Sarah Jane Smith surveyed her newly tidied sitting room with satisfaction before turning to call up the stairs for her daughter.
“Coming, Mum!” Sky emerged on the upper landing a moment later and raced down the stairs.
Sarah Jane looked at her daughter proudly. In the six months since her arrival in Sarah Jane’s life, the young girl had blossomed. Her smile radiated happiness and at the moment, she was practically vibrating with excitement. A fact which was emphasised when the lamp in the corner of the room began to crackle and spark.
“Is Luke here yet?” Sky asked.
Sarah Jane shook her head. “No. But he should be arriving any minute.”
“And then we’ll go pick up Maria?”
“We have to meet Clyde and Rani first, but yes, that’s still the plan.”
Sky bit her lip. “Do you think she’ll like me?”
Sarah Jane looked at her daughter in surprise. “Maria? Of course love. She’ll love you.”
Sky didn’t look certain but she nodded anyway.
The door burst open then and Luke entered, carrying what looked like an entire term’s worth of laundry.
“Luke!” Sky exclaimed running over to hug her older brother while Sarah Jane looked on fondly. Despite a slightly rocky start, Luke and Sky had been getting on well and had already formed quite a strong bond. Sky absolutely idolised her elder brother and she’d been looking forward to his coming home for the summer holidays for weeks.
“Hi, Sky!” Luke said brightly, dropping the myriad of bags he was holding onto the floor and scooping his younger sister into his arms. He looked over at Sarah Jane. “Hi, Mum!”
Sarah Jane came over, placed a hand on either side of his face, and kissed his forehead. “Welcome home, Luke!”
After the brief sound of scuffling, the door swung open again and Clyde and Rani rushed inside, immediately engulfing Luke, and in turn, Sky in a massive group hug.
“Luke, mate, great to have you back!” Clyde said happily, patting his friend on the back.
“We’ve missed you!” Rani added.
“I’ve missed you too,” Luke assured them. “I have so much to tell you.”
“You’ll have to tell us in the car,” Sarah Jane said after checking her watch, “Or we’ll be late picking up Maria.”
Luke nodded and he, Rani and Clyde started to walk, arm in arm towards the door with Sky trailing behind them looking sad and a bit lost.
While the others chattered excitedly on the drive to the airport, Sky sat quietly in the front seat staring out the window. She glanced over her shoulder a few times, eyeing the older children longingly. She knew that Luke, Clyde and Rani had a special bond and that they didn’t mean to leave her out but it hurt all the same. She was trying hard not to let it bother her but their excited conversation, combined with her pre-existing worry over meeting Maria was making it nearly impossible.
Maria. Sky let her thoughts drift to the older girl. Despite her worries about meeting her, Sky was really curious about Maria. She knew that Maria was aware of the secret and that she’d been around when Sarah Jane first found Luke and that they were really good friends. And she’d talked to her a handful of times over the internet with Sarah Jane so she already knew what she looked like. She was beautiful and funny and she had a nice laugh. Still, Sky knew very little about the other girl and she wondered if Maria would like her or if she’d leave her out the way the others were unintentionally doing at the moment.
Before Sky had time to give her concerns any further consideration, the car suddenly jerked and she looked up, alarmed to see some sort of alien creature lumbering toward them. Sarah Jane swerved again, trying to avoid the creature but it suddenly moved more quickly and slammed into the side of the car near the back. The force of the impact caused the car to spin wildly out of control and Sky felt her stomach churn as her vision swirled.
After what felt like an eternity, the car finally slowed and came to an abrupt halt. Sky was jerked forward and then back again before everything went absolutely still and silent.
Sarah Jane moaned. Her head was pounding but she didn’t care. Instead she ignored the increase in pain and turned around to check on the children. Sky was alert and seemed to be surveying the scene herself, Sarah Jane was relieved to notice. Clyde and Rani also seemed to be okay, though a little shaken as they clung to each other.
It was Luke however who had drawn everyone’s attention. He was unconscious and there was a suspicious purple spike sticking out of his neck.
“Luke!” Sarah Jane shouted anxiously, frantically trying to untangle herself from her seatbelt so she could go to him. Finally, with Sky’s help she was free and she wrenched open the car door. Her legs and shoulders ached but she didn’t care. Her only thought was getting to her son and making sure he was alright. The alien that had hit them was nowhere in sight but Sarah Jane didn’t have time to contemplate what that meant. She needed to get to her son.
