Series 7 Episode 2 The Final Summer Sunset Part Two Written by Zoe Lance
There was once a little orphan boy cast out onto the streets. No family. No name. Nobody to look after him. He had barely managed to scrape enough money together and manufacture a semi-successful cover story to obtain a position at the academy and receive an education, but nobody liked him. The other children looked at him as if he was an alien and the teachers never addressed him or asked him a question, but he didn’t mind. All he needed was his battered book. It was a simple book - the kind parents used to recite to their children as a bedtime story. He devoured it ‒ the story had always fascinated him.
It was the tale of a legendary creature that prowled their planet during its early, nebulous days.
It was the tale of a Phoenix.
Sarah Jane stood there in shock, her mouth agape, as she tried to process his statement. Phoenix’s gaze was fixed on her, his blue eyes curious and patient. “Gallifrey?” she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper. “You’re from Gallifrey?”
“Sit down.” The man gestured towards the seat opposite him. “I’ve quite a long story.”
Phoenix cut her off with a sigh. “I will answer all of your questions after the story. Now, sit down.”
His tone was forceful, and Sarah Jane could see the growing frustration building in his eyes. She cautiously obeyed and sat down, draping her jacket between her shoulders so she could reach the sonic lipstick concealed in the pocket facing her if she needed to.
“There,” he smiled. “Now, that wasn’t too difficult, was it?”
Sarah Jane scowled at his patronising tone. There was an supercilious aura exuding off the man in droves. It was clear in the way he presented himself: straight posture, laced fingers, and an amused glint flickering in his sea-blue eyes, amplified by the bright lighting. The stark difference struck her when she compared his eyes to the Doctor’s. While her friend’s eyes had been heavy with age and burden in their recent encounters, this man’s were younger.
His attire also bewildered her. He was dressed in a long scarlet robe that spanned from his neck and pooled below his ankles, and she was perplexed by the lack of sweat on his brow. The room was boiling — almost stifling — and he remained remarkably unfazed.
She coughed, and continued her questioning. “You’re a Time Lord?”
The smug smile dropped from his face. ”I asked for no questions.”
“But you can’t be. Gallifrey was —”
“Miss Smith,” Phoenix interrupted quietly, `Anything you are about to say is irrelevant until you’ve heard my story. Do you understand?”
“Yes, but you don’t understand. I’m trying to tell you that —”
“And if you continue to impede my narrative, there will be consequences for you.”
“You know what? Fine,” Sarah Jane snapped, rising from her chair. “You don’t want to listen? I don’t care. I’m going to find my friends, and then I’m going to find the missing people that you’ve kidnapped.”
“Me?” he laughed at the accusation. “Oh, you’ve got it all wrong. I only kidnapped the little girl. Nobody else. I would never involve myself in the amateurish schemes of the Great Intelligence.”
Sarah Jane ignored him, and continued to walk towards the door when, an instant later, she found herself back in the chair opposite the elder. Her eyes widened in surprise, and she wondered if he had used that technique to separate her from Dan.
“Leaving so soon?” Phoenix asked mockingly. “There’s no need to be so hasty, Sarah Jane. Why don’t we play a little game?”
Sarah Jane’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “A game?”
“Yes, a game.” He stood up and curled the fingertips of his right hand. A flame red orb slowly materialised above his palm, surrounding by a swirling fiery vortex. Sarah Jane noticed that the temperature grew cooler as the orb gradually increased in size, as if it was sucking out the heat in the room to sustain itself.
“What is that?” Sarah Jane asked nervously.
“A warning,” replied the Phoenix. The centre of the orb convulsed inward, and projected a bird’s eye view of another room in the warehouse.
“Oi! Let us out!” Zoe hollered at the top of her lungs, her arms and legs a blur as she punched and kicked the metal bulkhead door. Every time she was ready to give up, the whimpering Bloom re-energised her and spurred her onslaught. She growled at Beth, “It won’t budge.”
Beth hummed absently, her fingers tracing an invisible pattern over the glass tank, and her eyes scanning Dan’s serene expression. Scanning to assure herself that he was still alive. He was bobbing up and down in the tank, his hair ruffled by the water, and a rope tethered him to the bottom. His eyes were closed, and it was if he was simply sleeping.
Zoe gave up on the door and joined Beth’s side. “He’s going to be okay. Hopefully.”
“How did he even get in here?” Beth mused. “He was with Sarah Jane. Something must have happened to her.”
“It must have been like, right after we split up,” Zoe said. “We were only searching for about five minutes.” She stared at the tank thoughtfully. “Maybe we can break him out.”
“Mm.” Beth looked at her wearily. “There’s nothing here we can use.”
Zoe deflated slightly. “We could chuck the computer at it,” she suggested half-heartedly.
Beth smiled. “Or the potions.”
“Exactly — woah.” The girls recoiled in shock when Dan started writhing inside the tank, thrashing back and forth wildly. The murky blue water bubbled and popped, doing nothing to conceal the pure agony on his face. “What the hell?” She moved over and slammed her fist against the glass over and over again. “Dan!”
Beth desperately joined Zoe’s assault against the tank. “Let him go!” she yelled at no-one in particular, hoping that their captor was listening in.
“Stop it!” Sarah Jane cried out in alarm. “Leave him alone!”
“Not until you agree to remain quiet for the duration of my story,” Phoenix responded coolly.
“He’s just a boy!”
“Well, then you’d better answer me quickly. I estimate he doesn’t have long enough. You humans are ever so feeble, especially the little ones.”
“You’re vile,” Sarah Jane spat in disgust.
“And you’re running out of time,” Phoenix roared back. “Do you agree to remain silent, unless you are asked a question?”
“Yes!” Sarah Jane yelled. “Yes! I do!”
“Good.” Phoenix crushed the fiery orb in his hands, and dispelled the heat throughout the room. “The boy lives. For now.” Then, as if nothing had happened, he relaxed into his chair once again and laced his fingers together. “Now, where was I?”
Sarah Jane wanted nothing more than to call the man out on his pragmatism, but she curtailed her snarky remarks in fear that he would lash out at her young friends again. It was despicable, how someone could so easily threaten the life of another living being to get what they wanted, but Phoenix didn’t seem to care. He merely smiled at her, and coughed slightly to gain her attention.
“Ah, yes,” he said once he was confident that Sarah Jane was attentive. “I remember now…”
The frothing and bubbling water inside the tank subsided, and Dan relaxed once again into his coma. Zoe and Beth paused their attack against the glass, and shared a nervous glance.
“That was…” Zoe sighed, moving over to sit by the whimpering Bloom. She rested the little girl’s head in her lap, and stroked her brown hair absentmindedly as she formulated a continuation to her sentence. “Random.”
