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
And So It Ends. Sort of. Do not despair, there will be an epilogue next week, so I'm not cutting you off cold turkey, but I've got the After School Special fic to write still and I've got another long story that is NOT babyfic nibbling at my brain which will probably start sometime in June. But eventually I will come back to this universe to tell some stories of Sarah during the war and the Sarah/Turlough/Five story and maybe even the story of Sarah and Eight in Brighton before the war.
Sarah laid Fred in her carrier, which she kept in the kitchen, and set about making a pot of tea, allowing the familiar ritual to soothe her. And she waited, knowing that eventually the Doctor would come looking for her, or at least for some tea.
It didn't take long at all. The tea was steeping and there was a plate of sandwiches on the table when the three Time Lords entered the kitchen.
"Who are you and what have you done with Sarah?" the Doctor asked bemusedly, idly sticking a finger in the honey pot and licking it off. "Are you feeling alright? Since when do you do domestic?"
"I cooked on Gallifrey, Doctor as you pointed out not all that long ago," Sarah replied with a grin. She motioned the others to sit and poured the tea. "I imagine you'll want baths and clean clothes too. We'll see what we can find after you've eaten."
"Thank you, Sarah," said Romana sniffing at the cup of tea. "For everything."
Instead of sitting, Susan went over to admire Fred. "She is so adorable. May I?"
"Of course you may, my dear." The Doctor picked his daughter up and demonstrated how to hold her. "Here you go. Fred, this is your niece, Susan."
Sarah grabbed the camera she had placed on the counter and snapped a few pictures of the three of them. "For posterity."
The Doctor grinned. "I trust I'll get copies."
Sarah nodded. That had been the point.
Susan gingerly carried Fred over to the table and carefully sat down. "She's so small."
"Babies are," Romana said authoritatively, before spoiling the Presidential image by offering Fred a finger, which was promptly grasped.
The two of them ogled the baby for the next few minutes, causing the Doctor to preen and Sarah to wonder if they would notice their tea was growing cold.
Abruptly Fred let out a squall, and Susan froze, looking worried. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, she's just hungry," Sarah said. She retrieved her daughter, who promptly quieted when she started nursing.
A relieved Susan turned back to her tea. "Ooh. Marmite. I missed Marmite. The replicators never did a good job with it."
Romana took a jam sandwich and bit into it thoughtfully. "The Doctor has filled us in on what has happened to him since the war ended, Sarah, but not about what happened with you. You weren't supposed to have remembered anything about the war, yet you clearly do."
"We haven't come to any earth-shattering conclusions about that," Sarah replied. "Maybe it was because there were some survivors or maybe the genetic engineering that Calla did, all I know is that I never forgot any of it."
"You never did tell me what had happened to you after I left you back in Brighton, Sarah." The Doctor reached over and squeezed her hand.
"I went home and waited for the memories to fade, but they didn't. After a few weeks, I took a job as a war correspondent, because I couldn't cope with pretending nothing had happened. Maybe I was looking for an excuse for the shell shock I was feeling; maybe I just had a death wish."
The Doctor froze. "Sarah...." He sighed. "I suppose I can't blame you for that. I was courting death myself afterwards."
"I suppose that at least gave me a chance to get my head straightened out. By the time I came back I was ready to get my life back together, and if I broke down, I could use some of the things I'd seen there as an excuse." Sarah shrugged. "I packed anything that reminded me of you in cardboard boxes, closed off the memories in the back of my mind and pretended that everything was okay."
"That can't have been easy," Susan said softly.
Sarah shrugged. "I did what I had to do to survive. When I'd finally had enough of the war, I transferred back to the London office. I ran into Tegan on the flight home, if you can believe it. She was stewardessing again, but whenever she had a free minute, she'd come and talk to me. When we got to Heathrow, I called Liz and suggested the three of us get together. She brought Jo along, and it was nice to be able to talk about our travels with the Doctor, even if there was so much I couldn't say.”
“I shudder to think what sort of tales you did tell.” The Doctor offered the tea around, before pouring himself a second cup.
Romana snickered, “I can think of a few.”
“Wouldn't you like to know?” Sarah asked brightly before continuing. “Anyway, I worked at slowly rebuilding my life. It was still difficult to adjust to normal life again, but I managed. Having Liz and the others and Harry helped. And if I mourned the Doctor, I kept it to myself. There was no reason to tell the others that you were gone."
Sarah paused to shift the baby to her other breast aware of the others waiting for her to continue.