She was in a daze by the time she moved around to the rear seats of the car and felt desperately for Luke’s pulse. She was vaguely aware of the others moving around her but her sole focus was on Luke. Everything seemed to stop as she pressed two fingers to his neck and waited. Sarah Jane held her breath. And then she felt it. It was faint, and slower than it should have been but it was there.
“He’s alive,” she whispered incredulously. Relieved, Sarah Jane allowed herself to relax for a moment, which in turn made her aware of the physical pain she’d been ignoring since the impact. She groaned and her knees began to buckle but somehow Clyde was there to catch her. Where had he come from? She wondered.
“We need to get them both to a hospital!” Rani’s voice seemed far away.
“Sky, help me get Sarah Jane into your seat,” Clyde said urgently. “Rani, do you think you can drive this?”
“I think so, as long as it’s still working.”
“Good. It’ll be faster than calling an ambulance.”
“Maria —” Sarah Jane muttered as they settled her into the passenger seat.
“Don’t worry, Sarah Jane,” Rani said softly. “We’ll call her and let her know what happened. She’ll understand.”
Sarah Jane nodded, then winced as searing pain filled her head. She swallowed hard, willing herself not to be sick.
“Yeah,” Clyde agreed. “You and Luke need medical attention.”
With that, Rani started the car and started to drive away.
“Wait!” Sarah Jane cried faintly. “Call Mr. Smith. He’s going to need our coordinates to track the alien. It could be wandering around out there somewhere injured and dangerous.” Sarah Jane closed her eyes, breathing deeply from the effort it had taken her to say those words.
“I’ve already texted him, Mum,” Sky said quietly, speaking for the first time since the accident. Her voice sounded strained and shaken and Sarah Jane started to worry about her too. Sky reached forward and took her mother’s hand. “Stop worrying, Mum, just rest, we’ll get you and Luke fixed up in no time.”
Sarah Jane squeezed her daughter’s hand and tried hard to believe that what she said was true.
Clyde sat anxiously between Luke and Sky. He’d managed to remain calm so far, but the longer his best mate remained unconscious, the more panicky he began to feel. What if Luke was seriously injured? What if he wasn’t okay? Sure, Clyde had survived the last two years with Luke away at school, barely ever seeing him except when he came home for holidays or when they could talk over video chat, but still he was there and Clyde knew that if he ever truly needed him, Luke would be there for him. Clyde looked over at his friend now. His face was pale and his breathing was visibly shallow, his eyes were closed as though he were merely sleeping, but a trickle of blood dripping down from the purple spike embedded in his neck indicated that all was not right.
Clyde swallowed and blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. He couldn’t lose it. Not now. He needed to stay strong for Sarah Jane and Sky and Rani and most importantly, Luke. He couldn’t afford to give up on his best mate now. So instead, Clyde focused on the purple spike, looking at it closely as he contemplated exactly what it was. It had to have come from the alien - perhaps it had flown off the creature when it hit them - or had it been deliberate?
Clyde frowned. He didn’t like the thought of that at all, but suddenly it made sense. The strange way the alien had just come at them and then slammed into them. The way it had vanished completely after the impact. It was all a little suspicious.
He was about to point this out to the other occupants of the car when Sky’s phone rang.
“Hello?” she answered in a shaky voice. She listened for a moment before announcing, “It’s Mr. Smith, I’m putting him on speaker phone.”
“Thank you, Sky,” came the familiar computerised voice.
“You’re welcome,” she said automatically, causing Clyde to smile at her ingrained politeness. That was one thing about Sky, once she mastered something, she retained it. Just like Luke.
“I’ve run a scan on the coordinates Sky sent me, and exactly three minutes before your accident there was a spaceship that broke through the earth’s atmosphere and landed in a field near where you’d crashed. Then, five minutes after, the same spaceship took off, and is now out of range, somewhere in the solar system.”
“Do you know what species of alien it was?” Rani asked as she carefully manoeuvred them through a busy section of the high street.
“I can confirm that the space craft was created by a race from Silankt called Rizzoleri, but that is the extent of what I can tell you with the information I have.”