“Yeah,” Beth agreed distractedly. Her eyes were scanning Dan over, checking that he was still alive. She relaxed when his chest heaved in his slumber, and she turned around and collapsed next to Zoe. “I thought…”
Zoe started at her incredulously. “What is it?”
“Nothing!” Beth insisted, her eyes downcast and her shoulders slightly slumped. Zoe noted the change in posture, but decided to drop the topic, for now.
She refocused on Dan’s prone form, and stroked Bloom’s hair again. “We’re trapped.”
“Mhm,” Beth said sarcastically. “Didn’t even notice.”
Zoe rolled her eyes. “We’re trapped in a massive room with freaky experimental stuff, random tapestries promoting Hell, and a giant bulkhead sealing us off from the outside world,” she fished her phone out of her pocket and held it up in the low lighting. “And I can’t call Sentinel either.”
Beth frowned at that, and dug out her own phone. She fiddled with it for a few seconds before sighing audibly. “Me neither. Battery’s dead.”
“Great,” Zoe muttered. They both lapsed into companionable silence, too wrapped up in their own thoughts to maintain conversation. Zoe’s mind was focused on Bloom and escape, while Beth was too absorbed with her home life.
Eventually, Zoe grew bored of the silence and said, “You know, I don’t think he’s ever been this quiet.”
“No,” Beth looked at the tank again. “I don’t think he has.”
They looked at him then. Properly looked, for perhaps the first time. Their daft Scottish best friend.
“I thought he was dying,” Beth confessed. “Like, I actually thought he was…properly dying. Like he would just…keel over in that tank and that would be it.”
“No more Dan,” Zoe ruminated.
“No more Dan.” Beth sighed. “What would life without Dan even be like?” She paused, and considered. “What would dying be like?”
“Beth, quit it,” Zoe interrupted, and Beth nodded. She knew that she was getting worked up, and that was never a good thing. It was embarrassing, how she couldn’t even keep her own emotions and thoughts in check. She was constantly under the control of her brain, who told her things that she should have known were not true, and that she wasn’t as useless as she secretly felt at times, but that was the thing with her bipolarity. She could bottle up all of her feelings and joke about it for three-hundred and sixty-four days, and ride out an emotional high for one, random day.
Noticing Beth’s troubled expression, Zoe hastily changed the topic of discussion. “He’s been happier, I think.”
“You think so?”
“Yup. Last year, he mentioned how he was haunted by us or whatever. I don’t think he feels that anymore.”
Beth frowned. “Huh?”
“When did he say that?”
“Oh, ages ago. Well, some alien said it first, and then he just admitted it. You remember Victoria station?”
“Yeah? Oh.” Beth’s eyes lit up with comprehension. “Really? Back then?”
“Yup. Way back then.”
“Wow,” Beth blew out a breath as she processed the information.
“Do you reckon he’s okay? At home, I mean,” Zoe clarified. “Now that he’s…you know.”
“Maybe. He said his parents are fine with it.”
“Oh, Clary and Andy are great,” Zoe said confidently. “It’s not them I’m worried about.”
“You’re worried about Chris.”
“I’m always worried about Chris.” She clenched her left fist, and picked at her knuckle. “He’s a loser.”
“Mm,” Beth hummed in agreement. “At least it’s just him, right? Against the three of them, he can’t do much.”
“Yeah,” Zoe mumbled distractedly, her arms cradling her little cousin’s head. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Anyway, never mind him,” Beth nudged her curiously. “How’s your dad’s girlfriend doing? Settling in well?”
“Who, Jade?” Zoe pulled a face. “She’s doing fine, I guess. The baby’s fine too. She doesn’t live with us or anything, but she spends a lot of time at our house.”
“How’d they meet?”
Zoe looked down at her in annoyance. “Seriously? I’ve already told you the story.”
“Oh, go on, mate,” Beth teased. “It’s so romantic.”
Zoe mentally deliberated the pros and cons of retelling the story, but at Beth’s imploring look, she relented and spoke rapidly, “They met back in February at the village square. They weren’t looking where they were going, and dad spilled his coffee all over her. He was mortified and tried to dry the stains with his tissues, but ended up making it worse.” She crossed her arms defensively when Beth started snickering. “It’s not funny!”
“No,” Beth coughed unconvincingly. “Course not.” She managed to maintain a poker-face for a good few seconds, before she erupted into a fit of giggles. Zoe rolled her eyes at her petulance.
“Sorry, sorry,” Beth managed through her giggles. “I just needed a laugh.”
“I hate you,” Zoe grumbled. She didn't, really. She was glad that she could lift the burden of Beth’s illness off her shoulders, if only for a little while.
“Mhm,” Beth leaned her head against Zoe’s shoulder, her smile slowly morphing back into a sullen frown. The humour had gone, and the reality of their situation had hit her all over again. “You’re okay, though? With her being around the house?”
“I guess. It’s not really my choice, is it?” Zoe asked. “Even still, I don’t care. She makes dad happy, and that’s enough for me.”
“Is he happy about the baby too?” Beth broached. “It’s not his, is it?”
“No,” Zoe said through gritted teeth, as if she were insulted by Beth’s insinuation. “It’s her ex’s. Some deadbeat or something, they never really said.”
Beth paused. “You’re sure?”
“Yeah?” she looked down at her friend strangely. “Why all the questions?”
Beth looked at Zoe through the corner of her eye. “Nothing.”
“The nameless orphan boy was a monstrous child. Bloodthirsty in the pursuit of knowledge, and uncaring towards those that surrounded him. There was once a beggar in the desert plains of his home, camped between two sand dunes. He had asked for money, practically begged for it, and the boy deemed him pathetic. He grabbed the scarf around the beggar’s neck, and squeezed the life out of him as punishment.”
A shiver travelled down Sarah Jane’s spine at the gruesome image.
“In your human terms, he could be considered sociopathic, but, oh, he was far more complicated than that.” The Phoenix chuckled as if he had graced Sarah Jane with an inside joke, and he looked at her with an amused twinkle in his eyes. “Are you a religious person, Miss Smith?”
Sarah Jane stared at him. There were so many questions that she wanted to ask him, mainly concerns about the safety of her friends, the nature of the entire story, and the nature of the role he played in the disappearance of those that had gone missing, but any questions she attempted to ask were dismissed. “No.”
“Oh?” he raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Why is that?”
“Well, you could say that a recent encounter has left me uninterested in religion,” Sarah Jane elaborated, casting her mind back to the painful memories of Melody and her situation with Madame Kovarian.
“But do you abide by a certain set of rules and beliefs?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Does that not make you religious?”
“No, it doesn’t,” Sarah Jane replied. “You seem to be under the impression that if somebody has firm beliefs, that makes them religious. They are not. Religion is a choice, not a rite-of-passage.”
