SUMMARY: AU: The Doctor is caught delivering a package for Sarah Jane.
Sarah sat in her aunt's kitchen, fingers wrapped tightly around her mug of tea. She knew she was alone in the house, since Lavinia was away on yet another lecture tour. It seemed these days that they travelled on completely opposite schedules, only seeing each other on the odd holiday.
A scraping noise from outside got Sarah's attention. She tilted her head, listening, her ears still sharply tuned from her years of travelling with the Doctor. Back then, a simple noise could be the thing that saved or killed you.
She'd not seen the Doctor since that day he dropped her back off in what was decidedly not Croyden. Since then, she'd closed up her flat and come to stay with her aunt. Some people would accuse her of nursing a broken heart, but in Sarah's mind, it simply gave her a chance to refocus on her career without the demands of so many monthly bills.
She jumped up and headed towards the front door, throwing it open to see a familiar figure pushing a large crate up the walkway. She leaned against the doorway and crossed her arms, watching, the figure completely oblivious to her. Finally, she cleared her throat.
The curly haired Doctor never looked up. 'Ah, hello, I'm delivering this package for Sarah Jane Smith. Could you possibly see that she gets it?'
'Maybe. If you're really nice to me.'
The Doctor's head snapped up and his blue eyes widened. 'Sarah,' he said, his voice a mixture of surprise and perhaps a tinge of something else.
'Doctor.' She stood up straight, but made no attempt to come towards him, as if he was an illusion that might burst at any moment.
He passed the back of his hand across the side of his face before gesturing down at the large crate. 'I brought this for you.'
'You didn't know I was here.'
He shook his head. 'No, I was going to leave it for you. I wanted to let you know that I didn't forget you. I couldn't ever forget you.'
Sarah tentatively took a couple of steps towards him. 'But you couldn't tell me that in person? Why?'
He ran his fingers through his curly hair, but only shrugged, his eyes focusing on the ground. She took another couple of steps towards him, this time close enough to reach out and tentatively touch his arm.
The Doctor looked up to see her standing there, her eyes asking lots of questions that she wouldn't put words to. In her eyes, he could see hope tinged with sadness, affection shadowed by pain. He swallowed, knowing that she could see those things in his eyes as well. She always was able to read him, understanding more of what wasn't said.
He stepped forwards, closing the last of the distance between them, his eyes never leaving hers. He reached out and did the one thing he'd been unable to do when he'd left her before, he pulled her into a tight embrace, holding her as if his lives depended on it.
He felt her breath shudder as her arms came up along the inside of his coat to wrap around his waist. He buried his head in the side of her hair, absently noting that it was shorter and curlier than when he'd left her.
They held each other for the longest time, neither of them daring to move. Sarah finally pulled back enough to look up at him, but not enough to break their embrace. She gestured back towards the still open front door. 'It's freezing, come inside?'
'Go on,' the Doctor encouraged softly. 'I'll push in this crate.'
Sarah shook her head. 'I'm not letting you out of my sight. If I go in that door without you, you'll disappear and I never see you again.'
The Doctor didn't acknowledge her comment, but stepped away and began to push the crate in the door. Sarah fell in behind him and followed him into the house, closing the door behind them. The Doctor pulled his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket and aimed it at the crate, opening it up. Sarah watched him, then reached in to lift off the protective wrapping.
She looked in the crate. 'What is it?'
'It's a K9 unit.' He reached in and lifted the robot dog out of the crate and set it on the floor.
Sarah knelt down and touched the keypad on the back. 'And what is that for the uninitiated?'
The dog lifted its head. 'Greetings Mistress.'
Sarah continued to look the dog over, taking in the details, complete to the collar that matched the Doctor's scarf. 'Did you build this?'
The Doctor only nodded in reply. K9 continued, 'I was instructed to give you a message.'
'K9, that's not necessary,' the Doctor quickly cut in.
'No, K9, I want to hear it.' Sarah looked up at the Doctor and saw the embarrassment written on his face.
'Give Sarah Jane Smith my fondest love. Tell her I shall remember her always.'
Tears came to Sarah's eyes as she stood up. 'Thank you, K9.' She turned back to the Doctor and put her hands over his hearts, leaning up on her toes to kiss his cheek. 'And thank you, Doctor,' she whispered in his ear.
He held her once again, not wanting to be far away from her. 'Come with me, Sarah. You and K9. There's so much of the universe I still want to show you.'
'Why?' Sarah asked, her head resting against his chest, her hands wrapping around his scarf.
'What?' he asked harshly, but without breaking their embrace. 'Why? You mean why would I want you with me?'
She looked up at him. 'Doctor, fifteen minutes ago, you were just going to drop off K9 without me even knowing it. Now you're here, we're together and you want me to come with you. So yes, I want to know why. Give me a reason.'
He brought up his hands to hold her face. 'The one thing I was most afraid of happened.' He saw the confusion in Sarah's face. He gave her an easy smile before his look turned very serious. 'Leaving you before was the hardest thing I've ever done.' He voice dropped to a level that turned Sarah's knees to jelly. 'Please don't make me do it again.'
'Give Sarah my fondest love?' Sarah repeated K9's message. She tilted her head, watching the Doctor's eyes. She knew there were some things he could never say, things that were not in his nature. She leaned up, this time pressing a long but chaste kiss against his lips. When she pulled back, he could see the tears that pooled in the edges of her eyes. 'Likewise,' she smiled.
He slid his hands down her arms to take her hands in his. 'Is that a yes?' he asked hopefully.
'Just try and stop me.'