Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
I'm a little early today, as we opened the library late and closed early. Yay for snow days.
And yes, it's grown again. :)
"Sarah, what are you doing?"
Sarah froze at the sound of his voice. "Taking down the curtains. Did you forget something?" Her voice was tight. She had too much pride to start yelling at him.
The Doctor ignored the question. "You shouldn't be up. You're still weak from the birth. Come down from there, Sarah, and let's talk."
"There's nothing to talk about. Where is she anyway?" She pulled away from his arms as he tried to help her down.
"In her crib. Sarah, what's wrong. Why are you taking down the curtains?" He caught her finally and lifted her to the ground.
Sarah tried to pull away, but couldn't manage it. "You left with Fred. Why did you come back?"
"She'll be hungry soon. I made a quick trip so that you'd have more time to sleep. You were so exhausted." He sounded almost concerned.
She didn't - couldn't trust it. It was only a matter of time before he left again. "Oh, of course. A convenient nursemaid, that's me."
"Sarah. Look at me, please." She struggled in his grip, but finally quieted. His voice was tight when he continued, "Sarah, I'm sorry, about all of this. I just keep making stupid decisions and wrecking your life."
At least he realised that. Sarah couldn't bring herself to speak.
After a moment, he spoke softly, "I know you never wanted a child, that you agreed to the genetic manipulation only to reassure Leela that it was safe."
How could he think that? "That wasn't the only reason," she said, fighting off tears, trying to think.
The Doctor freed one hand to wipe a tear from her cheek. "But it was a long time ago for you. The moment passed and your feelings changed. There's nothing wrong with that." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself of something.
There was something. She couldn't think. She'd been so overwhelmed by fear and depression, but it was starting to recede now, as though his presence was pushing it away. "Where's my baby?"
He stared at her, with a look somewhere between worried and confused, then let go. "Sit."
She sat in the big armchair and he picked up the baby and laid her gently in Sarah's arms. She held Fred a little too tightly, as though she didn't quite believe she was real and here and safe. The baby protested and she loosened her grip.
"Here she is, Sarah, our Fred." He squeezed in beside her. She'd suspected when she bought this armchair that they would both fit, if they snuggled. His closeness calmed her a little.
The baby burbled at her, and Sarah cuddled her. "Our baby." That was right. There was still something she was forgetting. It wasn't the brain parasite causing this. That she suspected had been lured here by her emotional instability...it had been a symptom, not the cause. "Why did you accuse me of not wanting our baby? I love you. Of course I love our baby." Logic. She was reacting emotionally, but there was something wrong with her logic. She tried to focus.
"Sarah, calm down. I'm not sure what's wrong but I promise I'll fix it." He was trying for reassuring, but he sounded almost...scared...hurt, she wasn't sure.
She looked up at him. "Why won't you answer my question? Is it because I'm human? You say nice things and you stroke my hair and God, I'm just a pet to you, aren't I? They've taught elephants to paint, but you'll never see their paintings next to the Mona Lisa. You can caress me, and tell me what a good human I am, but I'll never be your equal."
He went very still. "Sarah, you lived for decades on Gallifrey and managed to keep your head held high, why are you doubting yourself now? There are things besides intelligence, you know. Imagination, creativity, the courage to go out there and explore. Things I never found among my own people, no matter how hard I looked. And I certainly wouldn't be sleeping with a pet, even a Gallifreyan-shaped one."
She almost giggled at that.
The Doctor went on, "You agreed to have a baby with me during a time of war, but things change and you've lived eighteen years since. Your life is different now, and the choices you made then might not be relevant. You wanted to get on with your life and I was the one who wouldn't let you go, who wouldn't let this go." He had his arms wrapped around her now, holding her so tightly.
"You took the baby because you thought I didn't want her."
He looked bewildered again. "Sarah, I took the baby so you could rest. I always planned to come back." His next words slipped out, almost accidentally. "I thought I had more time."
She looked at him sharply, "It wasn't that long ago that you left me in Brighton, was it? Longer for me than for you."
"A year and a half for me. I thought I should get my head together before I saw you again. And I didn't think you remembered." The Doctor kissed her temple gently. "Sarah..."
"But I did, and I knew that if I'd retained those, then the changes to my body weren't erased either. I knew I was fertile when you came to my room that night." That was it, almost. She reached up and caressed his cheek. There was a reason she felt better in his presence, and a reason she stopped worrying when he held her. "Calla mucked with my biology."
