destination was not too far away.
She pulled on the door but it was locked. The time for subtlety was long past, so she banged on the door and shouted in the hope that there was someone in there or anyone outside with a keycard who could let her in. Fortunately it did not take long for the door to be opened from the inside by a man looking like he was in his thirties, which while older than the others she had seen was still young to her. That he was wearing a lab coat was somewhat reassuring. She just hoped he knew about guns.
Before he could stop her she barged past, ignoring his protests. There was a dizzying array of what could well be weapons laid out on tables in the large room. Although she had to admit they could equally be alien toasters for all she knew. There were tall, grey cabinets around the walls, presumably holding more of the same. She had no way of choosing on her own.
"Are any of these gold?" she asked.
"What are you doing in here? Where's your pass?"
"Look," she said, turning to face him, "there are Cybermen in here, hiding. I don't know what they have planned but it's never good and I personally would not like to see it. If you value your life, you don't either. Now, are any of these gold?"
He had not said anything during her rant and he stood still, arms folded. She held her ground and stared him down, even though he was taller than her. Her aura of authority had improved much with age and he did not last long. He pulled a small set of keys from his trouser pocket and opened one of the cupboards behind him.
The gun he pulled out had a long barrel and gleamed gold; the latter reassured her more than the former. She well knew not to judge by size.
"Here," he said, as he passed it to her, "try this."
When she took it she immediately dismissed the idea of asking for another; this was heavy enough that it required both hands to lift it. The man had only given her one and she thought about asking him along but she was not sure she trusted these people yet. They all looked too much like they worked in an ordinary office or science lab. What she really needed was soldiers and they seemed to have mysteriously vanished once they had the Doctor.
"Thanks," she said and added, "top floor, behind the plastic curtains, you might want to send some people."
He began to say, "You don't..." but she was out of the room before she could hear the rest of the sentence.
She ran back up to the room with the Cybermen, hoping she had not taken too long. As she ran she thought she heard the sound of Cybermen marching and considered stopping to investigate. If the ones upstairs were doing some sort of conversion then they were the more pressing concern. She could always come back to the others later.
Once at the top of the stairs she slowed, wanting to check what was going on before steaming in and potentially getting herself caught. She could hear shouts from behind the door but could not see anything when she came out on to the top floor corridor.
Tiptoeing to the room, she came across two blonde women being held by two Cybermen. One of them she did not recognise but the other was unmistakably Rose's mum, Jackie. That they were not quiet worked in Sarah's favour because it meant no one noticed her.
She was just behind them when the other woman was taken away, muttering something about Queen and Country. It was not difficult to guess what was going to happen to her, so she raised her gun and fired at the remaining Cyberman. The gun had a nasty kick to it, which forced her to take a step back, but it had at least fired something that looked like it could be gold.
There was no reaction from the Cyberman, only the drill and the scream. She was too late for the other woman and she forced herself not to think about what had happened to her. There would be plenty of time to mourn later, right now she had more important things to do: she had to save Jackie; Rose would never forgive her if she did not.
The Cyberman turned to face her and Sarah thought that was probably a good thing because it was their chest plates she needed to hit, after all. She had been hoping the back would be good enough but it clearly was not. She was so close there was non way she could miss, and she fired again.
This time she was horrified when there was still no reaction, beyond him looking at his chest plate, now coated in gold.
"It's gold," she shouted, helplessly, hoping it was only a delayed reaction. "You hate gold!"
"Delete!" the Cyberman said and looked in her direction, raising his arm. She could see there was a gun mounted on it, which she was certain would kill her, even if she tried to run.
In the fight, such as it was, she had not noticed Jackie slipping round the side and providing a distraction. The Cyberman's arm swung round, trying to decide which of them to hit. Sarah dropped the heavy gun and the two women took the opportunity to run for the staircase and make their way down it as fast as they could.
"Thanks," Sarah said, breathlessly, more from fear than the running.
"Any time!" Jackie replied.
"Do I stay with him?" Rose had asked, late one night, after their trip to the fifties. Rose kept touching her face as if to reassure herself it was still there. Sarah had been thinking it was the right time for both her parents to still be alive but they had got caught up in saving the world again and now she could only regret not having asked the Doctor to take her there.
Sarah considered the question and her own reasons for being here. "I thought Reinette told you he was worth the monsters and you agreed." The Frenchwoman had a point.
"He is. I mean, I love him, but one day he's going to do the same thing to me as he did to you." She finished half her glass in one go.
Sarah poured them both more wine and wished she could reassure her on that point. "Maybe. But think of all you'll be missing if you leave him. Some things are worth getting your heart broken for."
Rose sighed. "It would be nice if it could be quiet for more than half a day. If we could just spend time together without the monsters intruding."
