“Sarah Jane!” Maria called. “Are you coming down? Everyone’s here for the party. Jack is flirting with Martha… and with her boyfriend.”
“Tell him to behave or I’ll sort him out,” Sarah Jane replied. “After Christmas, what made me think that I could hold a New Year party with all the same crowd around… Everyone except The Doctor.”
“Well, he did spend loads of time with us already. And he has a universe to look after. Anyway, are you coming down?”
“In a minute. I just have to do one more thing. Ten minutes, I promise.”
Maria headed back down the stairs. Sarah Jane turned and went to where something stood under a dust sheet. She uncovered the long mirror and studied it carefully. It was one of those old-fashioned free standing ones, on a frame, that could be turned on the side hinges. It had a mirror on both sides, but that wasn’t the only thing that struck her when she saw it at the auction rooms yesterday. Her watch had beeped alarmingly every time she went near it. Mr Smith analysed it and said it was low level Mezon Radiation. High levels, he added, caused humans to hallucinate, but the mirror was safe in that respect. He could not, however, explain why it should have any radiation at all. It was a mirror. Just a mirror.
She looked into it. The reflection seemed quite normal. Except… She looked around, then back at the mirror. Yes, it was different. The wall behind her in the mirror was different. There was a bookshelf there. But she took that down last year and put her photo-board there with all the pictures of friends pinned on it.
The shelf had been there ever since she moved into the house. So the reflection could be any time since then….
And she was wearing different clothes in the reflection. She looked a little younger, too.
The mirror reflected memories. Either that or low level Mezon radiation caused hallucinations, too.
She blinked as the reflection changed. Now she was looking at a completely different memory, much further back. This one wasn’t even in this room. She swallowed a lump in her throat and tried to smile as she saw herself and Harry waking on a seafront. It was probably Portsmouth, or somewhere along the coast there. One of his forty-eight hour shore leaves when she had met up with him down there.
She enjoyed that memory, and was sorry when she saw another one, an earlier one. Harry was in that one, too, and The Doctor. They were in Scotland trying to work out what was going on with the oil rigs – it turned out to be the Zygons and a poor great creature that they hid in Loch Ness. It was the last trip Harry took with them. After that he went back to U.N.I.T. and she and The Doctor went off into space together.
But her memories were running backwards, so she saw herself and Harry with The Doctor on earlier adventures, including that terrible time on Skaro when they almost lost each other so many times. And then their first meeting. Not a very prepossessing one. Harry was called in to look after The Doctor when he first regenerated.
“Don’t show me that,” she whispered, and the mirror obligingly didn’t remind her of The Doctor’s face changing as one body died and the other was reborn. Sometimes she still mourned that silver haired man who cared for her like a father, and was so much more thoughtful than either of the other versions she had known.
Her first meeting with him, and her first sight of an alien – the Sontaran, Lynx, appeared before her eyes, though. And then, her life was winding back again and she was a student, with ambitions to be a journalist, then even younger, at Andrea Yates’ funeral. And still further back, she was a very young girl, lying awake in her bed in Aunt Lavinia’s old house, hating the clown doll whose face seemed more real than it should and the way the trees tapped against the window like gnarled old fingers.
“That’s enough,” she said and touched the side of the mirror. She swung it so that the other side faced her. That looked normal. Her reflection in the mirror was as it should be.
No, it wasn’t. she was wearing a different outfit. A sundress, and her blue cashmere cardigan that she only wore in warm weather. This was….
It was the future. Clyde and Luke were there in the attic, with K9 and KP sitting by their feet like pet dogs. They were reading a letter from Maria. She was away somewhere. A holiday? No. The way the boys were talking, she had gone away permanently.
“No!” Sarah Jane whispered. “No. I don’t want that to happen.”
But it seemed as if she had no choice in the matter. She saw other scenes. Another family moved in over the road. She saw another girl coming to join their ‘gang’. Rani, her name was. A clever, smart-thinking girl who made up the numbers, and was welcome. But Sarah Jane knew her future self never quite felt the same about her. She mourned that future when she would lose the ‘daughter’ she never had and merely have a young friend about the place instead.
