“Hold on, hold on. ‘Bannerman Road?’ You’ve just taken us to contemporary Earth, haven’t you? Contemporary for me, I mean.” Clara squinted. “Are we just in Ealing? You promised me an adventure.”
The Doctor’s glance back at her was perfunctory at best. “The adventure’s been delayed. I need to check in on a friend. Her robot dog is on the blink. You can wait in the TARDIS if you want, or…” He waved a hand, vaguely. “Find a shop to loiter in.”
Clara scowled. “No, I’m coming. You never take me to meet your friends.”
“You’ve met Missy.”
“You never take me to meet the friends that don’t try to trick you into killing me. You do have friends like that, right? It’s not just a long string of murderous sociopaths throughout time and space?”
The Doctor paused a little too long. “I’m fairly confident it isn’t.”
Sarah Jane Smith seemed reassuringly ordinary, a woman of ambiguous maturity (Clara was pretty sure she was older than she looked, which might mean anything from decades to millennia, knowing the Doctor), living in a house in greater London with her daughter who, as Sarah Jane proudly informed them both, was called Sky. Sky looked about sixteen but Clara would come to have the impression, from the way Sarah Jane and Sky both danced around the issue, that this was not her chronological age.
“Doctor!” Sarah Jane called out as soon as she saw them. She put her hands on her hips in a maternal sort of way. “And how many faces has this been in the last five years alone? It’s the third I’ve seen. You need to be taking better care of yourself. I like this one, though; it’s like the one you had when we met. And who’s this?”
“Clara Oswald,” said Clara. She put out a hand.
“Clara. That’s a lovely name. How did you meet the Doctor?”
“She was in a Dalek,” said the Doctor.
“That’s not how we met,” said Clara. “That was just last week.”
“I didn’t mean this you, I meant Dalek you. Wait. Did I even tell you that story?”
“No,” said Clara. “No, you did not. You’ve been frustratingly vague about how many versions of me you met before you met the real me. I know about the Victorian one, and the one who fought in the Russian revolution, and the crime lord in a decaying city full of masked vigilantes, and the one who lived in a Remote colony in the far future, and I know about the one who married your friend Charlotte Pollard, but you did not tell me about a version of myself who was a Dalek.”
“Mm. Boring story, really. Amy and Rory divorced for no reason and reunited ten minutes later. I don’t understand your human relationships.”
Sarah Jane nodded politely. Clara gave her a helpless shrug. “I don’t know who he’s talking about either.”
Sarah Jane gave them both a fond smile. “That’s the Doctor, for you, always name-dropping historic figures, obscure figures from Venusian culture, and what not. I’ve learned to filter out at least half of what he says.”
Sky looked up from her phone. “I think he means the writer, Amelia Williams. Her husband was called Rory.” She went back to playing her mobile game.
Clara stared at the Doctor. “You did not tell me you knew Amelia Williams. You know I love Amelia Williams. Why did you not tell me you knew Amelia Williams? Wait, I met her as a Dalek? Oh, God, I’m getting second-hand embarrassment because I met Amelia Williams as a Dalek. Is it second-hand embarrassment when she’s an echo of you? I didn’t try to exterminate her, did I? Can you take me to meet Amelia Williams?”
The Doctor looked uncomfortable. Sarah Jane interpreted his look and intervened. “Sometimes it’s best not to, love.”
Clara looked crestfallen, but changed the subject. “How did you meet the Doctor?”
Sarah Jane laughed. “I stowed away in the TARDIS. I was pretending to be my aunt. We got along famously, but being hypnotized every week got old. He dropped me off in Aberdeen, of all places, and I didn’t see him again for twenty years.”
Clara sighed. “I assume you weren’t living in Aberdeen?”
“I wasn’t even living in that decade. I was from 1980, and he dropped me off in 1976. It was… something of a head start for my career, I suppose, or it would have been if it weren’t for all of the witch cults getting in the way. I saw the Doctor next in 1996, when he left his friend Sam Jones at my flat to live with me for a year.”
Clara gave the Doctor an appalled glare.
“You were never from 1980,” said the Doctor.
“I think I know what year I was from,” said Sarah Jane. “I’m sure I told you several times.”
“I met you in the UNIT years. That was the 1970s.”
“It was the 1980s. Some of us keep track of what decade they live in.”
“How could it have been the 1980s? The Brigadier retired in 1976.”
Sarah Jane opened and shut her mouth, silently. “I guess… he did? Oh, Doctor, I know this is your fault, somehow.”
Clara nodded. “This is clearly your fault.”
“It wasn’t me. It was Borusa’s time scoop. It’s a violent, primitive form of time travel dating back to the Dark Times. The Time Lords put history back together badly afterwards. I blame Narvin.”
“Oh, you would blame someone else,” said Sarah Jane. “The Time Lords didn’t make you drop me off in Aberdeen.”
“They did, actually. They summoned me; I couldn’t bring you with me to Gallifrey, then. It was a xenophobic time, just before Greyjan the Sane’s administration. They would have erased your memory, all of our time together. I’ve… seen it happen before.”
“I didn’t need you to bring me to Gallifrey, Doctor. I didn’t need you to leave me in Scotland, either.”
The Doctor blinked. “Aberdeen’s in Scotland?”
“I keep telling you that Aberdeen’s in Scotland!”
Clara looked at the Doctor. “How can you not know Aberdeen’s in Scotland?”
“I’m not actually Scottish, you know.”
“I know that. Of course I know that. But you said you went to university in Scotland.”
“In Edinburgh. I studied medicine under Joseph Lister. Is that near Aberdeen?”
Clara sighed. “Not really. Look, this conversation is going downhill and I’m going to make you a notecard, okay?”
The Doctor gave her a long-suffering look. “Fine.”
Clara pulled a neat white rectangle from her bag and penned ‘IT WAS MY FAULT, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU DIDN’T LIVE IN ABERDEEN.’ “I’m just going to show this to you whenever we meet with Sarah Jane in the future, okay?”
Sarah Jane looked delighted. “We’ll have tea sometime. I’ll introduce you to Sam, and Jo, and Liz, and Luke, and Rani, and Clyde.”
Clara grinned. “Sounds like a date.”