Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
When Josh entered the back garden with Liz and Nat behind him, Sarah could tell something was wrong. She was eleven months pregnant and it was inevitable that someone would notice. Not her size or weight - both were surprisingly close to a traditional nine-month pregnancy - but she'd made the announcement more than ten months ago.
"Hello, Liz." She had tried since the day they had painted the nursery to pretend nothing was wrong; she wasn't sure if she had succeeded.
"Sarah." Liz hesitated at the gate staring at Sarah, before she walked in and sat down beside her on the swing seat. Taking Sarah's hand, she said, "I think it's time to talk about what really happened to you, Sarah."
Sarah had tried the truth; it hadn't worked. This time she'd let Liz fill in the gaps. "What do you mean, what really happened?" She kept her voice neutral. She didn't want Liz to think she felt threatened or that she was weaving stories to get out of being backed into a corner.
"Something happened to you, Sarah. Something traumatic. I don't know what, but you've convinced yourself that everything's alright or that the Doctor will make it all better. There's no pretending you're pregnant any longer...this has gone on too long. I think you've got a parasite inside you and we need to get it out before it does any further damage."
Sarah closed her eyes and counted to ten. This was worse than she had ever imagined. She turned to Nat and Josh. "You met him. The Doctor. At your wedding."
Nat took Sarah's other hand and said gently, "Sarah, I know he was an actor. Someone you hired to play the part of your devoted boyfriend to make me feel better. But he wasn't old enough to be the man you described to me. And no one that devoted would be leaving you on your own for long periods of time when you obviously need him."
Sarah could tell from the look on his face that Josh felt the same. She had a sudden horrific memory of the Doctor telling her once about dying on the operating table causing his seventh regeneration. She wouldn't regenerate, though, and she didn't know if her baby was far enough along or strong enough to survive whatever Liz decided to do to get rid of this 'parasite'. "So, what now?"
"We get you to a hospital," Liz said, "do an ultrasound to find the parasite and then figure out how to kill it."
"And if it's baby shaped?" Sarah couldn't keep the sarcasm from her voice. "Will you still kill it? I told you the baby wasn't human."
"But you are. And human pregnancies don't last this long. Even if the father weren't human, it's your body." Liz stood. "Sarah, I'm not doing this to hurt you, but if you won't tell me what really happened, I'll have to find out some other way."
Sarah started to reply, then reconsidered. Liz clearly wasn't going to take her word for anything at the moment. And the reality was far stranger and more complicated than Liz knew. She found herself wishing that Calla were here. As many times as she'd resented the other woman's superior attitude, Calla had a way of taking control of situations like these.
Liz was still speaking, though Sarah hadn't heard a word. "It explains everything - the weird mood swings, the anomalies in your blood, the odd symptoms, the erratic behaviour. And it makes more sense than the story you've been telling us. I'll just give you this sedative...."
Sarah didn't even think about what she was doing, but her hand flew up to knock the syringe out of Liz's hand. "No. I'll come with you, but no drugs. I won't risk my baby." She saw Liz's face and took a deep breath; she had to say this just right. "Liz, think, what did you expect I'd do? Even if this is all in my head, I believe it, and I'll do anything to protect my baby. Isn't humouring me the better course of action? Or are you trying to force me to have a nervous breakdown?"
She had been paying attention to Liz, not Nat and hadn't seen the syringe in the other woman's hand - only felt it as it pierced her skin. "Nat. What are you doing?"
"You're behaving irrationally, Sarah. Don't you see that? All these stories in your head. You claim you're not the Herald, but deep down, I think you believe it, because it makes you feel special. You're not special and you don't need to lie to us, to your friends. Liz is going to fix this and everything will be alright." Nat's voice was soft and even, almost unnaturally so.
Sarah tried to focus, despite the drug flooding her system. There was something there, that she could see out of the corner of her eye, something that didn't want her to notice it. That just made her more determined. She stared at Nat. There - a black tentacle. It took her foggy mind a moment to identify it as a Movellan Brain Parasite.
The thing had obviously been drawn to Nat's feelings of insecurity and fear about losing Josh to Sarah. Sarah didn't know if it had been after her or the baby or the Doctor, and it didn't really matter. The parasites were telepathic, she remembered, and it had to be controlling Liz and Josh as well, feeding off of and drawing power from Nat's negative emotions, twisting their doubts about her into distrust and fear.
Which had to be where the sedative came in. During the war she'd been trained to shield her mind - not that the Daleks had used telepaths - but it had been part of the Time Lord's idea of combat readiness. This couldn't be a coincidence, it must be trying to get at her or her baby and Sarah couldn't allow that.
She'd also been trained to fight being drugged and her altered body chemistry seemed to be helping her in that. She wouldn't be able to hold out for long, but she could fight a little longer. She just had to make sure she didn't give it any emotions that it could use against her.
"How is she going to fix it, Nat? It's my life, can't you let me make my own choices?" If she could win a conversation with Jack Harkness, she could do this. All she had to do was remain calm.
"From what I've seen, you haven't got a great track record in that. It wasn't all that long ago that you left me to die." The pain was evident in Nat's voice.
Sarah couldn't think of that now, couldn't let guilt get the better of her. "To save the world. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." That was it. Quoting sci-fi characters would give her some distance, and she needed to make sure she wasn't sucked in.
"That's nonsense. You just don't care. Not about me or anybody else except yourself," Nat said harshly.
The sedative actually seemed to be helping. Everything felt more distant, even if she could feel her psychic shields fading. "I care. You don't understand. I can't save everybody. I just have to do the best I can with the information I have at the moment."