Phoenix smiled at that, and slightly bowed his head, as if he approved. Clearly she had answered correctly.
“Very good,” he congratulated her. “The boy was not a religious person either, but he grew to have very strong beliefs. You see, he met people in his class. People who would grow to become very powerful, with their names ingrained into the fabric of history itself. They walked up to the boy in class one day, and introduced themselves as Rassilon and Peylix.”
“Why’d you do it, Beth?” Zoe murmured, her head resting against the great big machine hooked up to her cousin. It was cool to the touch, and thrummed gently, like a generator. “Why give up Mr Nibbles? You love that stupid rabbit.”
“I did,” Beth assured her. “I mean, I do,” she sighed and rested her head against Zoe’s shoulder. “I don’t know. I adopted him cos I loved him, and I wanted to take care of him. But taking care of a rabbit, Zoe, it’s loads of work. It’s a responsibility, and I can’t deal with that kind of responsibility right now.”
“Laurel being a pain?”
“Yeah, but she’s got a right to be.”
“I guess,” Zoe shrugged. Beth envied that about her sometimes — the way that her friend could be fine with not having an answer to something because she knew that everything would be okay. It must have been nice, to be filled with constant, unbridled optimism without the threat of crippling anxiety and depression. “I mean, if Finn bunked off from visiting our mum’s grave, I’d probably kill him.”
“Yeah, but it’s not just about dad. Well, it is, but,” Beth sighed, trying to suppress her self-directed irritation. When had it become so difficult for her to articulate how she was feeling? When had the tough, so-called chavvy girl get weighed down by her depression? She rubbed her forehead, and tried again. “Back when we were hooked up to that machine, I saw him.”
Zoe’s head shot up in surprise. “What?! But you said —”
“I know what I said!” Beth snapped. “But I didn’t want to say anything. It was my dad, a guy who I’ve basically only seen in pictures, and I had to stand there and watch him get run over.”
Zoe stared at her in bewilderment. “How come?”
“I had that stupid fight with Laurel before we got shoved into the dreams, didn’t I?” Beth muttered. “I was thinking about him at the time.”
“Yeah, obviously, but don’t you remember what the Doctor said?”
“Oh,” Zoe faltered.
“What did he say?” Beth turned to see her friend staring down at her little cousin in deep thought. She could practically see the cogs whirring in her head. “Zoe?”
“Back when we were in his freaky lab, he said that the machine clung to our memories.”
“But this weren’t a memory. It can’t have been.”
“‘Cos me mum said that I was at home with Laurel. This isn’t the first time I’ve had those dreams. Mum said it’s just cos I didn’t have my medication. The Doctor got it wrong.” Beth said dismissively.
“But the whole reason we had that conversation was because Dan didn’t see anything!” Zoe jerked a thumb towards their comatose friend, narrowed her eyes and scrutinised her. “You sure that it’s just a dream?”
Beth didn’t respond, opting to stare into her lap instead. She wasn’t sure anymore. “But I was with Laurel,” she said quietly, not finding the courage to muster a louder tone. “I — I remember being with Laurel.”
“Memories can be deceptive,” Zoe responded warningly. “Trust me. I have dreams of what life would be like if mum was still around.”
Beth scanned Zoe’s eyes searchingly, hoping that she would have the answers that she needed — the answers she craved — but she knew that her friend was as bewildered as she was by her current predicament. She could also see that Zoe was beginning to regret bringing up the topic at all, and she turned to the sealed doors with renewed vigour.
“We have to get out of here. Maybe we can use the tapestries or one of those potion things.”
Beth drowned out her voice, wrapped her hands around her knees and wallowed in her own confusion. The only thing that made sense to her in that moment was that she needed to talk to her mum as soon as she got home.
“Rassilon and Peylix were not like the other students. Their intellect rivalled his own, and that was key to their partnership, their…friendship. They were ambitious, and ruthlessly cunning. True tacticians. They stuck by the orphan’s side throughout his adolescent years, all one-hundred and fifty of them, their friendship never wavering. Even though the orphan boy was enraptured by his book, he was still the most intelligent in his class, perhaps even the entire academy. Whenever his two friends required assistance, he decreed that it was only natural that he help them hone their skills, and so he loaned his support when necessary.
On one such occasion, Peylix had requested help for an essay, and the boy had encouraged him to discuss the theory that had been generated between the three in a conversation during their younger years; this was the belief that the Gallifreyan’s power could be amplified if they blew up a star and harnessed that potential energy for time travel. The teacher had discredited and ridiculed Peylix for his hypothesis, and awarded him the lowest mark possible: Omega. In an act of defiance, he adopted the grade as his name and he started spreading wild rumours around the academy. One rumour was the claim that the fabled Sisterhood of Karn had cursed the Time Lords with infertility, and they could only use looms to reproduce from then onwards. But after the teenage rebellion, his ambition merely grew. But even still, the friendship between Omega and the orphan boy had been strained, and the moniker of “Phoenix” was spitefully forced onto him.
After completing their time at the academy, Rassilon and Omega went on to become famous intergalactic engineers, while Phoenix lived a quieter, less fulfilled life, fantasising about a better life and writing text books for the academy that he loathed. One day, he was approached by his former friends and assisted them in exploding the very star they had speculated over in their childhood, and harnessing the resultant energy for time travel. When they had detonated the star, Phoenix saw something, in the instant between life and death. Raw time energy that showed him a life better than the one he currently had. It showed him power, and fame, and fortune. Everything he never realised he wanted. The three contained the energy, and christened it the Untempered Schism.”
Zoe rooted through the different assortment of liquid vials and elixirs sloppily, shoving the bottles in a tangled heap as she continued her investigations. The liquid inside the elixirs weren’t especially interesting, to her disappointment. She plucked up a bottle and presented it to the sombre Beth, who was watching her with crossed arms and a reticent, almost meditative expression.
“It’s nothing,” she huffed. “Seriously nothing. This is all stuff you can find in the school’s Chemistry lab. Why would anybody use something as useless as this to take over the world?”
Beth was about to respond, when there was a loud bang. She jumped, and whipped her head towards the bulkhead: the source of the noise. Sharing a cautious look with Zoe and pushing her thoughts to one side, Beth edged slowly towards the prone Bloom, ready to protect her in case things went south.
“Zoe? Are you in there?”
The tension in the room subsided almost instantly once the girls registered the voice as Eric Smith. Zoe moved away from the potions table and ran up to the bulkhead door. “Uncle Eric?” she called out, running a hand along the bulkhead. “Yeah, I’m here. Beth and Bloom are too.”
“Bloom?” Eric asked hopefully. “Bloom’s here?”