“What can you tell us about the Rizzoleri|?” Clyde asked quickly, thinking about his earlier theory regarding the accident being deliberate.
Something beeped and Mr. Smith said, “The Rizzoleri are tall, violent beings, trained mainly for combat and vengence. They’re often hired by higher beings to do their dirty work and their most favoured weapon of choice is a purple dagger, typically shaped like —”
“Let me guess,” interrupted Clyde. “A sharp pointed spike?”
“That is correct, Clyde.” Mr. Smith sounded surprised. “How did you know?”
“Because Luke has one exactly like that protruding from his neck as we speak.”
“He does?” Clyde could almost hear the surprise in Mr. Smith’s voice.
“Yes.” Clyde agreed. “I think the alien might have aimed it at him on purpose.”
“I think that is more than likely.” Mr Smith continued. “You should know that the spikes contain high levels of a solution called bilodoxicaine which is highly toxic to humans.”
“What about Luke?” Sky asked frantically. “He’s not human, will it be toxic to him too?”
“I cannot be sure unless I examine him myself, but I think it is likely. It’s toxic to most terrestrial life forms.”
Clyde caught Rani’s eye in the rear-view mirror. They couldn’t take Luke to the hospital. Not with an alien poison in his system. But Sarah Jane needed medical attention too. Maybe they could drop her off and then take Luke back to the house?
“Take us to Mr. Smith.” Sarah Jane murmured faintly, looking at Rani as though she knew what they were thinking.
“But Sarah Jane, you need to see a doctor!” Rani protested.
“No,” Sarah Jane insisted. “I’m not leaving Luke.”
Rani bit her lip and gave Clyde questioning gaze in the mirror. He sighed and nodded. They’d just have to hope that Mr. Smith could help Sarah Jane too.
Maria Jackson had just cleared customs in London Heathrow Airport when her phone beeped. Juggling her bags in one hand while she continued to walk, she dug her phone out of her pocket and glanced at it. She had three messages.
Without hesitation, Maria quickly punched in her voice mail code with her thumb and balanced the phone between her ear and shoulder so that she could carry bags in both hands. She walked slowly, smiling as Sarah Jane’s cheerful voice came through on the first message, confirming that they were setting out from Bannerman Road.
As the second message started to play, Maria suddenly stopped walking, moving to side so she was out of the way. Her heart began to race as she heard Rani tell her that they had been in some kind of accident on the way to pick her up and needed to go to the hospital.
Maria was already mentally trying to figure out how to get to the hospital using London’s public transit when Clyde’s voice rang out in the third and final message.
“Maria, it’s Clyde. I’m sorry we can’t meet you at the airport. There’s been another change of plans. We’re taking Luke and Sarah Jane back to Bannerman Road to see Mr. Smith instead of going to the hospital. Can you meet us there instead? We’ll explain when you get here.”
Switching off her phone, Maria leaned against the wall and contemplated what she’d just heard. If they were going to the house instead of the hospital, then whatever had happened was probably extraterrestrial in nature. Although Maria was worried about her friends, she couldn’t help getting a little excited at the prospect. It had been several years since she’d been able to help with alien cases and as much as she enjoyed her life with her dad in DC, she’d missed saving the world with Sarah Jane and the gang on a weekly basis.
After calling Clyde back quickly to let him know that she’d gotten the messages and was on her way, Maria followed the signs toward the underground hoping she wouldn’t have to wait too long for a train.
Rani pulled the car into Sarah Jane’s driveway feeling eternally grateful that her parents didn’t seem to be home. The last thing she needed right now was her mother freaking out about the state of Sarah Jane’s vehicle or whatever. The most important thing was getting Sarah Jane and Luke into the house and up the stairs to Mr. Smith.
The rest during the drive seemed to have helped Sarah Jane recover enough that she was able to walk on her own with only Sky’s help. That left Rani and Clyde with the problem of how to get Luke safely out of the two-door vehicle. It took some tricky manoeuvring, but eventually they managed and moving slowly, they worked together to carry Luke up the stairs to the attic. Sarah Jane was sitting in a chair so they carefully eased Luke onto the sofa, careful to prop his head on a pillow.