She blinked and stared at the next scene. It was Luke’s eighteenth birthday party. Maria was there. She had come back for the occasion. Clyde and Rani were there, too. And a girl that Clyde held hands with. And one Luke put his arm around fondly.
“He’s got a girlfriend!” She laughed joyfully at the thought. Well, of course he would one day.
Another scene in Luke’s future. His graduation. He was tall and handsome in his cap and gown. Again the usual crowd were there to wish him well. Clyde was wearing an RAF uniform and looking very smart. Of course, he was always interested in aeroplanes. But he must have really started paying attention at school to qualify. That was good news. She worried sometimes about his happy-go-lucky way. Maria was doing well, too. She was with a young man and had an engagement ring to show off.
The future rolled out for her. Next, Luke was wearing a grey silk suit and tie, and a carnation in his button hole outside the church. He went in and waited patiently until his bride arrived, dazzling in white lace. Sarah Jane gave a little sob of joy as she watched her boy getting married. Luke with a good job, a wife, his own home.
Luke and his wife and their first baby, both of them proud, visiting granny.
“Me? A granny?” Sarah Jane was astounded at the idea. But of course, it would happen, sooner or later. Luke was her son. And he would be a grown man in a few years. Of course she would be a granny.
A stray memory crossed her mind. “Something to tell the grandchildren,” The Doctor had said to her a few years ago. She had laughed and said she would have to tell it to somebody else’s grandchildren. But he was right, after all. Did he know? Or was it just a guess?
She looked into the mirror again and saw a toddler learning to walk, using K9 as a support. He was a patient, tolerant robot dog, not even minding when his ears were pulled. And when the little one managed to walk unaided, he had hovered nearby, just in case.
Sarah Jane watched and smiled, and wondered just how old she would be by then. The answer was a little depressing. But even so, it was wonderful to know she’d be around for those joyous occasions.
Now, she saw the seat in the garden where she often sat on warm evenings. It was such an evening in this glimpse of the future. She was sitting there with a boy, aged about twelve or thirteen, a bit younger than Luke was when she adopted him. But this boy was the very image of him. He had Luke’s eyes, his hair, his smile. There was a girl, a little younger, who might have been Maria’s child, and another boy who just had to be Clyde’s son. A much younger boy clamoured to be picked up by his granny and Sarah Jane did before she continued to tell them all about her past adventures with The Doctor, and with their parents when they were younger. She had a captive audience who drank it all in avidly and asked for more. The Doctor’s prediction was coming true.
She smiled happily at that scene, and several others like it. but then the scene changed once again. It was in the garden again, but daylight. Two young people were there. Luke’s two sons, the eldest now seventeen or so, and the youngest twelve. The younger boy was crying. The older one was trying not to. A man came out to them bringing a tray of tea. They thanked him, but tea was obviously not what they needed most. He sat with them. He was talking about her, Sarah Jane, regretting that he had been too busy to visit in the past year.
Sarah Jane gasped. Of course. It was him, The Doctor. He had regenerated again. He looked very different. But still the same, wonderful, kind man. He comforted the two children. Luke came out to join them. He was older now, of course, the father of a teenage boy. He was sad, too, but he managed to smile as he shook hands with The Doctor and thanked him for coming.
“How could I not come?” he answered. “Sarah Jane was special to me. I’ll always remember her.”
“I’ll miss her,” Luke said. “So will the children.”
“They’ll be all right. Humans… you’re good at coping with grief. You’ll manage. Life will go on.”
“Yes,” Luke said. “Yes, we will. Doctor… you’ve always been a good friend to us all. Mum always said good things about you.”
“She said bad things about me, too,” The Doctor reminded him. “I wasn’t always as considerate of her as I ought to have been. But she forgave me. My Sarah Jane.”
Sarah Jane cried softly as she watched. Tears of sorrow fell down her face. She knew she should step away from the mirror and not watch any more of it. But she couldn’t. She felt compelled to watch the sad scene.