“Yeah…what are you doing here?”
“I followed you, but then you guys split up and I couldn’t find you,” Eric explained. His voice trailed off, uncertain, and he said, “Then…then my phone started talking, well, yelling at me and told me to come here. Kept saying it was your Siri?”
Zoe rolled her eyes. “He does that, just ignore him.”
“’Him’? What are you talking about? Why is Bloom there?” he paused briefly. “What’s going on?”
Zoe nervously looked over at Dan, and then refocused on the bulkhead. “I’ll explain later, but we don’t have time right now. Can you get us out?”
“Yeah! There’s a lever here. Just give me a second.”
“Their experiment had been a success. Gallifreyan growth started to accelerate once they were exposed to the radiation. Their buildings were expanded into sprawling metropolises, and the arid deserts urbanised. The once-purple sky had been bleached a burnt orange, as if it was stuck with a perpetual sunset. The three were ready to go on and publicly announce that they were responsible for the new golden age for the Gallifreyans, when something changed.
Phoenix grew more distant and elusive. He had rooms built into the citadel with his authority, and drafted the idea of a new subcategory for their race: the Lords of Time. He would saunter down the streets of Arcadia, expecting people to bow to him, and tried to get those who refused executed. One day, he tried to announce that he was the sole progenitor for their evolution, but was duped by Rassilon and Omega into a containment cell. They had grown worried by his dictatorial nature, and deemed him ineffectual, sealing him away in a prototype time-locked prison after announcing that they would credit him in their research, but only as the “Other”.
And so Phoenix was shackled away by his comrades far, far away from his home, betrayed, never to be seen again. His outrage was unbridled, and not even the passage of time could quench his growing animosity towards his friends. Gallifrey was his, it was always destined to be his. It had been foreseen by the Untempered Schism, and he would kill those who tried to stop him from fulfilling his destiny, starting with Rassilon and Omega.
But then the time-lock had expired, and Phoenix found himself trapped on a planet similar to his own. That planet was Earth. It wasn’t until he discovered someone with the very same energy as the star wrapped around her located close to him, someone who seemed to be an expert in areas that the dimwits of her planet were not, and Phoenix knew that she could help him.
That woman was you, Miss Smith.”
“And that’s the story of the little orphan boy. My story,” Phoenix concluded. He laced his fingers together and stared intently at her. “So, Miss Smith, will you help me?”
“Help you?” Sarah Jane repeated. If she were to be honest, she had forgotten what the man required from her.
“To find my planet,” he prompted her eagerly. “If you could give me a location, anything to aid my search, I can let you go.”
“I can’t,” Sarah Jane responded bluntly, and a little coldly. She was playing the Phoenix at his own game.
The eagerness in his expression diminished, and was replaced by irritation. “Why not?”
“Gallifrey is gone, Phoenix,” she said, finally putting the man out of his oblivious misery. “It has been for a very long time now.”
And just like that, irritation was replaced by anger. “You’re lying.”
“I’m not,” she asserted. “I don’t know the specifics, but there was a war, of some sort, between your race and —”
“No,” Phoenix laughed bitterly. “No, no, no. This is just a ploy. You’re trying to gain control. That’s it.”
“No, it’s not like tha —”
“It won’t work, you know. You can’t fool me,” Phoenix interrupted abruptly, as his eyes lit up menacingly. “I should kill you for your treachery,” He rose from his chair and held out his palm, a sinister smile on his face, and a fiery orb materialised in the centre of his palm. “Actually, yes. I think I will.”
Sarah Jane stood up, and slowly took a step back every time Phoenix took a menacing step forward.
“I haven’t done anything,” she protested.
“I don’t care,” Phoenix whispered. He was seething now; his face was beet-red, the swirling fiery orb had increased in size, and there was a sharp decline in the room’s temperature. The lamp burned into ash after merely brushing the orb, sending ripples of fear down Sarah Jane’s spine.
Eric charged into the room as soon as the bulkhead doors slid open, making a beeline for his prone daughter. He collapsed on the ground beside her and cradled her head in his arms.
“Bloom,” he whispered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. He looked up at Zoe happily. “She’s okay. You’re all okay.”
“Yeah, mostly,” Zoe remarked, gesturing towards the cables attached to Bloom’s forehead. Eric stared at them for a moment, dumbfounded. In his excitement, he had completely miss the wiring. Her expression was constantly tranquil, but every now and again she would unnerve him with a whimper. Zoe kneeled beside him. “Do you think it’s safe to move her?”
“I — I dunno,” Eric confessed. “Don’t you?”
“No!” she spluttered. “I’m a kid, not a CSI!”
“Oh god, keep your melodrama out of this,” a voice complained, and the Smiths whipped their head around to see a surprised Beth holding her phone up, which was currently occupied by Sentinel.
“Sentinel?” Zoe called out.
“Yes, it’s me. The bulkhead doors were acting as a dampener, preventing me from reaching you sooner. Now, listen carefully, because we don’t have much time. The machine and the tank are connected to a small terminal further in the warehouse. I can disconnect it myself, but you need to get them out or they’ll be electrocuted. You need to be careful, though, the machines are still active and will kill them if you make a mistake.”
She cringed at the briefing. “Sounds easy enough. But how do we get them out without hurting them?”
Beth pondered on the question, and looked down at her phone. “Would the sonic work?”
“Yup. Sarah Jane has it. I can direct you to her.”
“Finally, we have a plan!” Zoe turned to her uncle. “You stay here with these two, Uncle Eric. We’ll be back.”
“But I still don’t know what’s going on,” he protested when the girls started to walk away.
Zoe gestured for Beth to go on ahead, and smiled at her uncle. “I know, I know, but I promise I’ll explain everything soon. But right now, we need you to look after them.”
Eric bit his lip anxiously, but he nodded understandingly.
“Great,” Zoe sighed in relief. “Glad we’re on the same page. Be back soon!”
With that, she turned and ran out of the room. Beth was waiting for her further down the corridor, wielding a red fire extinguisher.
Zoe skidded to a halt and raised a questioning eyebrow. “Gonna beat someone up?”
“Sentinel said we needed it,” Beth explained sheepishly. She handed the extinguisher to her friend, who shrugged at the answer, and the pair dashed through the corridor again.
“Phoenix, listen to me,” Sarah Jane said desperately, her back pressed against the wall. “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. It’s not my fault!”
“More lies.” The fiery orb illuminated Phoenix’s features as he slowly advanced. His ceremonial attire glowed in the firelight, as if it was reacting to the stray embers that brushed past. “They spew from your mouth so…easily.”