“Mr. Smith, I need you,” Clyde said in a clear, calm voice that awed Rani. How could he be so calm at a time like this? She was positively a mess at the moment and it was all she could to do to keep herself from falling apart completely.
As the Xylok computer slid from its hiding place in the wall, Sky brought Sarah Jane a glass of water and a compress for Luke’s neck.
Mr. Smith wasted no time in getting down to business. “Rani, Clyde. If you would please move out of my trajectory, I can scan Luke and give you a more detailed prognosis.”
Rani and Clyde both moved to the side and within seconds, Mr. Smith was aiming a stream of blue light at Luke. When he’d finished, a series of numbers and other data began to appear on the monitor.
“Luke is indeed being poisoned by the bilodoxicaine. His vitals are extremely weak and his body is trying to fight the invasion but it’s rapidly failing. If no emergency measures are taken, he will cease to live in exactly 124 minutes.”
Rani looked at Clyde anxiously. “But that’s only two hours!” she exclaimed at the same time that Sky spoke up.
“Mr. Smith, what emergency measures can we take to save my brother?”
“I’m afraid that the only antidote is not available on earth.”
Sarah Jane tried to stand. Her legs wobbled a bit but she managed. “No! There has to be another way.”
“I’m afraid there isn’t, Sarah Jane.” Mr. Smith paused. “If you will please hold still, you’re also hurt, please let me scan you.”
Reluctantly, Sarah Jane stood still as the Xylok’s blue light filtered over her.
“You have a severe concussion and a fractured tibia. You also have five broken ribs.”
“That explains why it hurts to breathe,” Sarah Jane mumbled under her breath, although Rani caught it anyway. “Anyway,” she said more loudly. “Never mind me, what about Luke. I can’t just sit here and watch my son die, there must be something you can do!”
“No. There is nothing more I can do to help, Luke.”
Rani felt her chest grow tight. This couldn’t be happening.
Sarah Jane was shaking her head rapidly, tears swimming in her eyes. “No. I can’t accept that, there has to be something, anything we can try.”
“I suggest you say goodbye.” Mr. Smith insisted. “There is nothing more any of us can do.”
Sarah Jane’s cry of anguish was heartbreaking. “Noooo!”
Sky quickly ran to her side, easing her back into the chair carefully, her own pain visible across her features. “It’s okay, Mum, we’ll think of something, please just sit down.”
Sarah Jane sank into the chair, her eyes wide and pained as she began to rock back and forth muttering “No,” and “Luke,” over and over again.
Maria let herself in after her attempts to knock went unanswered. Knowing that everyone would be in the attic, she quickly left her things in the hallway, next to the piles of laundry Luke had dropped earlier, and ran up the stairs.
When she pushed open the door, the first thing she noticed was that atmosphere in the attic was grim. Luke was lying prone and motionless on the sofa while Clyde and Rani sat next to him, watching him sadly. Sarah Jane was sitting stiffly in a chair while the young girl Maria recognised as Sky, sat next to her, holding her hand and casting anxious glances towards the others.
“What’s going on?” The sound of Maria’s voice caused everyone to jump. Well, everyone except Sarah Jane and Luke anyway. What had happened?
“Maria!” Clyde said warmly, coming over to hug her. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“What’s wrong with Luke, and Sarah Jane?” At her words, Sky began to cry, burying her face in her mother’s still shoulder.
Rani stood and walked over to Maria, hand outstretched. “Hi Maria. It’s good to finally meet you.”
“You too,” Maria said, still feeling utterly confused. Rani placed a hand on her shoulder and guided her to the desk.
“Sit and I’ll explain everything,” Rani said softly, as Maria looked over her shoulder to see that Clyde had already resumed his vigil over Luke.
Maria sat and listened with increasing concern as Rani explained about the accident and the strange alien and the prognosis Mr. Smith had made about Luke.
“How much time is left?” Maria whispered when Rani had finished.
“Just over an hour,” Rani said sadly.
Maria swallowed. An hour. And there was supposedly nothing they could do. She hated feeling so helpless.
“What about Sarah Jane, has she said anything?”
Rani shook her head. “Not since Mr. Smith gave us the news. I’m worried she’s slipping away from us as well.”
