"It's snowing. Since when does it snow in England?" Turlough asked plaintively. "And more importantly, why haven't you people figured out how to clear the snow and open your airports again?"
Most women got chocolates and flowers for Valentine's Day. Sarah Jane got a snowbound Trion. He was sitting on the sofa in her attic, giving her that "you're not going to kick me out into the snow, are you?" look and for a moment she was severely tempted. Never mind that he hadn't bothered to let her know he was even going to be on Earth. She gathered herself together. "Rani Chandra, Clyde Langer, this is Vislor Turlough. Apparently he'll be staying with me until the planes start flying again." Sarah didn't bother to keep the exasperation from her voice. "And yes, he does have a key, so if you should catch him in here in the future, just throw a pillow at him." Turlough looked suitably injured, so Sarah pointedly ignored him. "Shouldn't you two be getting home? Snow or no snow, there's apt to be school tomorrow."
Clyde's face fell. "Rani, I don't suppose your father--no, he probably wouldn't."
"He might, if the snow stays this bad," Rani replied as she gathered her things.
The snow had already prevented Luke from getting back to Oxford, and Sarah Jane wouldn't be surprised if Clyde and Rani got the day off tomorrow. Four to six inches on top of the four inches that were already on the ground from last week. She hugged both kids and let Luke walk them downstairs, before turning to her guest. "Don't say a word."
"I wasn't planning to," Turlough replied with a smirk. "But I remember English winters as being more damp and less white."
Sarah Jane sighed and flopped down on the sofa beside him resisting the urge to smack him. "I'm not sure if it's global warming or the Doctor constantly messing with the atmosphere. Do you know how many of the last Christmases we've had snow?"
"I wouldn't even dare to guess. But it's not Christmas now, is it?" Turlough looked worried. "I hate coming at Christmas--I always end up spending a fortnight twiddling my thumbs until I can get back to my meetings."
"Oh, is that what they call it these days," Sarah Jane retorted automatically. "As I recall, you spent those fortnights in my flat, lazing around and getting in my way." She slumped down so that her head rested on his shoulder. "It's 13th February, by the way. Sunday, if that matters. Do you need the year too?"
"2011, yes?" He slipped an arm around her shoulders. "When's the last time you took a break?"
"Not all of us live on planets with open contact with other species, you know. I've got this job till I die, or until we finally admit there have been aliens among us for years."
"Or until Luke and the others are old enough to take over," Turlough offered. "It's those damned prophecies, isn't it? I thought most of them were for things you'd already done."
"Prophecies, history books, even the Doctor got into the act--it's not what you have done, it's what you will do, or something to that effect. I just look at the rest of my life and don't see I time I'll be able to stop running. You're seeing results in your work. I'm just seeing more problems. And I'm getting too old for this, and the more I do, the more is expected of me. I'm not the Doctor; I won't live forever."
His fingers stroked her hair. "What is it you once said to me?" He didn't finish his thought, being interrupted by all three kids storming back into the room--no, four kids.
Sarah Jane absently sat up, dislodging Turlough's arm, staring. This was just the icing on the cake.
Rani was holding the other girl's hand, "We found her outside, and I think she could use your help getting home." It was a good guess. Those clothes were definitely not a current Earth style.
"And none of you could stop in the bathroom to get her a towel," Sarah Jane snapped. "Lauren, what are you doing here?"
"You know her?" Clyde asked before any of the others could.
Rani's mobile rang, and she answered it.
"Lauren?" Turlough asked a little more gently. "Looks like you got caught in the snow unprepared." He laid a hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Who are you?" Lauren sounded almost defensive. "How do you know my name?" Her voice faltered.
Sarah Jane's felt herself start to shut down. There was no other way of describing it. "Sarah Jane Smith," she said with forced lightness. "You don't remember me?" She sat down beside the girl. "Not knowing too much about one's future is good advice, but that ship sailed long ago and besides, if you lie to us, we might not be able to get you home. So let's skip that bit."
