Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
The dinner was uneventful, and Sarah couldn't decide if she was relieved or disappointed. At least neither Rose nor Martha had committed a major faux pas, but if there had been some disturbance, it would have kept her awake. She still hadn't recovered completely from Fred's birth and after the excitement of the day, exhaustion hit her abruptly. She excused herself and, leaving her daughter in the Doctor's care, went off to bed. She was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.
Sarah woke to the sound of voices in the room. Not really feeling up to dealing with company, she decided to pretend she was asleep and hope they left.
"...why Sarah is resting in your bedroom, but given that she just gave birth to your daughter, it seems sort of silly." Rose, sounding surprisingly good humoured about the situation.
"Rose, I've known her for five hundred years and I haven't figured out our relationship. I certainly don't expect you to," the Doctor replied softly. "She's asleep. I'd rather not wake her."
"Five hundred...since you met her, you mean?" Rose asked
He had said something like that to Sarah right after Fred was born.
"Technically, I suppose I met her for the first time even earlier than that. It's a long story. And it's hard to criticise her for waiting for me when I'd developed the bad habit of wandering into her life, messing it up and wandering out again. If you want to talk about not letting go, I've been just as bad, if not worse than she has." He sounded old and tired. "I should have let go properly all those years ago, instead I keep blundering in, making things worse."
"We travelled together for what? Two years? Three? You can't have spent that much more time with her," Rose said lightly. "And it must have been centuries since you'd seen her."
More than that, Sarah thought. Didn't he say the war had lasted over a century?
"Hush, Fred, I'll wake Mummy to feed you in a moment. A year and a half. Since I'd seen her, I mean. As for travelling with her, ten years the first time, over a hundred the second. She was with me during the war."
"She doesn't look it." Rose paused. "A year and a half. I'd only been travelling with you a little over a year then."
"I ran into her in Brighton, in a situation almost identical to the one in Deffrey Vale. Except I didn't have a companion, and when I asked her to come with me that time, she said yes. Half an hour after we'd left, I was summoned back home because of the war."
Rose made a soft sound at that.
The Doctor continued, "They didn't know she was on board, and didn't give me time to drop her off, so she came with me. For a variety of reasons, returning her to Earth afterwards wasn't an option, so she stayed." He started to say something else but stopped. "Until the day I was asked to end the war by drastic measures. Returning her to Earth, to her own life was my one condition. The last time Sarah saw me she thought I'd be lost with the others. She lived eighteen years with that. I thought she wouldn't remember, and she pretended not to, to spare me."
"And there I was acting petty and jealous and just not getting it."
Apparently Rose had grown up a bit since then. Sarah was relieved. It had bothered her to realise on the walk over that Rose hadn't realised that Fred was the Doctor's daughter, though she had been otherwise occupied and the Doctor didn't always explain things coherently, even if he thought he had.
"There was no reason why you should. But there were reasons I hadn't mentioned her name. I just wanted to get myself together a bit more before I went back to see her, and to let her know I'd survived. Unfortunately I left it too late."
The baby let out a sudden cry, and Sarah felt the bed move as the Doctor sat down and touched her on the shoulder. She pretended to wake, and gazed at him sleepily.
"Somebody's hungry and wants her mum," he told her cheerfully.
Sarah sat up gingerly, and took the baby. "I still feel like I'm going to drop her sometimes."
"If you do, she'll either land in your lap or on the bed. I think she'll survive, either way," the Doctor said.
She couldn't help smiling at that. "Um, Rose, hi. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, the Doctor and I were just talking. Have you grown younger? Having a baby seems to have agreed with you." Rose smiled and sat down on the bed to admire Fred.
"That would be the huge doses of Gallifreyan hormones in my system. I imagine once the baby's weaned, the effect will wear off." Sarah was startled to realise that she was beginning to feel comfortable nursing.
The Doctor gave her an odd look but said nothing.
"Such an adorable baby. I've a little sister now. Four years old and cute as they come." Rose sounded happy.
"The Doctor said you were working for Torchwood in the alternate universe. Having fun?"
"Yeah." Rose gave the Doctor a look.
"Okay, if you want to talk about me behind my back, I'll leave. I know when I'm not wanted." He kissed the top of Sarah's head and left the room. "I'm sure somebody else will play with me."
Once he was gone, Sarah and Rose looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"He doesn't change. Not really. Not the important things." Sarah smiled down at her daughter.
"You don't consider his appearance important?" Rose couldn't help asking. "Bit of a shock for me, him changing like that."