"It never is quiet, though, not with the Doctor around." Sarah saw a movement out of the corner of her eye and spotted a piece of brown coat flicking out of view. Why the Doctor was eavesdropping outside Rose's door she did not know. Rose had her back to it and Sarah decided to ignore him. If he heard anything he did not like it would be his own fault. "Besides, think about how boring life would be."
"Yeah. Before I met the Doctor nothing ever happened to me."
"In comparison, nothing's ever as exciting again."
"So what was it like?"
"Life after the Doctor?"
Sarah swilled the wine around in her glass, remembering back. If the Doctor was still listening then maybe it would do him good to hear this. "It was... small. There was so much going on in the universe and I was stuck on one insignificant planet."
"But you were still doing the same thing, just on Earth. I mean, you went at the school, to investigate."
"That took a while though. And you have no idea how many alien threats I found that were perfectly innocent."
Sarah looked up long to see Rose smile. She shook her head as she remembered some of those occasions. She directed her gaze at the door, although if the Doctor was still there he could only hear her words, not see anything inside the room. "I always expected the Doctor to come back, I just didn't know when. So I didn't get too attached to anyone or anything."
"Except K-9. You seemed quite fond of him."
"K-9 sort of crept in. And I could take him with me. A husband, on the other hand, just wouldn't have worked."
"I know what you mean."
Sarah thought of Mickey and looked back at Rose, who did not seem quite so upset about it any more. "He never intended to come back, though, that was just an accident. Make sure when you leave, you say goodbye. But don't leave yet, Rose, we're having fun, aren't we?" Sarah smiled.
"Yeah," Rose said, and refilled their now-empty glasses.
Sarah and Jackie ran down a couple of flights in silence before Jackie spoke.
"So who are you really? You just turn up with Rose and the Doctor, after Mickey left."
"That was before, actually..." Sarah trailed off as Jackie stopped and turned to look up at her. For all the difference in their ages, and heights now that Sarah was standing a few steps above, Sarah still felt small. "I used to travel with the Doctor."
"So you're an example of what's going to happen to Rose?"
"I don't think--"
"You haven't known her long, you can't see that she's changed. My daughter's turning into something that's not human."
Sarah caught the implication in that statement, whether Jackie meant to blame her or not. "I saved your life!"
"And I saved yours. Now we're even."
They could not stay and debate this, not when they were in mortal danger. "If you want me to leave the Doctor, again, then say so. If you want Rose to then I'm just her friend, I won't tell her what to do. You're her mother, why don't you talk to her?"
Jackie's only answer was to start running down the stairs again.
Sarah called after her as she followed. "If she doesn't want to leave, I'm not going to make her."
It was probably just as well that Jackie's phone rang before she could reply. She answered but neither of them stopped running this time. Jackie was panicking, though. "Oh my god, help me!" she said down the phone. "They tried to download me but Sarah helped..."
Sarah rolled her eyes. She wondered if this was how Mickey felt with Jackie. Despite doing all she could Jackie still thought she was incapable of doing anything useful and only the Doctor could help.
Jackie listened to the voice on the other end for a minute before passing the phone to Sarah with a scowl, saying, "It's the Doctor."
"Doctor," she said, before he could speak, "it's Cybermen."
"I know. Where are you?"
She looked up at the wall to see the number and letter there printed in big letters. "N4. They're immune to gold!"
"But that's impossible, what--"
He cut her off. "They're from the parallel world. They're different, not from Mondas."
"So what can I do?"
"I don't know yet, just keep Jackie safe."
"Doctor!" There was more she could do, of that she was sure. Otherwise what was the point of her being here?
"Sarah, the world is being overrun by Cybermen from a parallel world and just to make my day better there are Daleks here too. I need you and Jackie to keep out of trouble."
"All right. But I can't promise anything if we run into them." She did not wait for an answer before pressing the button to end the call and handing the phone back to Jackie. Although quite what they would be able to do she did not know.
They went a few more flights in silence. Sarah really could have done with meeting Rose's mother under better circumstances and maybe they would not have argued so much. She was just at the point of not being able to run any more, when they spotted Cybermen coming up the stairs toward them. They turned back but there were Cybermen above them too.
"Through here!" Sarah bustled Jackie through a door, not caring what was beyond it.
They barely made it a few steps down the wide corridor on this floor when they found themselves facing yet another Cyberman. Sarah wished she had kept the gun even thought it was heavy and useless, but at least she would have something and maybe it would have been threatening enough to make them think twice. Their only option was to do as the Doctor did and try to talk themselves out of this situation.
The Cyberman spoke, "You will be upgraded."