Maria glanced over at Sky, who had silent tears streaming down her face as she stroked her mother’s hair and looked mournfully over at her brother.
Immediately feeling for the young girl whose entire family was in peril at the moment. Maria went to her, pulling her into a warm comforting hug. “It’s going to be okay,” she assured her.
“How do you know?” Sky asked through teary eyes.
“Because I know Sarah Jane and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from her, it’s to never give up, never stop fighting. If there’s a way to save Luke, she’ll find it.”
“Do you really think so?” Sky asked, looking up at Maria hopefully.
“I really do.”
Clyde watched Maria comfort Sky and his feeling of helplessness grew. How was it possible that they couldn’t do anything? How was it that they were all just sitting there watching Luke die? No. They had to stop this, they had to fight. Starting by taking that stupid purple spike out of Luke’s neck.
Clyde reached for it and started to pull causing everyone else to gasp.
“What are you doing?” Rani asked. “What if that makes it worse?”
“It’s full of poison, if we leave it in, he’s just going to get even more poison in his system.”
“But if we pull it out and we don’t do it properly, the wound could cause him to bleed to death.” Rani said calmly.
Clyde let go of the spike. Rani was right. It would only make things worse. But he needed to do something. He wanted to kick inanimate objects and scream at the top of his lungs in frustration, but he knew that neither of those things would help them right now. Suddenly another option occurred to him and he sprang to his feet, running over to Mr. Smith.
“Mr. Smith, which planet did you say it was that holds the antidote?”
“Plot 4239,” Mr. Smith said automatically. “But it would be scientifically impossible to get there and back in time.”
Clyde grinned. “For us, maybe, but I know someone who could do it in no time at all.”
“Who?” Maria wanted to know.
Clyde didn’t answer, instead he spoke to Mr. Smith again. “Please call the TARDIS.”
Rani gasped. “Of course! The Doctor, he’ll know what to do, why didn’t we think of that sooner?”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ve thought of it now,” Clyde told her as he carefully watched Mr. Smith’s monitor. The ringing of a phone filled the air for several moments before their call was answered and the Doctor’s beaming face appeared on screen. He appeared to be wearing a top hat and a tuxedo.
“Clyde! It’s been ages, how are you?” he asked jovially.
“I’ve been better,” he said shortly. They really didn’t have time for chit-chat. “Doctor, I’m calling because we need your help.” He quickly explained the situation and as Clyde spoke, the Doctor’s previously joyous expression faded into something much more serious and sombre.
“Mind if I scan them both myself?” he asked finally, pulling out his sonic screwdriver.
“Not at all,” Clyde said, moving out of the way in the hopes that the Doctor would uncover something that Mr. Smith had missed.
The Doctor frowned at whatever reading his screwdriver was giving him before looking back at Clyde.
“Have you figured out who it was that sent the Rizzoleri to attack you?” the Doctor wanted to know.
Clyde shook his head, feeling foolish, they should have been working on that all this time. For all they knew, another attack could be coming and the only way to stop it was to stop the source.
“Okay then, you lot work on that, I’m going to pay a little planet called Plot 4239 a visit and see what I can do for Luke.”
“Thank you, Doctor!” Clyde, Rani, Maria and Sky all called out at once, but the screen had already gone dark.
Sarah Jane felt numb. She was still mildly aware of what was happening around her but she was having a hard time focusing on anything other than the fact that her son, her beloved Luke, was dying and there was nothing she could do about it.
She looked over at him now, lying lifelessly on the sofa and her heart ached. He was still so young, still had so much to do and see and experience. If he died now he’d never get to fall in love, have a family, experience the best that life had to offer him. She wanted that for him. For him and for Sky.
Sarah Jane closed her eyes and breathed deeply. It wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t be him that was dying, it should be her. She’d lived her life, seen and done amazing things. She’d even travelled to the stars - more than once! She had everything she ever wanted and more, if her life ended now she would have no regrets, but Luke…
She whimpered softly, and the sound seemed to awaken her slightly. She opened her eyes again and she shuddered. The room was cold and empty apart from her and Luke. Everyone and everything else was gone. In fact it was as though the two of them had been lifted from reality and dumped into a dark, barren wasteland.
“Hello, Sarah Jane Smith,” said a voice behind her.