"We knew that. You consented." He sounded uncertain, like he was afraid she might be regretting her choice. "But...." He stopped short and stared at her. "No. You're right. It was Calla. And given what she considered important, I should have been thinking about this totally differently. She wouldn't have stopped with the minimal genetic manipulation."
"I told Nat earlier that I looked younger because there were heavy doses of Gallifreyan hormones in my system, but depression is a chemical response. Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy can cause mood swings, so I wasn't too worried about it." The baby had fallen back to sleep in her arms, and Sarah gave her an abstracted smile.
"The Gallifreyan hormones are messing up your system. Sarah, I can't do anything about that until Fred is weaned. I think we're on the right track. You're calmer than you were, and that's something."
That wasn't what she meant. "I'm having severe illogical emotional reactions. I have been all throughout the pregnancy, and I put it down to hormones or lack of sleep or nightmares or PTSD, but I don't think any of those is the underlying cause. I worked with Calla and she was like you, explaining whether I understood or not. I know how she thought and I missed it."
He studied her intently. "Missed what?" Then, "The obvious, of course. That in her eyes, she didn't just need to make physical alterations, she needed to make sure you instinctively acted like my people. The right responses. She didn't think much of human families...too fluid and chaotic. She was afraid that you and Leela would end up hurting us, not out of spite, but out of carelessness. And it explains why you were never depressed when I saw you. I was afraid, that if I came round as much as I wanted, you would feel smothered. But if you were reacting like one of my people, you would have wanted that."
"I did, and didn't understand why I was being so clingy, or why you were suddenly so attentive when you were around." She managed a smile. "And I forgot that in your language, in general usage it's the couple that bears a child, not the woman." She settled back against his chest, knowing now it would make them both feel better. "There's a telepathic bond involved, isn't there, and we should have been doing this together, but I was so afraid to ask you to stay."
He kissed the top of her head, and said, "I didn't realise. I was trying, somehow to adapt to the less binding relationships you humans establish and I hated it. I wanted our child so badly for so long, but you were always so independent. I couldn't find a way to say it that didn't make it sound like I wanted you barefoot and pregnant." He reached round and stroked Fred's cheek. "She's so perfect, Sarah."
"Isn't she? I was so afraid you'd leave again and take her with you." Fred woke and started fretting and the Doctor helped Sarah adjust her so that she could feed her. "You thought I didn't want the baby and I kept trying to apply those instincts to human situations, and after seeing you with Rose, I thought you didn't want me. That I was only...that I was the only one left you could continue the species with. I knew how much you had wanted this once, but thought you regretted it now. And the depression made me look at the worst side of everything. If I'd been thinking clearly, I would have known better."
"Sarah, I never planned to do that. Her home is with you. She wouldn't be safe on the TARDIS, given the scrapes I get myself into." He gave her a mischievous grin, before pulling both of them into his lap. It would help her to be close; she wasn't a native telepath.
Sarah smiled as the baby caught the Doctor's finger and held it tightly. She was aware of both of them now at the edges of her mind. "Calla could have warned me. Maybe she did, in her own way. We spent so much time discussing methods of survival, both instinctive and practical and the differences between our species."
"She was very impressed by you. She was the one who recommended that you be put in charge of that committee. And your articles were intrinsic to Romana's strategies, both during the war and on the home front," the Doctor said absently, his attention focused on the baby.
Sarah wondered, not for the first time, if Fred would end up being horribly spoilt. "Doctor, you don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do. We all assumed you knew how valuable your opinions and insights and Leela's grasp of tactics and strategy were to us. Perhaps we should have said it more often." He pushed a strand of hair out of her face.
She looked at him seriously. "But it wasn't that I didn't know, or understand; it was trying to reconcile Gallifreyan reactions with human instincts and experience. And eighteen years of not knowing you had survived."
"And Rose." The baby finally let go of his finger and he used it to tickle her belly.
Fred blew bubbles at him.
"Don't torture her."
"I'm not. She's just so touchable, and sweet and wonderful."
"Are all Time Lords this sappy about babies? Because I am beginning to rethink this whole thing."
"No, you're not. You're my Sarah Jane and I've been wanting a baby with you for almost five hundred years. And now I've got one, so you'll have to forgive me for admiring every perfect inch of her."
Sarah rolled her eyes at him. "Stupid question, but how long does this last? I don't think either of us can take being joined at the hip for very long without an attempted murder."
"Well, if you're finished feeding the baby, and have calmed down a bit, my legs are starting to go numb. But a more proper answer would be that it should start getting easier now that I know what the problem is. I'd been blocking myself off from you so that you didn't feel overwhelmed by my constant presence in your head."
