Summary: Sarah finds an old notebook she had when she traveled with the Doctor.
Fandom: Doctor Who
Character(s): Sarah Jane Smith
Original story: Lost Art by eponymous_rose
Notes: Set after Sarah's last appearance in the classic series, but before SJA. Thanks to dragonessa24 for the beta.
Lost Art (The Written Records Remix)
In fact, the truth is much more grim than even the accusations levelled against Dr. Rowe by her coworkers. While the claims of Mr.
Sarah stopped typing and consulted her notes on the case for the correct spelling of "Baumgaertner". She found it, finished typing her sentence, and stopped again, staring first at the name on her screen and then at her notes. The name had been distracting her every time she saw it. It was familiar. She was sure she'd written something to do with this person before.
And now she was staring into space instead of writing this article. Again. Well, she thought, she wasn't going to get much done like this. Saving and closing her work (and reflecting as she did so on how much she missed typewriters), Sarah got up from the computer.
There was a small closet at the end of a hallway where Sarah kept her old notebooks, journals, and photographs. It had a simple but substantial lock, which she opened. (Not that she advertised the fact, but there were an awful lot of government secrets in here from her days working with UNIT.) Choosing a journal at random and blowing off most of the dust, she started reading.
May 23rd - We've arrived at the swamp. Mr. Fellows is looking for signs of damage that will let us know we're looking in the right place.
She stopped after reading the first couple of sentences. No good. That was about that big ecology story a couple years back, where it had turned out that the invasive species causing all the trouble had actually been alien pests, dumped on Earth rather than killed at the insistence of the planet Nrourd's largest animal rights group. Sarah was pretty sure what she was looking for was unrelated.
She placed that journal back on top of the stack it came from. Behind it, she saw the spiral spine of a small, blue, pocket-sized notebook, so she reached back and took it out next. She knocked over a couple more notebooks when she pulled that one out from the back of the shelf, and they fell to her feet with a loud noise, the sound of the pages hitting the floor and probably crumpling and folding messily as they did.
Freeing her hands by placing the small notebook in her jacket pocket, she knelt down to pick up the ones that she'd knocked over. Only one had a bent page from falling open, which she straightened out and then read.
after this tragedy." I asked if that meant he had specific replacements in mind. "Yes, as a matter of fact, we've already chosen the man for the job: John Baumgaertner."
Oh, of course. Then he must have been promoted to Dr. Rowe's project. Naturally, "Baumgaertner" was spelled incorrectly, crossed out, and written again in-between the lines.
Sarah picked up the rest of the books on the floor and stood up, stacking them back on the shelf in more or less the same places where they were before. She closed and locked the door and took the notes she'd found back to her desk.
Not a moment after she sat down and started to read, Sarah's attention started to wander again. The mystery was solved at this point, and it was back to work writing a mundane article just to pay bills. Her eyes wandered, too; a mug with cold coffee at the bottom, research notes she couldn't wait to see covered in dust in the bottom of that closet, a blank screen. Remembering the notebook in her pocket, she decided to read that.
She took it out and looked at the blue cover. Her mind went back into the past for a moment as she remembered taking the same notebook out of her pocket several years ago, that time realizing with some surprise that the ground she saw past it was nearly the same color. Was this what she thought it was? She looked at the first page, and yes, it was. This was the notebook she had with her the very first time she set foot on an alien planet. It was on these pages that she tried to capture her first, brilliant, humbling view of the universe outside of her own world.
The sunrise here lights up the sky so quickly that I was nearly blinded. How can that be? How can any of this be? There are giant crystals in the distance. They reflect the light around them-are they actually red? blue? clear? Oh, this is amazing!
As she read, Sarah at first felt self-consciously silly at what she'd written. Her handwriting was messy and rushed, a desperate attempt to get each detail down so that she could move onto the next. Yet at the same time, she had barely been able to write a single one of those details -- a single hue, or the shapes of the crystalline structures that had defined that landscape -- between attempts to put her own sheer awe at the experience into words. She'd been to so many more worlds since then, and part of her job was to take everything in stride. But the self-conscious feeling passed as soon as she recognized it, while the memories flooded back to her. Instead of silly, she felt how she had felt taking her first step out of the TARDIS and into the new world.
She turned to the next page, and read that as well.
He was wrong, she thought. The Doctor. He had seen her writing, back on that planet. The Doctor said that she couldn't write down everything, called it lying to even try. At the time, she was afraid that he was disappointed, that he'd tried to show her the splendor of the universe and he thought she was suggesting that it wasn't too big for her to fit into a few small pieces of paper.
She didn't agree with him, then or now. Perhaps she couldn't describe every reflection or gradient in the sky, and perhaps even if she could, those simple facts wouldn't really capture the beauty of it, but writing down what she could would help her hold onto the memory. Someday soon she'd be ready to tell her story, and all the journals and notepads she carried with her around the universe would remind her of what it really was that she wanted to tell.
Someday soon, when her work was finished, on one of those slow days when there turned out not to be an alien plot involved. That was the beauty of it, though, and the way she coped with missing the Doctor, their insane life together and the good that they did, the amazing new worlds. She did it by continuing to discover new things, right here on Earth. She did it by being Sarah Jane Smith, journalist. There would always be more to the world than she thought, and there would always be more firsts. That was the story she really wanted to tell.
One sentence was written at the top of a page in small letters and at an angle, like a thought that commented on the rest of the page better than it fit into it, or maybe like advice to herself, should she forget it.
One small step.
She closed the notebook, propped it between her keyboard and her tiny monitor, and got back to work.