Sarah Jane gasped. She recognised that voice. It was cold and callous and could only belong to one person… “Trickster!” she exclaimed turning around to face him, vaguely aware that she was no longer feeling any of the physical pain she’d experienced in the attic.
He was cloaked in his traditional black, and his unnaturally pale face was twisted into something that may have resembled a smile.
“It was you,” Sarah Jane said. “All this time, it’s been you pulling the strings. You sent the Rizzoleri to poison Luke, but why?”
The Trickster didn’t answer so Sarah Jane continued musing.
“You can’t have done it just to hurt me - that’s just a nice bonus - you’ve always got a greater reason for these things.”
“And tell me, what is that, Sarah Jane Smith?”
“Chaos,” she whispered.
The trickster smiled wickedly again.
Sarah Jane’s eyes widened as the rest of the puzzle clicked into place. “Luke is going to do something, isn’t he. In the future. Something that would cause cataclysmic consequences if it didn’t happen.”
“Luke is destined to do many great things,” The trickster confirmed. “His death will have consequences so far reaching that even I cannot see them all.”
“But he’s just a child,” Sarah Jane pleaded. “Please there must be something I can do to save him.”
The Trickster pulled a tiny glass vial from his robes. “This is the only thing that can save him.”
“What is it?”
“This is the only bottle of antidote to the bilodoxicaine that is currently coursing through your son’s system.”
Sarah Jane reached for it, but the Trickster quickly took a step back.
“Not so fast. You really think I’d just hand it over that easily, when even as we speak the Doctor is discovering that Plot 4239 has been destroyed and all access to further antidote has been completely cut off.”
“You didn’t!” Sarah Jane gasped.
The Trickster laughed. “Of course I did, Sarah Jane, it’s all part of the greater picture.”
“What do you want most in the world at this very moment?” The Trickster asked smoothly.
That was easy. “For my son to live,” she said automatically.
“And what would you give to make that happen?”
“Anything. Anything at all.” Sarah Jane knew it was a foolish thing to say, particularly to someone like the Trickster, but she meant it. She would do anything to keep her children safe.
“Would you sacrifice your own life for his?”
Sarah Jane didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
The Trickster handed her the glass vial, just as someone else came bursting into the cold empty space. “Then so be it!”
“Noooooo!” The Doctor’s voice rang out as Sarah Jane grasped the vial in her fingers, effectively sealing the deal.
The Trickster turned to smile wickedly at the Doctor. “Ah, Doctor, I was hoping you’d join us. You’re too late, of course, but you’ve come just in time for all the drama!” He looked back at Sarah Jane. “You have 30 minutes to save your son and say your goodbyes, use them wisely.”
With that, he waved his arm and Sarah Jane, Luke and the Doctor shifted out of the strange, dark dream world and back into reality.
Sarah Jane swallowed hard. What had she done?
The attic was in chaos. Sky, who had been in hysterics since her mother and brother had vanished, ran to her mother and Luke as they reappeared.
“Mum!” she cried, throwing her arms around Sarah Jane tightly. “What happened?”
“The Trickster,” Sarah Jane said softly.
Maria, Clyde and Rani gasped.
“That makes sense,” Maria said nodding. “He’s been wanting to get back at you for years.”
“Well, this time he’s finally succeeded,” Sarah Jane told her, wincing as she carefully brought Luke back to the sofa. She held up the vial and opened it carefully, holding it gingerly in her injured hand while she turned the lid with the other.
“Is that the antidote?” Clyde asked, suddenly excited.
Sky felt relief flood through her. Her family was going to be okay.
Sarah Jane nodded. “It is,” she said simply without offering any further explanations about how she’d gotten it.Sky wondered what the story was but she knew that now wasn’t the time to ask. “Here, help me hold his head up so I can get it into him.”
It took both Clyde and Rani’s help but they managed to pour the strange silver liquid down his throat. Sky clung to Maria’s hand as they watched anxiously, waiting and hoping. Luke’s colouring returned almost instantly, but it was several more minutes before he regained consciousness.
“Luke!” Sky exclaimed instantly, pulling her hand free from Maria’s and running to him. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“Sky,” he said weakly. “Mum. What’s happened?”
“Take it easy,” Sarah Jane said gently. “You’ve been unconscious.”
