Sarah Jane had seen the Doctor a few times since he dropped her off in Aberdeen. All by chance and none when he knocked at her front door. Until now.
When she opened the door she frowned. The Doctor was bent down by the front of her car, his sonic screwdriver pointed at it and whirring. "Doctor!"
He spun round on one foot, then stood, throwing his screwdriver up and catching it before putting it away. "Nothing to worry about. Your car's fine, by the way." He patted the bonnet.
She narrowed her eyes. Mr Smith would have told her if there were aliens in her driveway. Since he hadn't she could only assume that the Doctor was trying to improve her car, which had been fine before the Doctor got to it. Whether it was still fine was another question.
"How about a cup of tea?" He strode over to the house, pushing his hair out of his eyes.
"All right." An odd request from the Doctor, but with no reason to deny it she stood inside to let him in.
"You know you never made me tea at UNIT," he said, as he followed her through to the kitchen at the back of the house. "Jo used to make me tea all the time."
"There was more to being your assistant than making tea." Not to mention not spending much time actually at UNIT. Having established there was enough water in the kettle for two cups, she switched it on, then reached up to the cupboard on the other side of the sink for the mugs. When she placed them on the counter she saw the Doctor bending over to examine the kettle, the sonic screwdriver back in his hand.
"Doctor!" She put her hands on her hips.
"It takes forever to boil," he complained, but at her look, stepped away and reluctantly put the screwdriver back in his inside jacket pocket.
"Sit down and have a biscuit." She motioned towards the table at one end of the kitchen. It sat against the far wall, with four chairs around it. Half of them were never used, which was why there was a pile of newspapers and magazines at one end of the table.
She found some chocolate digestives in a cupboard and arranged some on a plate. She didn't dare put the whole packet on the table in case the Doctor decided to eat the lot. Sometimes he made her very glad she hadn't had to deal with small children. At least the biscuits distracted him and by the time the kettle boiled he'd licked the chocolate off every biscuit on the plate.
This meant she had to get herself a fresh biscuit from the packet, which she then proceeded to dunk in her tea. The Doctor had been too busy with the biscuits to say anything more and she itched to ask him why he was really here. It couldn't just be because he wanted tea or to disrupt her. But she didn't get the chance because that was the moment Sky arrived home from school.
"Oh, hello." The Doctor turned to smile at Sky, who'd headed to the kitchen at Sarah Jane's shout. "You're very small."
Sarah Jane jumped in, before Sky could respond, by standing up and motioning to them in turn as she introduced them to each other. "Sky, this is the Doctor. Doctor, this is my daughter, Sky."
"Sky." He frowned. "Is that a name? Could you be called Cloud or Dirt or--"
"Yes, it's a name," Sarah Jane said firmly.
"I've heard of you," Sky said, reaching for a biscuit. She frowned when she discovered they weren't just plain digestives.
Sarah Jane passed Sky a fresh biscuit from the packet still sitting out on the counter.
"Everything you've heard, it's all true." The Doctor pulled the plate closer, looking protective of the half-eaten biscuits that no one else was prepared to touch.
Sky didn't look like she believed that. "Where's your TARDIS?"
Sarah Jane had been wondering that herself.
"Earl's Court. I got the tube. And the bus. I love the bus, you get to see where you're going and they tell you all the stops. The underground not so much. You get all sorts of things going on down there." He made a face.
"What were you doing at Earl's Court?" Sarah Jane interrupted, before he could worry Sky with Yeti stories.
"Oh, just visiting an old friend. And there was a handy police box right outside the tube station, I just parked the TARDIS around it." He looked pleased with himself for that.
Visiting an old friend? That didn't sound like the Doctor. "Sky, don't you have homework to do?"
"Yes." She nodded.
You'd think that with Luke, and now Sky, she'd have learnt to be more literal. "Why don't you go up to the attic and do it? I need to talk to the Doctor about something."
"Okay." Sky picked up the bag she'd dumped in the doorway and went off happily now she'd finished her biscuit.
Sarah Jane pulled her mug closer and took a sip, now the tea had cooled down.
"Sounds serious." The Doctor leaned forwards across the table.
She studied him for a moment. "You don't just visit people." His impatience and tendency to ramble would have told her something was up even without that piece of information.
"I can if I want to," he sounded defensive. "I visited everyone before I last regenerated. I thought it would be nice to do it again. No one's been unhappy to see me. Well, most people."
She shook her head. "Just because you wanted to?"
"Yes." He sat up straighter. "Why not?"
"It's not like you." Just for starters.
"It is now. Speaking of which I have people to see and places to visit. Or is it the other way round?" He finished off his tea in one go, then stood. "So good to see you again, Sarah."
She followed, catching up with him by the front door before he could escape. "Doctor," she called softly. When he turned, she continued, "You can tell me."
He took a deep breath, studying his feet. When he returned his attention to her his usual confident demeanour was gone and he looked worried. "I'm going to die."
"And regenerate again?" She knew he felt it wasn't the same - and it wasn't quite - but whoever he was next, he'd still be the Doctor.
He shook his head. "I don't have any regenerations left."
"Then you'll think of something." She sounded a little desperate. The Doctor couldn't die, he just couldn't. “A way out of it."
"No. Not this time." She could see the sadness in his expression at that pronouncement. "I've seen it, I know what's going to happen."
"Then you can prevent it." She took a step forward. He was the Doctor, that's what he did.
His tone was apologetic. "I'm not immortal and I'm not infallible."
As much as he made it seem like he was. As much as he wanted to believe he was. But she could see the fear he'd let her see in his eyes. "Oh, Doctor." She stepped closer and hugged him, feeling the tweed of his jacket against her cheek, his cheek against her head. "I believe in you."