Lauren pushed damp red hair out of her face and suddenly threw herself at Sarah Jane. "I didn't mean to--"
"We know that," Turlough said over her shoulder, sounding a little too much like an indulgent parent for Sarah Jane's tastes. "You never mean to slip through time cracks. It just happens. I blame your mother."
"Hey," Sarah Jane snapped without thinking. Not that it mattered. She reached around Lauren and gave him a slap on the back of the head anyway. It didn't do to encourage that sort of thinking.
"I was exploring the Keep and then I was here." She bit her lip. "I've seen pictures, and I was getting up my courage to knock when Rani and Clyde found me." Lauren looked up at them. "Thank you, by the way."
"No problemo," Clyde said. That he didn't come up with a quip, just showed how stunned he was.
Sarah Jane turned back to Lauren. "Hot bath for you, I think. And you can borrow my clothes for today. We'll get you some new ones tomorrow. And then we'll start thinking about getting you back to your proper time. You two," Clyde and Rani, "should really get home. I don't want your parents calling me worried that you've been caught in the storm."
"Mum wants to talk to you," Rani said, and handed Sarah Jane her phone.
Sarah Jane absently sat Lauren up again. It only took a minute to ascertain what Gita was trying to say, though it took more than ten for her to say it, during which Clyde answered his own mobile, and Luke had run downstairs to get Lauren a towel. "Yes, yes, no problem. I can keep her here overnight," she finally said as she passed the mobile back to Rani. She looked at Clyde. "Tell your Mum I can keep you here too."
Clyde nodded and passed along the offer. "Thanks. She got caught at her friend's house in Perivale and the buses aren't running."
"Sarah, why don't you get Lauren into dry clothing? I'll take the others down to make tea, and possibly something to eat." Turlough stood and stretched like a cat.
After a moment, Sarah Jane nodded. She knew Turlough was trying to spare her some awkward explanations. Luke knew some of the story, but she'd never found the right time to warn the other two. Was there a right time to say "Oh, I've got this daughter who hasn't been born yet, who is prone to slipping through time and might show up at any time."?
In the end she and Lauren were joined by Rani, who went through Sarah Jane's wardrobe picking out an outfit for Lauren for the next day, whilst Sarah drew a bath and got Lauren into warm pyjamas. By the time the three of them went downstairs, Sarah wondered if she'd even been needed, as the two girls were talking a mile a minute.
They got down to the lounge to find that Clyde had kicked Turlough out of the kitchen to Sarah's complete lack of surprise. Rani and Lauren were pulled into the kitchen with much laughter, whilst Sarah was handed a mug of tea and told to stay in the lounge.
She paused at the window to watch the snow falling outside. "Any problems?"
"Your son seems to have decided that I am infinitely superior to that guy you nearly married because you're not apt to give up what you do for me and I get the impression that Lauren now has two overprotective big brothers to contend with."
"Peter Dalton," Sarah Jane supplied absently. "And Rani was acting the same way upstairs." She sat down beside him on the sofa. "I thought I'd have the house to myself tonight. Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
Turlough looked rueful. "I wanted to surprise you. I had this idea of taking you out to dinner tomorrow. Or fighting aliens. Or something."
"How terribly romantic." Sarah feigned a swoon, but ruined the effect when she laughed. "We've never been good at the big romantic gestures, have we?"
"We've never been good at anything. Either you're at the breaking point or I am and we never have enough time to get there." Turlough looked at her lazily. "I like what we have. It may not be high romance, but that would be too much work anyway. This is comfortable."
"Like an old shoe," Sarah Jane stuck her tongue out at him. But then she relaxed and gave him a smile. "I'm glad you're here. Even if it looks like we won't have much privacy for the next twenty-four hours."
"I'm glad I'm here too. If I must be on Earth." He dodged the pillow she threw at him. "We really must talk about this penchant you have for violence."
She might have retorted, but the kids piled in with a plate of fairy cakes artfully (and in some cases not so artfully) decorated and a determination to teach Lauren all about life on Earth in one night.
Sarah Jane just hoped no one else would get stranded at 13 Bannerman Road tonight.