“Did I hit my head?” Luke wanted to know. “The last thing I remember is the car spinning.”
As Rani and Clyde quickly jumped in to fill in the gaps, Sky looked around and noticed a man standing silently off to the side, watching everything that was happening.
“You’re the Doctor,” she said, her eyes wide. “Thank you for saving my brother.”
“I am the Doctor,” he agreed. “But I’m not the one who saved your brother.” His eyes looked deep and dark and sad and they scared Sky a little.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
He was silent for a moment, then, when he answered, it was Sarah Jane that he addressed. “Sarah, you should tell, them, it’s time.”
Sky watched as her mother looked steadily at the Doctor and some kind of unspoken understanding seemed to take place between them. Sarah Jane hugged Luke again and then stood.
“I made a deal with the Trickster,” she announced shakily.
“Mum, no!” Luke protested, sitting up.
Sarah Jane reached out and touched his face. “It was my life or yours, Luke. It was an easy decision to make.”
“No.” Luke insisted. “It’s not right.”
Sky ran to her mother and clung to her. “But Mum, we need you.”
Sarah Jane looked at her children sadly. “I’m sorry, I know that this isn’t easy for you, for any of you.” She looked up at the sad faces of Maria, Clyde and Rani assembled around them. “But I’ve lived a full and happy life, I’ve done amazing things. You lot, you still have all of that ahead of you. One adventure after the next.”
Everyone was crying now and Sky turned to look at the Doctor again. He was blurred through all her tears, but it didn’t matter. “Can’t you do something?”
The Doctor shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid not.”
“But you’re the Doctor,” Clyde said confidently. “You can do anything.”
“Not anything, not this.” The Doctor’s voice was firm yet remorseful.
“Please?” Maria begged. “I’ve only just got back and I’ve missed them so.”
“I’m sorry.” The Doctor’s own eyes were swimming with tears. “You have no idea how sorry.”
“How much time do we have left?” Luke wanted to know.
Sarah Jane checked her watch. “Twenty minutes.”
“That’s not much time,” Sky said tearfully. Sarah Jane pulled her into a hug. “No. No it’s not.”
The Doctor watched numbly as Sarah Jane used her final twenty minutes to say a tearful one-on-one good bye to each of the children whose lives she’d changed irrevocably.
As she moved from Maria, to Rani, to Clyde and finally to Luke and Sky, the Doctor was overcome with emotion. He hated how helpless he felt at the moment. If he had only arrived a minute before. If he could only have prevented her from making the deal that had sealed her fate. They could have found another way to save Luke. But he had been too late and it was out of his hands now. The life of Sarah Jane Smith, the amazing woman he’d encountered with four of his eleven personas was rapidly drawing to a close and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
The Doctor had faced mortality before, he’d seen people die, had people he loved ripped away from him through tragic circumstances, but it was always terrible and it always hurt and it always made him feel more alone than ever before. But this somehow felt even worse.
She was standing in front of him now and he swallowed, struggling to maintain his composure for what he was certain was going to be a very emotional goodbye. He’d always avoided such things in the past. Had even done so with Sarah Jane when he’d left her in Aberdeen all those years ago. He could have run from this one too, but he stayed. If he owed her anything at all, he owed her this.
“Doctor,” Sarah Jane said in a strained voice. “You were the best thing to ever happen to me.”
He hugged her tightly. “Sarah, you were amazing. The universe will never be the same without you.”
“You’ll make sure they’re all alright?” Sarah Jane nodded toward the children.
“Of course I will.”
“And you’ll check in on them now and again? Maybe take them to see the stars?”
“Thank you.” Sarah Jane hugged him more tightly and then pulled away.
“Take care of yourself, Doctor. And please, don’t blame yourself for this.”
The Doctor tried to nod in acknowledgement, but something inside of him broke and instead he said, “It isn’t right, Sarah, a woman as amazing and caring as you facing your own demise all because the Trickster wants revenge for all the times you’ve saved the universe.”
Sarah Jane shook her head. “I don’t see it that way, Doctor. I’ve given my son his future, that’s more important to me.”
He smiled. “You always did have the biggest heart. I’ll never forget you, Sarah Jane Smith.”
She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Goodbye, Doctor.”