Now thought Sarah.
It has to be now.
Clyde, Luke and Rani were out of the town, out of the country, the conditions were ideal to release herself from her obligations, without anyone bearing witness to her pain.
She could feel the illness course through her body, she didn’t care to give it a name, for it was alien, and intrusive, and quite, quite fatal.
She didn’t know when she had contracted it, or whether or not it was some alien menace wreaking a terrible and exact revenge for the times she had thwarted them.
Perhaps it was even The Trickster’s final surprise?
Whatever it was, it was bringing to her physical form the fateful, fearful stench of indignity. Of suffering. Of death.
She did not want her son to gaze into her eyes and see such little in the way of hope staring back at him. She wanted Luke to forever be in control of his own life, and to live it to its fullest.
For without life, everything stops, and it is all so sudden.
Her legs buckled, she clutched her stomach tightly.
“Mr. Smith, I need you” she whispered as she took in a sharp intake of what could be her final breath.
A loud, omnipresent fanfare resonated around the attic as a mighty supercomputer came to life and folded out of the fireplace in front of her.
“What are your instructions Sarah Jane?” it asked.
“I wasn’t referring to you for once dear friend”
“You called me by name” Mr. Smith replied.
“Plenty of Smiths in this world, even out there in this universe” Sarah responded.
The wind in the attic suddenly picked up, and a wheezing, groaning noise could be heard all around Sarah’s ears.
“Forever late than never” she said as a majestically simple, battered blue box materialised in front of her.
The door to the box opened, and he stepped out.
Sarah’s eyes widened, astonished at the latest form.
One most familiar.
All teeth, all curls, all smiles, and an otherworldly aftershave that knocked her for ten.
She had encountered many of his faces since then, and had heard from her friend Dorothy he’d even changed gender at last, now he stood restored to how she knew him best, teeth and curls.
“Did you miss me Sarah Jane?” he asked, raising an eyebrow and expressing himself with a devilish grin.
“I thought you’d died…this version of you” she said.
“Oh no, no, never, a trick, YES, a trick, never knew I had it. OhSarah, I never knew it was one I had up my sleeve. I got a job you know, as a curator, ah but I got bored of that, that’s the usual business, can never stay in the same spot, one should never say nor stay forever”
“You? A curator? Don’t talk nonsense, you muck about in history, you’re not fit to teach it”
“Not fit? Not fit? You’ll find I’m well fit, all systems go”
The man offered her his hand,
“Come along Sarah, you called to me, here I am. What are you in need of?”
“At first I wanted to say goodbye…I thought it right you see, since this time, it’d be forever” Sarah said, holding back small dots of tears that were forming in her eyes.
“Have you not been listening Sarah? Have you ever? Never say forever” he said with a quaint and soothing whisper.
“Everything has it’s time Doctor…everything ends, but if I’ve learned anything from you, is that nothing can kill a spirit as untamed as mine. Now, more than ever, I want to see it all, experience the world, and more beyond it”
The Doctor wrapped his arm around Sarah’s shoulder, she rested her head on his, and together they looked towards the attic skyline, staring out at the stars, some of them were dancing around another in a most peculiar pattern, gliding up and down, towards each other .
They backed away slowly, extra bright bursts could be seen detaching themselves from the tips of their corners.
It was not a waltz, a thing of beauty to be spectated upon, it was almost as if war had been declared.
“Are those really stars or imploding star ships?” she asked.
“I was so sure they were stars” said The Doctor, not even the remotest bit upset Sarah spoiled the moment.
For the first time in the days that had followed the diagnosis of the cruel virus, Sarah finally chose to defy its grip on her demeanour, and let out a heartfelt and incredibly joyous laugh.
“You mean I can detect an ongoing space war miles away?” she said, almost fainting from the exuberance of the laugh, wanting to fall away and be caught by The Doctor.
The Doctor joined in the merriment, “Maybe you could help me bring some authority to a lawless land?”
“So I’m to become your deputy again? I’m ill you know, contagious, it’d be like germ warfare if you brought me aboard”
The Doctor and Sarah kept their eyes trained on the igniting stars…and, as brightly as they had begun, their light gradually diminished, and they faded all too swiftly from the blackened battlefield.
“They must have found themselves caught in their own crossfire, both sides have decimated the other” The Doctor realised.
The mood changed again to one of sombre reflection, one for aliens that had given in to the spoils of war, and only spoiled their own embrace of life.
He turned to the TARDIS, he turned to Sarah, he turned to the regular starscape staring back at them both from the attic’s visible roof.
“Not too long ago, by your calendar, I had a family, they taught me everything, oh it was nothing Sarah, but everything all at once. They were terribly nice you know, one had a virus inside of him too, a regular old thing, could cure it in an instant, but I chose not to…because you learn how strong a person you love is through the struggle, the quality of life is in the fight Sarah, it’s in surviving every day knowing the bomb could drop tomorrow, and daring the throw of the dice. I told the first earthling I ever kissed, oh I blush, ah but I do, and it wasn’t Romana oddly enough. I told her I could make her dreams come true today, never forever, but in the immediate moment. That’s what time is for a time lord…the moments, tomorrow we can make today, we never say forever, because we say it now”
He snapped his fingers, the TARDIS lit up from the inside, a sparkling white.
“A chance to see the stars a bit closer Sarah Jane?”
Sarah smiled, the kind of smile that tells someone you will follow them for all time.
“Yes Doctor, I’d like that very, very much”
She gave Mr. Smith a final set of instructions, to eventually shut down both itself and Bannerman Road, and to wait. Wait patiently, for the next adventurer to come along, and begin the escapades all over again, where a new family of friends will make the impossible come alive.
And maybe, if they were lucky, they would get to meet her, The Doctor, and yes, even the latest one, and be promised the fulfilment of their dreams in the most immediate moment.
Tomorrow made today.
And their story went on.
As for Sarah’s illness? For every second it continued to linger, it was never quite able to catch up to Sarah on her flight through eternity, never able to deliver the swift and final blow.
Death was constantly kept back.
Always an hour short, always a day behind.
Forever late than never.