“I’m not lying, I promise! I’m sorry your planet’s gone, and I’m sorry your friends locked you away but —”
“Locked me away?” Phoenix laughed. “They did more than that. They betrayed me! They took what was rightfully mine away from me and they left me to rot in that miserable prison. I wanted death, and now I can have it.” He sneered at her. “With you.”
The orb grew in size until it was bigger than his palm, and four points protruded from different angles. It resembled a shuriken, or the points of a compass. Sarah Jane considered running, but she knew that he would strike her down in an instant. She looked around for a method of escape, but quickly realised that she was only prolonging the inevitable.
Just then, Zoe and Beth burst into the room carrying a fire extinguisher. “Sarah Jane!” they exclaimed.
“No!” Sarah Jane cried out in horror. “Get out, both of you!”
“More victims? The more the merrier!” Phoenix barked. His raised the orb and prepared to hurl it when Zoe pushed past her friends and unleashed the fire extinguisher. Frothy white liquid oozed onto the orb, but it merely melted away. Phoenix cackled. “Foolish girl! Did you really think that primitive device could stop me?”
“No, but this will!” Zoe lunged at the old man, and smacked him across the head with the butt of the fire extinguisher with all her strength. The Time Lord stumbled backwards from the blow, and the orb spun uncontrollably into the air, disintegrating a quarter of the roof completely. He had regained his composure when Zoe launched the extinguisher at his chest, and watched with contempt as he crashed onto the ground with a painful thud. “That’s for my cousin and my friend, moron.”
“Sarah Jane,” Beth whispered when Zoe was keeping Phoenix busy. “Dan’s trapped in this tank thing. We need the sonic lipstick to release him and Bloom.”
“Oh, thank goodness they’re alright,” Sarah Jane breathed. She grabbed the sonic from her pocket and handed it to Beth. “I’ll meet up with you. I’ve just got to deal with this.”
Beth nodded, and turned to her other friend. “Zoe?”
“I’ll stay here with Sarah Jane,” responded Zoe.
Beth nodded, and hurried out the door. Phoenix was still sat on the floor, his expression vacant. A trail of blood ran down the side of his face, but he didn’t seem to care.
“You miserable girl,” he finally said, and glowered at Zoe. “You have attacked royalty.”
Zoe shrugged. “I’ll attack anybody if they ask for it.”
He humphed in apathy, and directed his sanctimonious stare at Sarah Jane. “Gallifrey isn’t really gone, is it?”
Sarah Jane almost pitied him. He clearly wasn’t able to process the news properly. “It is. I’m sorry.”
“No.” Phoenix laughed lowly, rising to his feet. “No…” He wiped at the trail of blood and studied it. Then, he stared at Sarah Jane and Zoe. “I should kill you both.”
Sarah Jane pulled Zoe back and stepped in front of her like a shield. Whatever happened now, it had the potential to transpire in a manner that could result in their deaths.
“But I won’t. I don't have time for peasants. And I want you alive and functioning when I find my planet,” he spoke possessively, and it unsettled the girls. “I want to see the surprise on your face when you realise that your lies were for nothing.” He pointed a crooked finger at them. “Make no mistake, Sarah Jane, I am not letting you go. This isn’t the last you’ll see of me.”
Sarah Jane didn’t know how to respond. She could only watch as the Time Lord’s body became shrouded in flames, and he slowly crumbled into dust until there was nothing left. The flames dispersed through the hole in the roof, and his words still rung in her ears.
“Is he…?” Zoe asked cautiously.
“Dead? No.” Sarah Jane sighed. She wasn’t sure whether she would have preferred him dead. She could have told him about the Doctor at any point in their conversation — they were fellow Time Lords, after all — but she didn’t, mainly because the idea of someone as unhinged as Phoenix learning about the Doctor worried her. She didn’t know if withholding information like that was the right thing to do, but she didn’t wish to dwell on it. When she turned back, Zoe was staring at her analytically.
“He said Gallifrey,” she said slowly. “Is he…?”
“Yes, he was,” Sarah Jane sighed. Zoe didn’t press further, and she was grateful for that. “Come on, you. Let’s go get the others. We’re done here.”
“What if she doesn’t wake up?” Eric asked worriedly. They were stood outside Bloom’s room, watching as the sleeping girl was fussed over by her mother.
“She will,” Zoe assured him. “You heard Sentinel. Just give her a couple minutes to acclimatise or whatever.”
“But what if —”
“Bloom!” Valencia exclaimed loudly. Zoe and Eric looked to see the little girl was sat up on her bed with a bright smile, enjoying the attention of her fussy mother.
The tension in Eric’s shoulders dissipated, and he let out an audible sigh of relief. “She’s okay.”
Zoe nudged him happily. “Told you she would.”
“Yeah, you did.” Eric looked at her seriously. “We still have a lot to talk about.”
She nodded. It was true. There was no point in trying to avoid the topic altogether. “Yeah, we do. Not right now, though.”
“No,” Eric agreed, grinning joyously at Bloom. “Not right now.”
Beth grabbed her key from the lock and slammed the front door behind her as she stormed into the house. Chrystal Petite, who was basking in the comfort of her home on her day off, poked her head from around the door in mild annoyance and confusion.
“Everything alright, duck?” she asked in concern.
“Yeah, fine,” Beth grumbled, stomping into the living room and flopping down on the two-seater.
“Beth, take your shoes off!”
“In a minute.”
Chrystal folded her arms, unimpressed. “No, not ‘in a minute’, young lady. Now.”
“Fine,” Beth spat. She tugged her trainers off and tossed them across the room. One of her trainers flew straight into a family picture and knocked it off the mantle.
“Beth!” Chrystal cried out in distress.
Beth ignored her and hauled herself off the settee, making a beeline for the old toy crate that they kept beside the telly. She flipped the lid open and started rummaging through it.
“What are you doing now?” her mother demanded. “Beth, look at me!”
“When dad died, he was out getting me a toy, right?”
“What’s this about, love —”
“An Omnitrix, of all things,” Beth paused briefly to laugh bitterly at the thought. “God, I had rubbish taste. But,” she resumed her search. “Everybody at school had it, so I wanted it too. At least, that’s what you told me.” She found what she was looking for and, with a slightly manic laugh, pulled it out and showed her mother. In her hands was a slightly battered toy replica of the Omnitrix, an oversized black watch with a green centrepiece. “Except I forgot one thing: the school wasn’t the reason I wanted this. It was because of Laurel. She already had one, and I wanted one too. But you said no, because you hate having two of the same thing.”
“Oh, lightning,” Chrystal whispered in surprise. Probably because she had never expected Beth to figure out the truth. “Look, just give it here,” She moved over to snatch it, but Beth jumped backwards and waved the toy in the air mockingly.
“What’s up, Mum? Scared I’ve gotten too close to the truth?”