Sarah took the hint and stood up. "You've been in and out of my head so often over the years..." she mock-accused him.
"Oi. My turn to hold the baby. Hello, did you miss your daddy?"
"Nope, not one bit," Sarah said, pretending she was Fred. "Like mummy better. She's warm and cosy."
"But can your mummy do this?" The Doctor made a face.
"Mummy, mummy, daddy's being all scary." Sarah said, still in a squeaky baby voice, before she broke down, laughing so hard she had to sit on the floor to recover. "Oh, God," she said breathlessly. "I don't think I've laughed so long in...well since Turlough was here." She hesitated. "Could we go see him? After Gallifrey."
"We can visit as many of my former companions as you want. I'm all for showing off our little baby bunny here," he replied, bouncing Fred a bit. "And I'll figure out some way for you and Turlough to communicate, if you want. I know you two were great friends. Never did understand why though."
"Because we could gang up on you and mess with your mind. Could we head down to the kitchen? I'm suddenly hungry."
"I'll even cook dinner, while you hold the baby. Equal opportunity partner here." He was already halfway out the door.
"You're just scared of my cooking," she teased as she followed him down the stairs.
He turned to look at her. "Why would I be scared of your cooking? You used to cook on Gallifrey all the time. I don't know why you stopped."
"I cooked on Gallifrey because it was something to do. The first year or so, I was stuck in that flat trying to adjust to an alien language and culture while you were involved in the war planning. It wasn't until later I was co-opted, remember. And cooking was a good way to learn basic maths and directions. If you're going to carry the baby down these steep stairs, I'd appreciate it if you looked where you were going."
He made a face at her but faced front again. "I always thought you were so clever about that. I was so busy, but you managed to teach yourself my language and how to shop and an amazing amount of temporal physics."
"I had nothing better to do in the beginning. Watch that step, it's loose, and I haven't had a chance to fix it yet."
"At the risk of being yelled at, I'll offer to do it for you." He stepped carefully over it.
"Why would I yell at you?"
"To establish that you can do it yourself. Offering to do it doesn't mean I think you're any less capable of doing it yourself."
"I'm long past the age when I'd take offence at something like that, Doctor. Not that I know how old I am. I just took to counting from my date of birth in self-defence." She led him into the comfortable kitchen in the back of the house and sat down at the table watching him expectantly as he started dinner.
He gave her the baby. "As for your age..." he counted rather dramatically on his fingers, then said gently, "The war lasted over a century, Sarah. I can't tell you exactly though. I lost track of my own age after the Eye of Harmony was destroyed."
"And you wonder why I fell apart when I saw you again. That's a huge chunk of my life. Longer than most humans ever live. No wonder I feel so old, sometimes."
He sat down beside her for a moment. "I know, and I always felt so selfish, having you beside me for so long. Sarah, the hormones in your system...."
Sarah knew what he was going to say. "I've stopped ageing again, haven't I, or it's been slowed considerably. Calla thought that Leela and I should live to see our children grown, and she wasn't taking any chances."
"Just so you know that we'll have to find another solution eventually. And you'll remain fertile for a while."
Sarah looked down at the baby in her arms, then grinned at him. "Maybe. Not immediately, though. Give me some time to get used to having one. And speaking of your age, you may not know what it is, but what's with telling Rose you were 900, when you passed 1000 long before the war?"
"It wasn't deliberate, but I told her I'd been travelling in a phone box for 900 years, and she assumed I'd started as a baby. I never saw the point in correcting her." He grinned at her as if they were sharing a joke
He smiled at her. "I'm about five hundred years older than I was when you stowed away on the TARDIS, if that helps."
"And I was with you for over a century of that. It's hard to take in, sometimes. Human minds don't think in those terms. Fifty years is a long time for a marriage to last, and not just for the reasons that Calla disapproved of." She watched as he got up to cook. "It would be stranger if I could just walk away after all those years together. Especially since we didn't end badly."
The Doctor turned to face her, leaning back against the counter, "That's it then. Neither of us wants to break this off, so we continue this, whatever this is, for as long as we can. We managed on Gallifrey for decades; it's certainly worth a shot."
"Sounds good to me, now what about dinner, I'm starving." Sarah felt better than she had in a long time. Perhaps if they'd talked, instead of trying to protect each other, her pregnancy would have gone better, but he was here now, and that was what mattered. She cuddled her daughter close, and thought that maybe they could make this work.