Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
Sarah spent the next week tripping over the Doctor. Admittedly, he was quite helpful with the baby, and had actual experience with being a parent, which she lacked. And it was nice to wake to find he'd crawled into bed beside her for one of his quick catnaps. But she knew his presence was a luxury she couldn't count on.
Eventually, she would have to get up in the middle of the night to feed and care for Fred, not just be woken with a gentle touch and a murmured "sorry" when the baby was hungry by the Doctor, who attended to any other baby needs whilst she slept. She did appreciate the reprieve for the moment, though, as her body recovered from the birth.
Fred was a surprisingly placid baby, taking her father's antics and her mother's snark as her due.
Sarah felt more maternal than she expected, but she suspected she would never be the doting mum that Nat was. Sarah and the Doctor had shocked the other couple more than once with their nonchalance to the point where Nat had accused them of treating their baby like a sack of potatoes. As long as Fred didn't seem to mind, Sarah felt this was a completely acceptable method of parenting. It wasn't as though their Fred wasn't cuddled frequently by both her parents.
The Doctor waited a fortnight before saying, "Martha and Rose should be back soon. I think Jack is going to stay at Torchwood. Are you up for that trip to see what's happened to Gallifrey? I'd rather not go without you."
Sarah nodded. "Ready when you are." She dreaded what they might find there, but it had to be done. They had to know how far this thing had unravelled. She debated inviting Nat and Josh to join them, but they already had a full TARDIS, and given the nature of this trip, it would be best not to have too many strangers about.
A few days later, the others showed up and after a quick packing job, the four adults and Fred were comfortably settled in the TARDIS.
The Doctor was abstracted and withdrawn during the trip, not even speaking to Sarah much. Instead he focused on fixing things around the TARDIS and taking care of Fred. Sarah did her best to run interference, understanding some of the emotional turmoil he must be going through.
It didn't help that Martha and Rose seemed to be competing to prove who was a more knowledgeable companion. They were going out of their way to show off their "mad skillz" and Sarah felt the best thing she could do was keep them occupied and out of his way. She resisted the urge to start singing "Anything you can do, I can do better", as she had a feeling it wouldn't help.
Thankfully, the trip was blessedly short, although it was long enough for Sarah to learn that Rose had indeed moved on with her life and had plenty of other adventures to brag about. The other woman was quite annoyed at finding herself back here after rebuilding her life in the parallel universe, and the Doctor and his companions were still trying to find out what had happened, though they suspected it had something to do with the rift in Cardiff.
But that was a question for another day. They landed and Sarah hoped that for once, he had steered the TARDIS properly. She was a step or two behind the others as they left the TARDIS, as she had been nursing Fred when they arrived.
Sarah jiggled the baby gently as she emerged from the TARDIS and froze. Unerringly she turned to her left and stared at the ruins. A sob escaped her at the sight. She felt the Doctor wrap an arm around her. "Sorry," she muttered, trying to get hold of her emotions. "That shouldn't be there, should it?"
"No. You were right. It's all starting to unravel." His soft voice was tight with controlled emotion.
The other two had started walking towards the ruins, still competing with each other, and oblivious to what the scene was doing to the Doctor and Sarah.
"Advanced society," Martha said crisply, indicating bits of broken machinery. "But something happened to them."
"Ecological disaster, or war perhaps," Rose replied. "Let's get closer, perhaps we'll find some answers."
They didn't look to see if the Doctor or Sarah were following them.
"I wonder who lived here," Martha mused.
"I did, once." The words slipped out of Sarah's mouth before she could stop herself. This wasn't really her fight, but the shadow on the Doctor's face echoed her own pain.
Both women turned and stared at her.
"This was my home once, for more years than I care to remember. More years than either of you have been alive." She pulled away abruptly and started walking towards the west, resisting the urge to run.
"Sarah, where are you going?" Rose asked sharply. "You shouldn't leave the group. We don't know where we are or what's out there and it's getting dark."
"I know. Leela and I planned this after Calla died. What would happen if the Capital were destroyed." This was between her and the Doctor. She wished the other two had stayed on Earth.
"Sarah," the Doctor's voice was shaky.
She swung around to face him. "There are ruins, where there should be only dust. There's an atmosphere. I'd say there's a good chance there are survivors." Her voice was wobbling, but she pressed on. "I need to know and so do you."
The Doctor caught her arm. "Slow down. We'll get there soon enough. Do you remember the way?"
"To the river? I walked it a thousand times, preparing for the worst...."
She was interrupted by other voices, and after a second the Doctor grinned. "The Chancellory Guard. Just like old times." He stared at the faces as they came closer.
Sarah watched their approach. "Is that Maxil?"
"I do believe you're right." The Doctor smiled at the approaching Guards. "It's almost like old times."
"Doctor. Still travelling with primitives I see." Despite the sarcasm, Commander Maxil looked surprisingly relieved as they reached the group at the TARDIS. He glanced at the three women. "Lady Sarah, it's good to see you both again." He ignored the other two women. "If you'll follow me."
As the followed him, Rose murmured, "Lady Sarah?"
"It's a long story." Sarah stared at the guard's back. "I'm not sure why he's started calling me that though. Humans...well, all offworlders are not particularly welcome here. Or at least they weren't." Judging by their reaction to Martha and Rose's presence, things hadn't changed that much.
Sarah caught the Doctor's hand and gave it a squeeze as the party followed the guards down the path to the river. "I suppose just wanting the people we like to survive would be wrong," she said softly.
He gave her a wry smile. "Let me take Fred for a while." He lifted the baby out of her arms and cuddled her protectively. "I don't want whoever ended up in charge to get any ideas about taking her away from us."
She nodded, remembering some of the more conservative citizens she had met when she lived here.
"Take her away from us?" Rose stared at the two of them. "Doctor, you're not saying...."
"She's my daughter, Rose. I thought you realised that." The Doctor gave the baby an absent smile.
Rose opened and closed her mouth a few times, before asking, "So who are these people and where are they taking us?"
The Doctor glanced at Sarah before answering, "This is Gallifrey. My home planet. Which I thought had been destroyed. During the war there were plans made for a temporary city, if the Capital was uninhabitable."
Maxil turned around. "If it hadn't been for Lady Sarah, we would never have salvaged as much as we did."
"That was mostly Calla's doing. I just picked up where she left off." Sarah was a bit bewildered. Even if her plans had helped, she never would have expected to get credit, especially from someone like Maxil.
"You laid the groundwork. If it hadn't been for your planning, long after Calla died, when the situation had changed drastically, and Leela's survival skills, no one would have survived the first winter. The President intended to seek you out and tell you, once we got the TARDISes working again."
"The President?" The Doctor asked quietly, as though he feared the answer.
By this time they had reached a small town of rough buildings and tents. Maxil led them to a slightly bigger building. "President Romana. She will be very happy to know you survived."
They followed him into an antechamber.
"Wait here," he said, "I will let her know you've arrived."