"The first time was strange, but after a while.... When I met him, he was on his third. This is his tenth. You can get used to anything. Though it's weird to think that Fred might regenerate some day."
Rose giggled, "She might. But I bet you'll always know who she is. Why on Earth did you let him choose to call her Fred?"
Sarah hesitated. "Mostly his companions have been human or other aliens, but he had one companion from his own race, Romana. The first time they met she gave him her full name, Romanadvoratralundar, and he told her that he'd call her Fred instead. He didn't actually, but it was a joke between them."
"And now she's the President of Gallifrey. I hadn't realised he was so well respected."
"He isn't. He's considered a renegade and a scoundrel. He just knows the right people and has saved his homeworld often enough to have made a name for himself. He was tagged for...I'd suppose you'd call it special ops, during the war. Missions where no one else had a chance of succeeding. At the beginning, I always went with him, then I found other things I was good at, and I was asked to serve on a committee concerned with the future of Gallifrey after the war. I also wrote articles for the planet's news services. Op-ed pieces, that sort of thing. 'An alien's view of Gallifrey'." Sarah smiled at Rose. Now was not the time to dwell on what had been lost.
Rose wasn't fooled. She reached over and touched Sarah's arm. "You got to know people here. And not all of them survived. It has to be rough, coming back. Part of the reason I wanted to talk to the Doctor was to apologise for my callousness earlier. I wasn't thinking."
"I understand, Rose," Sarah said gently. "It's partially his fault for not explaining where we were headed. Still, it's better than we expected."
"I could tell at dinner. I might not have known the people or places you were discussing, but I could tell how much it affected you. It's funny. Even knowing how old he was when I was travelling with him, I never thought about the life he'd had before me that much. Maybe that was why I was so shocked when I met you." Rose smiled to show that she had got over it.
Sarah nodded. "As for Romana, we were close, during the war. His people were very isolationist, and didn't think much of other species, but she was better than most. We developed a little circle of friends, some of whom were in very high positions, some of whom weren't. Quite a bit of the planning for the war took place in our sitting room." Sarah went on to talk about some of the nicer things about life on Gallifrey.
The conversation stayed light. Rose told Sarah about the life she'd built for herself.
"I grieved for a while, and kept waiting for him to come back, but then one day it hit me that I didn't need to wait for him to come rescue me from the shop, that what he'd really done was taught me how to live. So I focused on using what he'd taught me about how to change things to change myself."
Sarah agreed. "I'd forgotten that when I saw him again. For the past few years, my life has been one crisis after another and I was tired of running, tired of fighting and tired of being the one who had to be in control. And then he walked through the door and it was a little too tempting to drop it all on his shoulders. I felt like an idiot after." It hadn't got any better since then.
Rose gave her an understanding smile, "From what he said, before you woke up, you had plenty of reasons for the way you reacted. I can't imagine what living through the war must have been like."
"It's not something I'd want to repeat. Are you done, Fred? Now how about a nice burp?" She lifted the baby to her shoulder, deliberately changing the subject.
"It's getting late, or at least it feels that way. I should probably go and leave you two to rest." Rose yawned. "Sarah, I'm not the spoiled brat I was when we last met. I've moved on, found a boyfriend, made a new life for myself."
"And the Doctor and I need to sort out what happens next. He's not the easiest person in the world to talk to about such things." She laid a very sleepy Fred in the bassinet beside the bed and started rocking it gently with one hand.
"I've noticed." Rose grinned at her.
There was a rap on the door, and the Doctor peeked in. "Rose, I didn't realise you were still here."
"If that's a hint, I was already leaving." She gave him a cheeky smile. "You have a very cute daughter by the way."
"I think we'll keep her." He watched as she walked past him and out into the hall, then closed the door. "And how's Fred's mum doing?"
"Better. Still tired though. Are you're lonely because there's no one to play with?" she teased. "I would have thought that there would be plenty of Time Lords here who keep your hours."
"That can wait. Which is nice to be able to say."
Sarah grinned at that. She understood completely.
"Actually, I was thinking I'd lie beside you and read and keep an eye on Fred, so you can get some proper rest. Do you want me to read to you?" He settled down beside her, fully dressed.
It had been one of their customs. "Yes, I think I'd like that."
"Okay, snuggle down and I'll read you this book about hyperstellar craft of the 31st century."
"Sounds delightfully boring."
"I'm sure it will put you to sleep in no time." He reached over and tucked her in. "Hypersteller aircraft have their roots...."
It didn't really matter what he was reading, Sarah thought as she closed her eyes, just hearing the sound of his voice as she drifted off to sleep was enough.