“Sarah Jane!” As if from a distant place, somebody called to her. She felt as if she couldn’t respond. Then he reached out and touched her, and when she looked in the mirror again she was back in the flat. It was New Years’ Eve, 2009, and Jack Harkness was standing there, his hand still resting on her shoulder.
“Sorry,” he apologised. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Maria sent me up to get you… because we were all wondering where you are, and to stop her mum from hitting on me, which was starting to get scary.”
“They call that being hoist by your own petard, Jack Harkness,” Sarah Jane told him.
“Yes, they do,” he acknowledged with a wry smile. “All the same, I don’t think I’ve been such a bad person as to deserve that.” Then he turned his attention to the mirror and his expression was serious. He checked the readings on his leather wristlet – a chunkier, more masculine version of Sarah Jane’s watch. “That’s a Janus Mirror… looks backwards and forwards… named for the Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings.”
“You’ve seen one before?”
“What did you see?
“Didn’t you see it, when you were standing behind me?”
“I only saw an ordinary reflection. The mirror fixes on one brain pattern at a time.” He looked at her face and noted the tears in her eyes. “Oh, dear. Don’t tell me… your own funeral?”
“Silly, really. I mean… everyone dies one day. And… I’ve obviously got quite a few more years. And most of it was good. But it’s still…”
“Yeah, I imagine it must be… seeing your own mortality. That’s why these things are dangerous. It might be best if I take this off your hands. We’ve got a secure archive at Torchwood where it can be kept.”
“What? You think the amateurs can’t handle it?” Sarah Jane bristled defensively. “I was up to my eyes in Daleks with The Doctor when you were still learning to tie your shoelaces.”
“I’m older than I look,” Jack told her. “But that’s not what I meant. It’s just… well… do you want Luke to see what you just saw?”
“No,” she agreed. “Maybe you’re right. This shouldn’t be here. But… Do you know anything about… Maria… in the near future…”
“Did you by any chance see her moving to Cardiff with her dad?” Jack asked.
“I was taking to them both downstairs. Before Chrissie got in on the act. Alan said his company are pulling out of Britain. He’s been offered a lump sum redundancy, or relocation in the USA. Maria didn’t like that idea at all and Alan was worried about her education. She’s in her o’level year, and the American system is totally different. She’d be really struggling over there. And she doesn’t want to live with her mum – or maybe her mum doesn’t want her. I’m not sure. Anyway… to cut a long story short, I asked Alan if he’d like a job in Cardiff. As our chief technician. Nothing to do with the weirdness, just maintaining the computer servers, that sort of thing. We really need somebody to do that for us. And Maria’s nearly sixteen. I thought she might like to have a Saturday job in the tourist office we keep open as a ‘front’ for our operations. It could actually make money if somebody less grumpy than Ianto was on the desk. They both like the idea, but Alan hasn’t said yes, yet.”
“If that mirror tells the truth, then they will,” Sarah Jane said. “Maria… has been like… we were really close. She confided in me… not her real mum. I felt….” She sighed. “But she is nearly sixteen. Soon she’ll be going to college, university. It would all change. And at least Cardiff is closer than America. And she does want to work for Torchwood.” She sighed again. “I should hate you. For stealing her… them… away from me. But…”
“The Doctor says nice things about you in his autobiography, you know. He trusts you. So I should be able to. Just… don’t let them get into any kind of trouble. At least… no more than I’ve managed to get them into, anyway.”
“Scouts honour, Sarah Jane,” he promised.
“As if you were ever a scout.”
“I could tell you some stories,” he answered. “But you wouldn’t trust me again, if I did.” He reached and pulled the dustcover over the mirror and turned away from it.
“You know, if the things you saw – about the future – bother you, I have something called Retcon. I can slip it in your tea and the past hour will melt away into a dreamless sleep.”
Sarah Jane thought about it. Then shook her head.
“No, I’ll manage,” she assured him.
“Good decision,” Jack said. “Now, come on. There’s a party going on downstairs and we’re both missing it.”