Springtime had come early this year, and the French doors of her room stood open to the back garden. Sarah Jane was happy; she’d hoped to last long enough to see the flowers bloom again. Luke sat beside her, just holding her hand. He had retaken his seat just as soon as the hospice nurse had finished with her medication. Sarah Jane wanted to tell him to run along and have some fun with his friends, that he was too young to be cooped up with her. But he wouldn’t understand. Ah well, she’d be sleeping soon anyway. She was so very tired.
But that tiredness lifted when the most beautiful sound in the universe echoed through the open doors. Vrop, vrop, vrop. Her heart fluttered. She did want to see him again, one last time, but she also hated for him to see her like this, a withered bloom in a garden of new life. Nothing to be done about it, though. She prepared herself for the floppy-haired young man in the bow tie.
Then a tall form appeared at the doors, all curls and teeth, as his younger self had described him long ago. But the toothy smile faded as he took in the sight of her. She squeezed Luke’s hand hard and blinked back tears.
“Did he regenerate again?” whispered Luke.
“No, Luke. It’s a younger Doctor. My Doctor.” She cleared her throat. “Come in, Doctor.”
The Doctor swept off his hat and played with it nervously. “Ah, hello. I finished up with the Time Lords, and came back to see if you wanted to travel again. Looks like I might’ve gotten the time a bit wrong, though.”
Sarah Jane laughed. “Sorry, Doctor. Not quite up for traveling.” At least not traveling in the TARDIS. She was almost ready for another type of journey now.
“Yes, I see. Well, then, I’ll just pop back twenty years or so, and pick you up,” he said, backing up.
“More like forty years, Doctor. But you won’t pick me up, I’m afraid. There’s important work for me here on Earth. You will leave me a present, though. A K-9 unit. But don’t go yet. Please come sit down. Luke, would you give the Doctor your seat for a little while?”
Luke stood up and offered the Doctor his hand. “Luke Smith, Sir.”
“I’ve told him all about our adventures, Doctor,” said Sarah Jane.
The Doctor shook his hand warmly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Luke. Your grandmother and I were the best of friends.”
Luke opened his mouth to correct the Doctor, but Sarah Jane jumped in. “We still are, Doctor. Please, sit.”
As he folded himself into the chair and wrapped his scarf so it didn't drag, Sarah realized with a pang how much their next meeting would hurt him. For the next five hundred years or so he would picture her as happy and settled with a loving family, telling stories to her grandchildren. Finding out she had kept her life on hold waiting for him would be devastating.
But then it would all work out in the end, wouldn’t it? And he was here now, which was wonderful. He took her hand in his one last time, and its coolness was soothing.
“Don’t look so sad, Doctor. It doesn’t suit you at all. You’ll see me again, I promise. When you least expect it. Not that I’ll recognize you at first, but we still have more adventures in front of us. It will be brilliant.”
“Good, because I’m not ready to say good-bye, Sarah Jane Smith,” he said, giving her a smile, although his eyes were moist.
She smiled back, closing her eyes. “I’m ready, though. Ready for the last adventure. Now that I’ve seen you again, I’m ready. Remember one thing, Doctor, because it’s very important. Everything has its time. And everything ends. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Will you remember?”
“I’ll remember,” he said, his voice sounding faded now.
“My Doctor,” she whispered.
“My Sarah Jane,” he said, his voice breaking.
Sarah Jane Smith slept.