"Oh, no, but you can't," Jackie said, shrinking back towards Sarah. As much as she agreed with the sentiment she put herself in front of Jackie, which would buy her a little more time at least.
Sarah wished desperately for something brilliant to come into her mind but nothing did and she did not know what to say to stop them. Fortunately she did not have to do anything because all of a sudden there was a blast from behind the Cyberman and it fell to reveal a balding fair-haired man with a big gun, which was obviously far more effective than Sarah's had been. She wondered where he had got it and wished she had one. The Doctor, Rose and surprisingly, Mickey, flanked him.
"Pete!" Jackie cried, coming out from behind her.
From the conversation that ensued Sarah established this was Rose's father, the version from the parallel world. It made sense that if the Cybermen had found a way to come through from there then people could too. She had just not been expecting to see any of them, though.
The reunion was interrupted by a pressing need to be somewhere safer and soon they were on the top floor of the building, in the lift this time. Which Sarah was glad about because she did not think she could manage any more stairs. She was resisting holding her hand against the stitch in her side as it was.
When Rose had told her how she had met her father before he died it had been casually slipped in over a post-Olympics breakfast with just the two of them.
"It's weird, when you think about it. I could have grown up rich, having everything I wanted. Probably would never have met the Doctor, I mean I wouldn't have been working in Hendricks."
Sarah looked at Rose over her mug of tea, trying to work out what this conversation was about. Rose did not notice because she was too busy pulling things out of various cupboards to put together for breakfast. Once she was done she sat down opposite Sarah and before putting something in her mouth that might have been scrambled eggs, if eggs were green, and said, "So what would your life have been like?"
"I think I might have been dead."
That was something of a conversation killer. "Tell me about your father," she said, to cover the silence.
Rose shrugged. "My mum told me all these grand stories about him. So when I met him I was expecting... I dunno."
"The man could never have lived up to the myth."
"Yeah. But the other one, Pete, he was trying to save the world."
"Maybe he always had it in him, he just never had the opportunity."
"Hmm." There was another silence while they both ate, until Rose broke it with, "Why don't you ever talk about your family?"
"I don't have any. My parents died when I was little, my aunt brought me up."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Maybe you could ask the Doctor to go back so you can meet them."
"I thought of that but I don't remember them. What would be the point?"
"You should come and meet my mum. I haven't been home for a while."
The two of them got on so well that sometimes it was easy to forget that Sarah was older than Rose's mother. So Sarah had just nodded and smiled although she did not need to be mothered, not by anyone any more.
The office they stood in was big and open-plan with a good view. She was surprised to find they were in Canary Wharf. How had they kept what was really going on in this place quiet? Inside it looked sleek and new, and Sarah wondered just how long it had been here. More importantly, there were no Cybermen up here. Or Daleks, not that Sarah had seen any up to this point; she was not sorry about that.
The Doctor, as always, explained the situation to all gathered there, who by this point included a few other men. Given that they held guns similar to Pete's she guessed they were from the parallel world too. Sarah tried desperately to keep up, feeling that she had missed out by spending her time with Aunt Lavinia.
It did not really matter, though, because now was not the time to be asking questions. Besides, the Doctor had a plan, as he always did. The trouble was Rose did not like the part where it involved her being safe in the parallel world. Sarah stayed quiet as Rose and Jackie fought; this was between them. She very carefully did not look at the Doctor or Pete as they managed to get the yellow devices over the Tyler women's heads.
Once they had all disappeared, the Doctor turned to her. She had been wondering what part she played in his plan. "Do you want to go too?" he asked. There was a spare device on a desk and she wondered if it had been left there by accident or on purpose for her.
The decision was easy. "No," she said. "Whatever happens, I want to stay here with you." For all she knew Aunt Lavinia might be dead in that parallel world and she was not in a rush to find out for sure. Besides, the Doctor's plan would benefit much from an extra pair of hands, and once this was all over he would miss Rose terribly. At least if she was there, he might not feel it so badly. It seemed like he was prepared for whichever choice she made because he had got two magnetic clamps.
They did not have time to get started, though, before Rose was back. The Doctor looked at Rose, then Sarah before turning towards the laptop on one of the desks. Sarah caught his meaning and stepped forwards, blocking him from her line of sight.
"I'm not leaving him," she said, taking off the device. "You'd do the same in my position, if you knew the Doctor like I do."
Sarah ignored the implied insult. Rose was understandably upset and angry, and was likely just taking it out on the nearest target.
"No, I wouldn't," she said. "Rose, you don't know how lucky you are to have the opportunity to be with two parents who love you and a boyfriend who sticks with you not matter what."
"But the Doctor needs me."
"No. I mean, you're right, he needs someone but it doesn't necessarily have to be you." Sarah put one hand on Rose's shoulder.