“What truth? This is absurd —”
“Is it?” Beth challenged. “Is it seriously that absurd, mum? ‘Cos I don’t think it is.” She shook her head and chuckled self-deprecatingly. “I can’t believe I was so stupid. We never throw out our old toys. The evidence was right there. Technically, you didn’t lie, which probably helped. I was playing with Laurel that day, but it wasn’t at the time dad died, because I was with him when that happened, wasn’t I?”
“Beth…” Chrystal said, almost pleadingly. “Please. Let’s not go into this.”
Beth persisted regardless. “I wasn’t making it up. It wasn’t just a chemical imbalance in my brain or whatever; it actually happened. I watched my dad get run over.”
“Can’t you see why I did that? Imagine what a burden that would have —”
“That’s not what I’m angry about!” Beth interrupted, clutching at her hair. “I thought you wanted to help me!”
“Stop lying!” she screamed, and hurled the toy watch in the general direction of her mother. It missed, and crashed against the wall instead. Tears spilled down her face, but she didn’t care. “Don’t you dare talk about how you wanted to help me with my condition — no, not even that, my illness — after blatantly lying to me for years, telling me that my brain was…was messed up and making things up and I needed to be treated for it. I just wanted to be normal, and you exploited that! Maybe you’re the reason I’m bipolar!”
“No, sweetheart, it’s doesn’t work like that.”
“Well, maybe it should!” Beth hissed. “Maybe it bloody well should so I can blame you even more. Come on then, why was he out that day? It wasn’t just for another Omnitrix, he was scared about being late to something. What was it, hm?”
Chrystal put her hands on her hips and looked down at the ground, her expression crumpled, defeated. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She sounded like she was holding back tears.
Beth laughed breathlessly at her audacity. Even after she had found out part of the truth, her mother continued to hide things from her. “Fine, be that way.” Angrily wiping her tears away, she pushed past the defeated Chrystal, left the living room and stomped up the stairs, completely ignoring Laurel as she cheerfully walked into the house with two bags of clothing.
“So that’s what you do?” Eric asked. He had left Bloom with her mother and joined Zoe on her way next door. “Fight nutty people like...what was it again?”
“Phoenix, apparently. And others like him, yeah. It’s not always as easy as it was today, though,” Zoe shrugged casually. Eric stared at her in puzzlement. How could she be so calm about this dangerous lifestyle?
“And…I already knew about this? But I forgot?”
“Wanted to forget, yeah!” she responded brightly. “Don’t ask why, cos I dunno.”
Eric looked at her skeptically. He might not have all recollection of the incident she had described, but given the crisis that had just passed, he most likely had a problem with the nature of her escapades. He blew out a drawn out breath as his mind attempted to adjust to the idea, and he wrapped an arm around Zoe, to assure himself that she was safe and well.
“Oi!” Zoe whined, squirming in his grip. Eric chuckled, and released her. She was definitely okay. “Blimey, if you’re like this, I’d hate to see what dad would be like.”
He faltered at that. “You mean he doesn’t know?”
Zoe winced, and suddenly started to regret her off-hand comment. “Nope. Neither does Finn.” She looked up and stared at him. “You can’t tell them.”
Eric laughed incredulously. “Why not? They have a right to know.”
“Yeah, they do, but you can’t tell them.”
Eric strode forward and blocked her path, placing both hands on her shoulders. He wasn’t sure she understood the severe consequences of her actions. “Zoe, what you do, it’s good and all but it’s also really —”
“Dangerous?” she finished grumpily, and swatted his hands away. “Trust me, I know. Don’t need to patronise me.”
“No, that’s not what I —”
“Look,” Zoe interrupted flatly. “I get you’re concerned and all. You’re my uncle, of course you’d be freaking out, but I do this for a reason.”
“And what reason is that?”
They had reached the front door of Zoe’s house now. Zoe stuck her home key into the lock and twisted it. Eric stood back and watched her curiously. He knew trying to intimidate her would be a fruitless attempt, so he would have to adopt an inquisitive approach. That way, if she tried to accuse him of being nosy, he could throw that fact back in her face and she would be forced to answer him. He smiled petulantly. It was foolproof.
“And what reason is that?”
“I’ll tell you later. Promise.” She pushed the door open and loudly announced her arrival. They ambled into the kitchen to find Gavin, Jade and Finn all gathered around the table, surrounded by streamers and bunting, looking very grim. Zoe looked at each of them curiously. “The hell happened here?”
“Tell her,” Finn ordered. He had his foot up on his chair, and his arms were crossed. For a boy a few hours away from celebrating his goodbye party, he looked very grumpy.
“Tell me what?” Zoe asked in confusion.
Gavin and Jade looked each other, looking very conflicted.
“Helloooo,” Zoe drawled, waving her hands dramatically. “Standing right here. What’s up with you guys?”
“Er, well…” Gavin started, his mouth flapping almost comically. Everyone stared at him expectantly, but he seemed to shy away into an internal shell.
Jade sighed at his hopelessness and turned to Zoe herself. “So,” she coughed awkwardly, trying to find a way to formulate the words. “You know how I went in for a pregnancy scan today with Doctor Petite?”
“Yeah, how’d that go anyway? It must have been pretty good to get Chrystal into the hospital on her day off,” Zoe interrupted speculatively.
“Yeah, it went well. It’s a girl.”
“Cheers. But,” Jade sighed in frustration. “God. We got talking after the scan and I decided..." She paused and grabbed hold of the hand Gavin offered her, squeezing it for comfort and motivation to push forwards. “We decided that you both should know. We’ve already told Finn, so that leaves you.”
“I should know what,” Zoe said flatly. She didn’t phrase it like a question because, in the pit of her stomach, she already knew what the answer would be. Even Beth had known the answer, humiliatingly enough. Her mind screamed internally, begging to be woken up from what was clearly a nightmare. She didn’t need this. She didn’t want this, another complication in her already complicated life.
“Well, this girl. She’s ours, Zoe,” Gavin said, almost earnestly. He seemed to have regained his voice now that Jade had done most of the heavy lifting. “She’s your new baby sister.”
Zoe stared at him blankly, and slightly swayed side-to-side as she processed the news. Well, it wasn’t really news if she had her suspicions, but she had never wanted them to be voiced. She didn’t know if her father just expected her to be happy and excited for him, because she couldn’t be. She just couldn’t.
“Well?” Gavin broached cautiously, trying to gauge her emotions from her blank expression.
“I’ll get started on the bunting,” Zoe said instead, almost crashing into the remarkably silent Eric in her haste to get out of the room. Judging from his facial expression, he had known all along, which meant that she was probably the last to know. Great, she thought to herself bitterly as she pushed past him. Just great.
“Are you sure everything’s okay?”
