Beta: hhertzof and selenay936
Pairings: Sarah Jane Smith/Kate Stewart
Summary: Kate's first alien planet helps her understand Sarah.
Notes: For purple_bug
"I never thought I'd ever set foot on an alien planet."
Sarah stood in the doorway of the TARDIS, staring out at the landscape in front of her. The red sky above bathed everything in a pink glow, making even the roads and grey office blocks colourful. Beyond that it didn't look too different from Earth, but Kate, standing at her shoulder, still marvelled at the view.
"Technically you haven't set foot on it yet," Sarah pointed out.
"No," Kate agreed, but still didn't look like she was about to move. "I don't know what I'm afraid of," she admitted after a moment.
Sarah had seen Kate face any number of horrifying situations in the past, but she understood this was different, so she put a hand on Kate's shoulder for reassurance.
Kate glanced round to smile at her, before taking a deep breath and finally stepping over the threshold.
Sarah dropped her hand and followed. As they walked Kate kept turning to look around her and her gaze flicked up to the sky. They only managed to get twenty feet away from the TARDIS before they found trouble. Technically, it was the Doctor's fault when the locals objected to his trousers. He shouted complaints, even as they dragged him off to their equivalent of a police station, and Sarah and Kate had to follow him to ensure he didn't make the situation worse.
Sarah wished they didn't have to look after him like he was a child and did her best to pretend they weren't with him. It meant she was looking around and discovered what the real problem was. She stepped closer to Kate to whisper, "Have you noticed all the women are in trousers and all the men are in skirts?"
That included Sarah and Kate, who'd both ended up on the TARDIS accidentally. Mr Smith had discovered a device giving off signals in time as well as space, so naturally Sarah had gone to investigate. She found the small, blue box with a blinking red light and stretched out a hand to touch it just as Kate, who had been monitoring it, tried to stop her. Ending up on the floor of the console room told her it was a teleport at the same time Kate made the same conclusion. Theoretically the Doctor was taking them home, but as usual, hadn't landed on the right planet.
The clothing choices on this world made sense later when she'd asked a few question and found out that the women did the manual labour while the men sat in offices. The trousers were more practical for the women and the men were pretty - it was much more like animals in nature than humans on Earth. The women's clothes were all fairly colourless. Sarah was glad she and Kate had happened not to wear anything very bright today or they might have found themselves arrested too.
Kate looked around discreetly and nodded. "So we just need to get the Doctor to wear a skirt."
Sarah grinned at the idea and Kate's expression matched hers.
Two hours later and a lot of convincing from both Sarah and Kate saw the Doctor released, sporting a long, brown skirt in pin stripes. It actually suited him. Once he was wearing it, he acted like he was perfectly happy in it and had been wearing a skirt all his life. So quite why he'd been so insistent that he didn't need to change, Sarah didn't know and couldn't muster the enthusiasm to ask. Besides, now they were back outside there were more important things to do.
As they walked through the city like tourists, Kate didn't tire of the sights and sounds. Neither did Sarah and having someone beside her seeing an alien world for the first time reminded her of just how amazing it was and she appreciated it all the more. She understood a little more why the Doctor travelled with someone who'd never been to the places he had.
They lost the Doctor when they walked through the market and he had to stop to taste everything. Kate had been more unsure about eating alien fruit, but the Doctor ran his sonic screwdriver over what looked like a purple stick of rock, then put his glasses on to peer at it and finally declared it to be safe for humans. Sarah tried it first and discovered it was soft in the middle and tasted like a cross between a banana and bacon.
They ate their fruit slowly and on the other side of the market they found a bridge spanning a clear, blue river. The romanticism of it wasn't lost on Sarah and she thought back to the last time she'd seen Kate, years ago. She'd just returned from a trip to Japan to check on a story of an alien spaceship being dug up. It had turned out to be false, so she'd been glad to get home and call her girlfriend. But when she had, Kate had told her she wasn't prepared to put up with Sarah's flightiness any longer.
After that, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart had dropped off the face of the Earth, at least as far as Sarah Jane Smith was concerned. She knew now that Kate had changed her surname and joined UNIT, although hiding from Sarah was merely a by-product, not the reason. Sarah had settled down in Ealing and stuck around London, but it had all been for nothing. Until now. This was a great opportunity, but before she could take it, Kate spoke.
"I think I understand now."
Sarah looked over at her, waiting for her to explain more.
"I see why aliens and the Doctor are more important than anything else." There was a hint of reproach in her voice and Sarah bit her lip.
"They were for a while," she admitted. She would have resented the implication once, but time allowed her the distance to see her actions for what they were. "But I've discovered there are wonderful things on Earth too. Some of them right on my doorstep." The setting sun turned the sky fiery red and fish glinted orange in the river.
"I know a lot has happened since then," Sarah continued. She'd tried telling Harry about Kate once, but he hadn't understood. After that she wasn't keen to repeat the mistake. She couldn't imagine Kate telling the Brigadier and if she had she'd never mentioned it. "Can you ever forgive me?"
Kate bit her lip and leaned over the railings to look down at the river. "I don't know," she said after a moment. "I'd like to, but if I do, I can't give you a third chance. I've had my heart broken too many times."
Sarah smiled at the implication that she was being given a second chance. A chance to prove herself she once thought she'd never get. "I think we could be a good team."
"I think so too," Kate agreed.
Sarah took a step forward, but it was Kate who closed the gap between them.
Darkness fell as the sun slipped below the horizon, but the pair on the bridge never noticed. Kate was too busy tangling her hands in Sarah's hair and Sarah rubbing her thumb against Kate's cheek as they kissed away the years they'd been apart.