Rose shook the hand off and took a step backwards. "I knew I shouldn't have agreed to let you come with us. It's obvious he likes you better."
Sarah shook her head, not needing to get in an argument with Rose about this just now. "Your mum needs you," she said instead. "She's going to find it really hard, living in an alien world, away from all her friends. Adjusting to having her husband alive again, but different. And no-one else can do that for her."
Rose said nothing for a moment and Sarah waited for this to sink in. She knew she had got through to her when a tear ran down Rose's cheek and Sarah knew she had got through to her. She stepped forwards and Rose let her hug her.
"The best gift you can give him is to live. Have a wonderful life, Rose."
Rose sniffed and pulled away to look over Sarah's shoulder at the Doctor.
"Don't worry about him, I'll look after him. And he doesn't do goodbyes," she added with a wry smile. At least Rose knew she would never see the Doctor again; she would have no false hopes on that front.
"Goodbye," Rose said, loudly enough for it to be directed at both of them.
"Bye," Sarah said.
Rose hesitated but when the Doctor said nothing, she put the device back on over her head, still looking in his direction. Sarah gave her a smile she did not entirely feel, since she was losing a friend after all, and Rose pressed hard on the yellow button and disappeared.
Sarah turned to see the Doctor had been watching and she ached for the sorrow that showed on his face. Quickly, though, he turned back to the laptop and gave her directions to help him. Sarah took a deep breath before moving, reminding herself there would be plenty of time to process this all later.
"What did you do when you got home?"
"After the Doctor dumped me in Aberdeen, you mean?"
Rose nodded. They might have been on a planet around a black hole, inhabited by strange alien slaves, but there was still time to eat strange food and ponder what their possible future might be, without the TARDIS.
"I didn't know what to do with myself at first. I couldn't get a job because my editor wasn't happy that I'd not handed anything in on time for so long. Everything I knew had changed while I was away."
"I know I had a good time with my mates," Rose said, "but now they seem so, I don't know, pointless."
Sarah had a mouthful from her plate and resolved never to eat anything purple again. "I was lucky, I had people to talk to who had known the Doctor too." She thought of Harry, which she had not done in a while. She still missed him.
"I already didn't know what to do with my life. And now we're stuck in the future. Everyone's going to think I'm so thick." Rose was not really eating her food, just moving it around the tray with her fork.
"I think it's worse for the Doctor. He hates staying in one place. And this time there are no Time Lords to help get him out of it."
"These people are nice enough but if I had to stay somewhere, I'd want to go home. Where my family is."
"Me too," Sarah said, although she did not really have that sort of choice.
Sarah held onto a magnetic clamp for dear life and fought against a force stronger than gravity. On the opposite wall the Doctor did the same.
She constantly adjusted her grip, making sure her arms were looped round the handle so she would not be pulled in. Her arms ached and she wished they had something better to hold on to. She watched as Daleks and Cybermen fell into the void past her, trying to take her mind off her precarious position. There were so many of them, where had they all come from?
It was just as well Rose had wanted to visit home, otherwise there was no way the Earth could have survived under the combined onslaught of two enemies. Although the Doctor did have a tendency to be in the right place at the right time, so likely he would have made it here at some point anyway.
As she watched, the lever nearest to her moved, a computer voice said "offline" and the force that pulled her decreased considerably. So many had fallen into it already it did not seem like there could be many left. But to leave just one could mean disaster, so she reached out and managed to grab onto the lever as she let go of the clamp.
It was typical that it required pushing in the opposite direction to the force from the void and Sarah had to put all her weight behind it. Which was not easy when she could not brace her feet on the floor to do it or twist herself round to use the wall.
At least the lever moved and locked into place. The pace increased once more but now Sarah was in a much more dangerous position.
"Hold on, Sarah!" she heard the Doctor shout over the wind.
It was not easy though. She could feel the force trying to pull her feet away and the more she tried to hold on, the more slippery her palms got. She desperately grasped the handle, changing her grip and telling herself it could not be much longer, that she could do it. She tried to get her legs round the base of the lever but it was too hard to move that far for long enough to get a purchase.
As she slipped again she desperately made a grab but her hands only touched air. As she fell she looked round to see the Doctor's face twisted in pain and the words "Sarah Jane" followed her into the void.
There were many new graves dug after that day. Some were for the dead but many others were missing and would have stayed so except for the word of Torchwood who told the public, indirectly of course, that the missing were never coming back.
Sarah's grave was an ordinary one, just one of the many among the missing. She was only that because there was no body to corroborate the story of the man in brown who told the authorities she was dead.
But like the woman herself, Sarah's grave was not ordinary, for there were always fresh flowers resting up against the simple headstone.