“Yeah, mum, everything’s fine,” Dan assured her. He was sat in the park, quietly rocking back and forth aimlessly on the swing with his phone pressed to his ear. “I’m just on my way to Finn and Mister Nibbles’ goodbye party, that’s all.”
Clarissa Orange did not sound convinced.“Well, okay. I’m sorry we couldn’t be there. I know you start school again soon.”
“Seriously, it’s fine,” Dan smiled, even though he knew she couldn’t see it. “You and dad are doing good things. Where are you now?”
“India. We’re lending our support to those who want another Women’s Cricket World Cup in the country. Ah,” she huffed audibly. “I might have to go. A man’s kicking up a fuss about the game being woman-exclusive.”
“Gonna insult him?” Dan asked teasingly.
"Of course,” Clarissa replied breezily. “That’s not a problem, aye?”
“I’m a feminist, mum, so keep insulting boys.”
“Oi, don’t even joke,” Clarissa warned. “We just want both sides to be on equal ground.”
“It’s okay. Tell you what, I’ll insult this guy, just for you.” They laughed at that, before the background noise over the phone gradually grew louder. “Right! Time to go, properly this time. Your dad looks like he’s about to punch the idiot. Talk to you soon, sweetheart. Enjoy the party, and don’t stay out too late!”
“I won’t,” Dan rolled his eyes at her nagging. “Love you, mum.”
“Love you!” Clarissa quickly responded before hanging up. Dan pocketed his phone and looked out at the park forlornly. Truth be told, he wasn’t comfortable going home just yet. It wasn’t because Chris maintained his cheering and jeering routine — that was mostly behind them — but ever since he had come out, there had been a tension in the house, and he wasn’t especially comfortable with it. He was pathetic, running away from his problems instead of tackling them the way Zoe or Beth would. The way he never could.
Shaking his head to rid himself of the self-loathing thoughts, Dan inspected his legs. The liquid concoction in the tank had been harmless, according to Sentinel, but the machinery that kept him comatose had frazzled his senses a little; it had made him susceptible to bouts of spasmodic twitching, but nothing too drastic that wouldn’t repair itself overtime or warrant too much concern. He pushed himself off the swing, and took a tentative step forward. As if the universe was playing a sick prank on him, Dan’s feet jerked violently, and unwillingly dragged him halfway across the park as if they were sentient. Sentinel had not mentioned something like this could happen.
“Stop!” he squeaked. Oh, right, Dan, you genius. Talk to your legs as if they’re a dog, that’ll work, he thought bitterly. His chaotic thoughts provided no comfort as he continued to be at the mercy of his limbs. Suddenly, his feet skidded to a halt and he crashed straight into a leather-clad figure before he could react.
“Whoa!” the figure cried out, grabbing Dan’s arms to steady him. The Scottish boy sighed in relief. The torment was over. He looked up to thank the person, but his breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened as he just stared.
Staring back at him was a taller boy that roughly looked a similar age. Dan couldn’t pin down his ethnicity; he looked Native American, maybe even Ecuadorian? He looked like an Ecuadorian kid in his year, but maybe that was a massive generalisation. He had a mop of brown hair, was dressed in a white t-shirt and a leather jacket, and had an orange bag slung across his shoulders, with a basketball poking out.
“Uh…” Dan trailed off. “Hi.”
“Sup,” the boy replied with an easy grin. “You okay?”
“Huh? Oh,” Dan blinked. He couldn’t explain why, but he felt slightly disoriented, and there was a flutter in his stomach he had never experienced before. “Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“No probs.” The grin was still etched on his face. Dan wished it wasn’t, because then he might have been able to concentrate on something else, and not look like a complete loser. “What’s up? Do I have something on my face?”
Oh god, he had caught Dan staring. “No!” he responded hastily. “You’ve just got nice…sleep dust.”
The boy frowned at that, and rubbed at his eye self-consciously. “All better?”
“Uh-huh,” he responded unintelligibly, his eyes fixed on the brown eyes staring back at him imploringly. “You look great…er now.”
“Cheers,” the boy grinned again.
“No probs,” Dan said, hoping he sounded suave. He was such a creep. He needed to extricate himself from the situation asap. “Well, I gotta go now. I need to… do stuff.”
“Oh, sure.” The boy stepped out of the way, and gestured towards the park exit. “Don’t let me stop you.”
“Thanks,” Dan tacked on a smile and hurriedly made his way towards the exit. He had managed to make it halfway, when the boy called out after him.
“It’s Felix, by the way.”
Dan looked back at him, puzzled. “What?”
“My name,” he clarified. “I’m Felix. Felix Harper.”
Dan smiled shyly. “I’m Dan. Orange. Well, Daniel, but my friends call me Dan.”
“Can I…” Felix started tentatively. “Can I call you Dan?”
Dan considered the question for a second, and nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
“Cool!” Felix beamed. “Anyways, I won’t keep you from your stuff. I’ll see you around?”
Dan studied him. His tone was hopeful, and he looked like he genuinely wanted to spend more time with him, whatever that entailed. Maybe he was getting ahead of himself — after all, the guy was a complete stranger who could be another tentacle alien ready to strangle him — but he just wanted to act on his impulses for once. “Sure,” Dan confirmed. “I’ll see you around.”
“See you around, Dan.”
Dan waved and walked away, a small smile tugging at his lips. Maybe the universe wasn’t trying to be cruel after all.
Zoe rifled through the box of paper chains and bunting, insulting the design and colour scheme passive-aggressively in her head to relieve some of her anger. She was so consumed by her struggle to remain calm that she didn’t hear Finn come in until there was a cup of Fanta by her side.
“I come in peace,” he said in an exaggerated deep voice. Zoe rolled her eyes, but remained silent, keeping her eyes fixed on the box. A few seconds later, Finn sighed, and slouched onto the sofa, pulling the hood of his maroon sweatshirt over his hair and crossing his arms lazily. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she said hastily. Finn didn’t say anything, but Zoe could feel his eyes relentlessly boring into the back of her skull. Eventually, she sighed and flopped onto the couch beside him. “No,” she admitted.
“Really?” Finn hummed sarcastically.
“Shut up.” Zoe half-heartedly swatted his arm, her expression downcast.
“Go on, then.” He nudged her with his elbow with a grin. “What’s up?”
“You know what.”
Finn’s expression softened. “Yeah.”
Zoe tilted her head to look up at the ceiling. “Just… why? Why didn’t he tell us?”
He shrugged noncommittally. “Dunno. Maybe he wasn’t ready or something.”
“To tell us he got his girlfriend pregnant?” she asked incredulously.
“To tell us we’re gonna have a baby sister,” he corrected her.
“She’s not our sister,” Zoe insisted.
