Sarah Jane Smith didn’t die on Earth in any of the invasions, or the wars, or even that time when the oceans turned to oobleck. They lost a lot of wildlife that day.
Sarah Jane hitched a ride off-planet with Luke. He’d found a way at last, and was ready to return to his stars.
Mr. Smith was donated to Torchwood III, with their caveat that the music be muted permanently. Mr. Smith was less than pleased by this, but opted to comply rather than find out if Jack really could send him to Silicon Hell.
Sarah Jane found a nice quiet planet, where nobody had ever heard of Time Lords or Daleks, and they valued stories as much as currency. She soon found herself the wealthiest woman in the village.
Luke found someone on his travels, and before she knew it, her little house was filled with grandchildren.
Some became journalists like her, storytellers, truth-tellers.
Some became space travelers.
Some had children of their own and sent those children out into the universe.
But Sarah’s favorite was the youngest, a tow-headed little boy named John. She’d been blindsided when Luke brought her to the incubator. He’d come early, his frantic heart working too fast, and they’d nearly lost him twice in the first week.
Sarah didn’t see the tubes and bandages poking out of him. She was lost in his big blue eyes. So much stubbornness in such a new soul.
“What do you think?” Luke asked.
“I think he’s going to be just fine,” Sarah said.
Of course he wasn’t, not right away, but when his siblings were out playing sports or taking field trips, he’d follow her around in the garden, dragging his little wagon behind him. She called him her little helper, and hoped that he was there because he wanted to be, and not because he was still too fragile to join his siblings.
One day he surprised her by reciting the Latin names of every plant in the herb patch. After that, Sarah didn’t worry anymore.
He’d heard her stories of course, and he knew there was a metal dog in her room. It didn’t work very well, but he saved up his allowance and ordered some parts from an off-world catalog.
The years passed by, and Sarah Jane grew older. Even on this planet, time marched on. Now she sat inside by the window, watching John as he moved around the garden, a protesting K9 in tow.
“You’re going to break him if you’re not careful, and I’ll never get another one,” Sarah said. “He’s just not made for dirt.”
John thought about this, and placed another order.
Now Sarah Jane couldn’t stop laughing when she saw K9 rumbling up and down the paths on his balloon wheels, but she had to admit, it did work. And K9 wasn’t complaining about his shock absorbers either. Not when he could complain to his new master about the pronunciation of plant names.
John eventually learned everything K9 knew, and it still wasn’t enough. He started collecting seeds from banks all over the galaxy and made the garden even bigger. Now there were plants from extinct planets, heirlooms from millennia ago, sacred plants from walled monastic gardens, and he left his fragility behind in the dirt.
The plants spoke to him, told him what they were for, and he listened. Soon bottles and trays of leaves, roots, tinctures and powders filled the shed, his room, the kitchen, every available space. K9 proved invaluable at analysing the concoctions to make sure they weren’t poisonous.
It started with tea, of course, as he had been raised with the notion that tea was essential. The wriggling blood-red root was an absolute nightmare to harvest, but once boiled, it produced compounds that could rival any painkiller on the market. Plus, it tasted like sweet oranges. It was his science fair project, and he took the first prize.
It ends with tea, too, when the day comes that Sarah Jane can no longer get out of bed. She’s in her 130s now, and this is twice what she’d expected, so she’s happy. All her other relatives had died in their 60s from things like cancer and emphysema so she’s happy that, at least once, the curse was broken.
But still, a century-plus is more than a body like hers was ever made for, and the last day arrives with the smell of petrichor and honeysuckle wafting in through the windows, her cup of Darjeeling by her side, unfinished, as John strokes her hair.
K9 droops. “Goodbye, Mistress.”
Now John is at university, a good one too – the same one K9’s original master trained at, and he finds himself a fully qualified physician in just a few years. He doesn’t forget his garden, though. Even more new plants follow him home from school, more new medicines follow him back to the classroom.
After graduation, he buys a shop. The walls are lined with bottles and jars, salves and powders. Every week, shuttles arrive from other worlds, full of patients of all species and races. Some of them are sickened by disease, others by side effects of the medicines they got elsewhere, and every one of them leaves feeling better than when they came in.
Today’s a slow day in the shop, so he and K9 play chess. K9 always wins.
He wonders if it was the same for K9’s old master, the one Sarah called her best friend.
“Well, when you consider that he’s got every possible move programmed in, it’s not really a fair fight, is it?” a voice says.
John looks up. There, peering over the counter, is a tall man, rake-thin, with wild silver curls and a manic grin. K9’s antennae twirl urgently.
“Can I help you?” John asks.
“I’m here to see the doctor,” the thin man says.
“Yes, of course! I’m forgetting my manners. Sorry. Doctor John Smith,” John says, holding out his hand, and they shake.
The thin man raises an eyebrow. “That’s usually my line.”
And suddenly John understands why his dog is so distressed.
“It’s you,” he says.
“Yes. Me. Unless you think I’m someone else, in which case-”
“No, I know who you are,” John says. “My grandmother told me all about you. It’s nice to finally meet you, Doctor.”
The Doctor peers at John for a long moment, then scowls.
“I don’t suppose your, ah, grandmother-”
John shakes his head. “19 years now.”
“Right,” the Doctor says, then abruptly wraps John in a tight hug. “I think you should know I’m not a hugger.”
“No, of course not,” John says into a mouthful of woolen lapel.
“Thank you for looking after my Sarah Jane.”