Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
And if you missed it, there's a related story about Sarah and the Doctor during the war here: War Story
They spent the rest of the day exploring the small city which had grown up around the river. Sarah was still a bit shocked at how well the Time Lords adapted to the manual labours necessary in the current situation.
After lunch Romana told them about the progress the Time Lords had made in the Capitol, clearing away debris. There hadn't been that many dead in the city. Most had just disappeared at the moment that the Doctor altered history, wiped from the past as well as the present.
They had been monitoring the part of the Matrix they had access to, and time seemed to have settled into a fixed path since the Doctor had returned to Gallifrey, confirming Sarah's theory that the problem was tied to his perspective.
When Sarah, Martha and Rose went to bed that night they left the Doctor chatting cheerfully with Susan and Romana about the future of Gallifrey.
"Sarah, you're being awfully quiet," Rose said.
The other two had been happily discussing everything they had seen that day and Sarah had fallen silent.
"I don't know...it just feels too good to be true. I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."
Martha grinned at her. "Perhaps it won't, this time. And if it does, we'll handle it."
"Perhaps you're right." But Sarah couldn't shake the feeling of unease.
They had reached Sarah's room and Sarah said a cheerful good night to them, recovered her daughter from Rose, who had been cuddling the baby, and went in to get ready for bed.
Sarah woke to the sound of a TARDIS, knowing something was terribly wrong. Hadn't Romana said that the TARDISes were grounded? The light...she opened her eyes to see golden sunlight streaming through the window. Blue sky and green leaves. And that was definitely a TARDIS she heard.
"Sarah? Did you have a bad dream?" The Doctor wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly.
"No, not bad." Her wits were coming back to her. A dream, that was all it was. She should have realised. The whole thing had been too good to be true. "Just..." She looked up at him hesitantly before saying softly, "I dreamt we went back to Gallifrey, and there were...people had survived and were rebuilding." Leela...she had held Leela in her arms when she died. "I'm sorry." His grief must be so much greater.
He stroked her hair. "You lived there too. You would understand, of all my companions. There may have been a few survivors, like the Daleks, but not the entire planet. Gallifrey's gone, Sarah. We both need to accept that."
She stared at him as a sudden thought came to her. "Speaking of survivors, if you've been here the whole time, whose TARDIS is that?"
"I don't know. Do you feel up to investigating?" He didn't give her a chance to answer but grabbed her hands and pulled. "Come on, Sarah. Aren't you curious?"
"I'm in my nightie," she mock-protested, but she let him drag her out of bed, and she only stopped to pick up Fred, on the theory that the baby would be safer with them than away from them.
Holding her daughter, Sarah followed the Doctor down the stairs. When they reached the first floor, the doorbell rang. She watched the Doctor take the last staircase in a few long strides, and was half surprised he didn't slide down the bannister instead.
"Hello, I'm looking for Sarah Jane Smith. She does still live here, doesn't she?"
The woman's voice was hopeful, but not one she recognised and the Doctor was blocking her view. Someone she had known during the war? She slowly walked down until she was standing on the last step.
"She does," the Doctor's voice was slightly cautious. "May I say who's asking?"
"Oh, are you her son? I'm her g-..I'm Susan Foreman. Is she here?"
"Is she home, Susan? We did get the right house, I hope."
That voice Sarah recognised, to her eternal shock.
Sarah couldn't see the Doctor's face, but she suspected he was gaping the way he had the first time he saw her again. Next would come the babbling.
Romana didn't give him a chance, but pushed past him. "Sarah."
"Romana," She shifted Fred awkwardly to one arm as the other woman embraced her. She looked somewhat dishevelled, and Sarah could see bruises and barely healed cuts.
The moment the other woman let go, Susan pounced. "Grandmother. You look good."
Sarah could feel Susan shaking as they hugged and something made her suspect that Susan hadn't had this body very long.
"It's been difficult trying to get here," Romana said softly. "Nightmare doesn't begin to cover it. But...can we stay for a little while?"
"Of course, as long as you like." Sarah reached up to touch Susan's battered face. After her dream, it was so hard to believe this was real.
"Thank you, grandmother." Susan smiled sadly. "I'm so sorry about grandfather. He should...." Her voice broke and she buried her face in Sarah's shoulder.
That finally shook the Doctor out of his shock. "Oi, Susan, standing right here," he said with mock fury.
Susan froze in Sarah's grasp, then turned around and threw herself at the Doctor. "Grandfather? Is it really you?"
"Of course, my dear. Like a cat, me, always landing on my feet." He hugged her tightly. "My Susan. You've regenerated."
"So have you. You look...young."
"I feel old. So very old." He shook his head as if to clear it. He looked over at Romana. "How did you...?"
Susan answered, "Romana was knocked unconscious and I dragged her into the Presidential TARDIS to get her out of harms' way. A futile gesture."
"Not as it turned out," Romana said softly.
"I was hurt badly in the process and started to regenerate as I set the course," Susan continued. "Between that and the damage to the TARDIS we were thrown into the void. When we came back through we were on Earth and there were Cybermen on the ground and Daleks in the sky. When I saw them being pulled away, I suspected that something was pulling them back into the void, so I set a quick course for six months in the future and dematerialised before we were too. I didn't trust the dimensional stabilizers to be working properly."
"Go on," the Doctor said, stroking her hair.
"We landed, and Romana regained consciousness shortly thereafter. We discussed the possibilities and decided that tracking down Sarah would be our best course of action. I thought you had died, grandfather. But there were Daleks." Her voice broke again.
"And I thought you had. Both of you." The Doctor reached over and pulled Romana into his embrace. "There have been a few Dalek survivors, and I had just begun to believe that some Time Lords might have survived as well."
Sarah slipped into the kitchen, trying to ignore her feelings of unease. If other Time Lords had survived what did he need her for any more? Her dream had been overly optimistic, a reflection of everything she had wished for. A Gallifrey with a future...the future she had planned for the planet before they had lost the war. Instead she had dust and ashes and three war-scarred Time Lords to deal with.
She smiled down at Fred. She'd done the self-pity thing; it was time to move on and trust that the Doctor would be there if she needed him.