“She kind of is.”
“Still. He could have told us,” Zoe muttered. Finn noticed the abrupt change in conversation, but didn’t comment. His sister was brash and impulsive, but she could be coaxed into the right direction, if she was given time to think and calm down.
They both lapsed into a contemplative silence, merely staring at the ceiling. They stayed like that for a while. Eventually, their solitary peace was broken when a blur of white leaped onto Finn’s lap and made him scream in undignified surprise.
Zoe looked down, her eyes wide. Mr Nibbles stared back innocently. She then looked up at Finn and burst out laughing.
“Shut up,” Finn grumbled sourly.
“You’re so stupid.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. You got scared by a rabbit.”
“I didn’t. You’re just stupid.”
Zoe rolled her eyes. “You’re such a five year old.”
“That means you’re five as well,” Finn pointed out. “Stupid.”
Zoe scowled. “Okay, watch when you don’t get any Christmas presents.”
“No!” Finn said hastily. “I take it back!”
Finn whined petulantly, sinking further down the sofa and accidentally burying his face in Mr Nibbles’ fur. He recoiled, and spat out the fur that stuck to his tongue, a disgusted expression on his face.
Zoe smiled softly at the overly-dramatic display. Finn had literally been by her side since birth. He’d stuck with her through thick-and-thin. They’d endured every high and low together. It was daunting to lose his company on a regular basis — the house would certainly be quieter without his loud music — but she knew, deep down, that things would be okay.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” she mused.
“Something Miss Janine said once.”
Finn looked at her strangely, then at Mr Nibbles, a conspiratory expression on his face. “She’s lost it.”
Zoe kicked his arm. "I'm not even gonna miss you."
Finn smirked at her. "I'm not gonna miss you, either."
“You’re not getting any birthday presents.”
The smile faded from his face. “Noooo!”
Sarah Jane sipped her glass of wine tentatively as she allowed her gaze to wander. Il Tartufo had seen better days. The classical music that had once wafted down from the speakers and serenaded her with their harmonic tunes had disappeared. The owner had informed her that this was due to a fault in the system and they were looking to get it fixed. What was once a bustling restaurant filled to the brim with customers desperate for the risotto was now struggling to keep afloat in a changing climate. The wine-red wallpaper was crumbling slightly, and the waiters only had a handful of disparate customers to serve, Sarah Jane included.
She sighed, and looked up at the great ornate chandelier with a small smile. “Well, Harry, here we are again. Another year gone by, but here I am, still stuck in this same routine.” She took a sip of her drink. “I still think about you, you know. I have a picture of you in my living room that I look at every single day,” she chuckled as a thought popped into her head. “Dan finds you rather dashing, would you believe it. Oh, they would have adored you. You were always very good with kids, even if you were a pain in the backside from time-to-time, but we’re not here for that. We’re here for you.” She raised her glass slightly. “Here’s to you, Harry Sullivan.”
She took another sip, and sighed forlornly. It hurt to not have her friend with her, but she had lost so many over the years that she was starting to believe that she was getting better at saying goodbye. A shadow fell over her table, and a necklace was slipped around her neck. Sarah Jane looked down at it in alarm. It was quite beautiful, a gleaming sapphire jewel connected to a golden chain, but it was an unexpected moment.
“I hope you don’t mind.” It was a man, his smooth, baritone voice weary from age. “But I thought it would be rude if I hadn’t brought you a gift.”
The man side-stepped so that he was facing her. The face was worn with age — craggy lines ran along it like a complex pattern, and his hair was a thin mass of grey curls, but his eyes were instantly recognisable - they still had that rough -around-the-edges gleam - and she couldn’t help the small smile that spread across her face.
“May I sit?” he asked, gesturing towards the chair opposite her.
She smiled. “Of course.” She watched as he slowly sat down, and, when he smiled at her with that enigmatic twinkle in his eyes, realised just how much she had missed him.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“Yes,” Sarah Jane responded, her eyes scanning the pendant admiringly. “It’s beautiful. What’s it for?”
“Does there have to be a reason?”
“With you, there always is,” she said firmly. The pair laughed at that, not because it was funny, but because it was true.
Their laughter dissolved into light chuckles, and he said, “Keep it. I do believe you’ll find it terribly useful one day.”
“Alright then, I will,” Sarah Jane looked at him curiously. “Why are you here?”
“Well, I happened to be in the neighbourhood, when I saw you sitting here alone through the window,” he took the spare glass and filled it with water from the jug, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “We couldn’t have that, could we?”
“Hmm.” She leaned forward and folded her arms on the table speculatively. “That’s not necessarily true, is it?”
“Who knows?” he mused playfully and Sarah Jane leaned back again, realising she wasn’t going to get a straight answer from him.
“Okay, let’s try this,” she said, adopting a different approach. “Why are you here on Earth? Is there an invasion?”
“An invasion?” he spluttered incredulously. “Heavens, there’s always an invasion! No, no. Shush. I’m not here because of that. I’m retired, would you believe it?”
“Retired?” Sarah Jane laughed at the thought. “You? You never retire!”
“Ah, but I have. I’m a curator now. It’s all terribly exciting.”
“Yes, it is,” Sarah Jane agreed, and took another sip of her drink. Her curiosity eventually got the better of her. “Retired? Really?”
“Well, I might be, or I might be lying to you. There are two sides to every story; it’s entirely up to you to decide which version you believe.”
“I see you still love a good mystery,” she noted.
He grinned at her. “Always.”
“I’m not sure I want to retire,” Sarah Jane confessed.
“I’m not sure you want to, either. I don't believe you will.”
“Life is short. You should spend it doing things you love,” he replied cryptically. “You know,” he leaned forward until his nose brushed against the water jug. “I don’t believe we’ve properly said hello.”
“No, I don’t suppose we did. Then again, that’s us all over, isn’t it?”
“Isn’t it just?” He outstretched his hand. “Hello, Sarah.”
She shook his hand lightly with a smile. “Hello,” she paused, and decided on what to call him. He wasn’t quite the Doctor, but he wasn’t quite the Curator to her either. She mulled for a few seconds. What could describe her relationship with the man in front of her? That was when the answer hit her. Of course, it was so simple. She smiled at him again, and said, “My old friend.”
And that was the story of my arrival on Earth. Miss Smith insists that my planet is gone, but I refuse to believe it. It can’t be gone. Not before I am able claim my birthright and destroy the traitors I once considered to be my friends.
As I entered the solar system and laid eyes on the Earth’s sun, a great big fiery star, I knew who I was. I was no longer Phoenix, the little orphan boy with no name.
I was the Phoenix; the definitive article, and one day, I would return to Earth, and I would make Sarah Jane Smith pay for her treason.