"You're not very good at it, are you Sarah? Think of everyone you've failed, all the promises you've broken. Me, the Doctor. Romana. Calla. You're pregnant with a baby you don't want; your life is a mess. Is there really any point in your survival?" A twisted view of Nat's feelings matched with her own memories and no understanding of the latter.
But it was focused on her now. Sarah was aware of Liz and Josh in the background, frozen like statues, still under the thing's control but not being used at the moment. She let out a sharp laugh. "You say that like it matters what I want. What I've done, or haven't done. And pulling names out of my head without context was a mistake. You speak of survival. This," she patted her belly, "is all about survival."
She stood and paced, her eyes focused on Nat, willing her to overcome the parasite. She continued, hoping something would sink in, "Stuffed animals and cute baby clothes are wonderful things, but they're a luxury I never expected to have. When I planned..." her voice broke, but she forged on, "when I decided I wanted a baby it was for different reasons. I was in the middle of a war you can't even imagine. The most basic instinct: to try to continue the species, when you're not even sure you'll live to see another day. And I don't regret the choices I made then, or the promises."
"Which you have broken. I can feel it in your mind, the regrets and the pain." It wasn't Nat speaking, Sarah had to remember that.
She could feel the stillness of the others, watching her, aware but unable to move. "In wartime, promises are broken. We were fighting a war of attrition." Her voice grew soft. "Making plans for a future we might not live to see. Because we had to, because even if we didn't win, we had to hold the line against the dark." More quoting. Delenn and Laura Roslin. It was, after all, that sort of situation.
"None of the people you mentioned earlier would expect me to keep a promise that circumstances made impossible. None of them would blame me for doing the best I can. The only way I fail them is by giving up on my baby. By giving up on life. In the end they sent me home rather than let me perish
"But they're the ones who should have survived. They were so much better than you. Smarter, stronger...No," Nat broke through, "Sarah is the strongest person, I've ever known. I...If you're so strong," the thing took control again, "why do you always need Josh around to fight your battles for you?"
"Because I learned that you have to lean on someone. Because people make choices, and sometimes they're the wrong ones. Because I've got blood on my hands, and maybe I wanted to believe I could be clean again. Because he reminds me I was human once."
"You're human, Sarah," Nat pushed through again.
"Am I? You don't know what they did to me. I'm eleven months pregnant, Nat and no, I didn't miscount. The war I fought was on alien soil, against alien enemies." She paused thinking of how to put this, she didn't want to give too much information to her foe, but she needed Nat to understand her choices. "Enough carnage and death and the survival instinct kicks in, even if it isn't your species that's dying. I had no way of getting home. I'd taken an alien lover and they had the technology to alter my DNA, to enable me to carry his child. I didn't, then. It would have been foolish to have a baby during the war."
"And now." Liz's voice, soft but sure. The monster's hold was loosening. "I'm starting to get the picture, Sarah. There must have been at least one survivor of that war to father your child."
"One survivor." She repeated. She stopped pacing and met Nat's eyes. "And that's why you'll never win against me. Because all I've got left to lose is my life. And no, it's not going to happen. I'll live for their sake, and this baby," her hand brushed her stomach again, "who I thought I'd never have, is my last promise to them. Life. Survival in its most basic form. This is where I hold the line."
"And you say you're not the Herald," Josh said quietly.
Fuck. The last thing she needed to do right now was destroy Josh's world view, but she didn't have a choice. "There isn't some golden alien race out there, ready to lead the Earth into its bright future, Josh. The alien races I've met have mostly been like us. We need to take responsibility for ourselves."
"How can you keep fighting me? You have nothing left. You've failed."
Sarah could see the tentacles starting to loosen. "I've succeeded. I've had the life they wanted me to have. I've spent too many years succumbing to survivors guilt, it's time to stop." The creature was losing its grip, now was as good a time as any for the big push. "Nat, that means you too. Stop thinking that Josh loves the Herald more than he loves you. Stop worrying that because you've suffered from some of the hard choices I've made that I'll be a bad mother."
"Stop doubting myself and this thing will lose it's hold on me," Nat said, cool and sure. "You're right. Josh may worship you, but he loves me." She smiled at him. "And you care about me too, or you wouldn't have fought the way you did. I'm sorry I doubted you, Sarah." She made a sudden movement and the parasite was flung free.
Sarah drew Josh's gun from her waistband in a smooth movement and emptied it into the creature, leaving an oozing mess on the ground. She finally took a breath.
"Good shot," Josh said. He immediately crossed the garden and laid Lissa in Nat's arms before hugging both of them. "Are you alright?"
"Now I am." She kissed Lissa's head.
Sarah could see them kissing out of the corner of her eye. She felt the adrenalin leaving her body, and suddenly she doubled over in pain.
Liz's voice, quite close, but she couldn't focus, couldn't...she managed to get her mobile out of her pocket and speed dial a number. Another cramp wracked her body before she could speak and she dropped the mobile. And then her control slipped and she felt the sedative flood her body. She dimly hoped he'd understand. She could barely think.
She must have passed out because the next thing she was aware of was Josh's voice, through the haze of pain. Sarah vaguely thought he must have picked up her mobile because Liz was there trying to get her comfortable. She forced her eyes open.
"Sarah, look at me." Liz stroked her hair gently. "The sedative...it's one used often in labour. I wasn't that stupid. But if your physiology was changed, I don't know how your body will react."
"The baby...my waters broke." Sarah forced the words out before succumbing to the drug. Josh had stopped talking, but she couldn't focus well enough to see what he was doing. All she could do was lie there and let them take care of her.