"Just when I thought that my life was working, I was fired from my job at Planet Three due to trumped up charges. The company I was investigating managed to convince my bosses that I'd falsified evidence. I didn't know it at the time, but that was my first brush with the Crimson chapter of the Orbis Postremo.” She couldn't keep the weariness from her voice.
“Sarah has her very own doomsday cult,” the Doctor said proudly.
“Grandfather, you're the only one I can think of who would be happy about something like that.” Susan took another marmite sandwich and waved it at him. “And where were you during all of this?”
“Elsewhere.” The Doctor's voice was soft. “I thought she had forgotten me and that everything else I cared about was gone, except for Earth. I was half mad for a time, and then I found myself tracking a Nestene signal. Ran into a girl named Rose who came travelling with me.”
Now it was Sarah's turn to grip the Doctor's hand. Fred had finished nursing and fallen asleep, and Sarah handed her to her father to cuddle.
“Rose...well, I was a mess, like Sarah, courting death because I didn't want to live with the pain. She and Jack pulled me back from the edge, and just as I was starting to feel happy I was alive again, we ran into the Daleks. I told you the rest.” He smiled sadly at his daughter.
Sarah took up the story again. “We ran into each other shortly after he regenerated. It had been eighteen years for me and I...I slipped into a room to hide and saw the TARDIS. I backed out of the room in shock and there he was, just standing there staring at me. I'd run into him earlier and had convinced myself that I was imagining things.”
“She told me she'd thought I was dead, and I told her everyone else was, and I think she decided to...spare me the knowledge that she remembered everything she had been through.” Fred woke up suddenly and the Doctor made a funny face at her. "Did you have a good nap, Fredlet?"
Romana laid a hand on Sarah's arm. “I can't imagine living with that knowledge for so many years.”
“I managed. It wasn't easy, though. I have nightmares still. Arcadia, Calla, Leela. All our plans for the future...wasted.”
“That wasn't your fault any more than it was ours,” Romana said softly. “The fortunes of war mean that sometimes your plans come to naught. Leela died fighting as she would have wanted, face to face with the enemy; Calla was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I think you did as well or better as the head of that committee; and no one could have predicted Arcadia.”
Sarah could tell the loss hadn't quite sunk in for either Romana or Susan. It would take some time for “it's over, we lost” to become a part of their reality as it had been hers and the Doctor's.
The Doctor caught a look from her and changed the subject. “Did you say you'd be staying with Sarah?”
“If she'll have us,” Susan said hopefully. “I don't know where else we'd go. This is so different from the Earth I knew and the only other people I knew here were Barbara and Ian and they wouldn't even recognise me.”
“We could try and track them down anyway. If they travelled with the Doctor, they must be used to all sorts of strange things. Do you know their last names?” Sarah asked. “Jo is trying to get as many of your father's former companions as she can for a party of some sort. I don't know why it hasn't happened yet, but she's rather a scatterbrain. Her heart's in the right place, though.”
“I remember you saying something about that...at your friends wedding. How are they doing?” The Doctor bounced the baby a little bit while he waited for an answer.
“Better now that Nat seems to have got over the idea that Josh is fixated on me. Having you around so much helped.” Sarah turned to the others. “Nat and Josh are my best friends. I'm sure you'll meet them soon.”
Susan grinned, suddenly reminding Sarah of her grandfather. “Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton. Though Barbara might have got married. They both might have. They were teachers at Coal Hill School in the sixties.”
Sarah smiled suddenly. “I think they married each other. Jo said something about him being her youngest daughter's science tutor. How's that for coincidence?”
“I should like to see Barbara and Ian again myself. We certainly must call Jo and arrange that. You should meet my first human companions, Fred. If it hadn't been for them, I might never have got involved with your mum in the first place.” He sniffed the air. “Smells like someone's in need of a nappy change. I'll be right back.”
After he'd gone, Romana turned to Sarah and asked, “You're sure our staying won't inconvenience you? I know you've got your hands full with the baby.”
“Expect to be put to work. Especially in the middle of the night, when her father isn't around.” Sarah shrugged. “It will be nice to have someone around who understands. I've spent too much time keeping too many secrets.”
“I suppose I'll have to remember not to call you grandmother, though I do like it so.” Susan's eyes twinkled.
“Adoptive granddaughter or surrogate or something. It's not out of the range of possibility that I might have been closely involved with your grandfather at this point in my life. However, he looks way too young to be your grandfather at the moment, so you might want to keep that in mind.”
“Will do.” Susan suddenly hopped out of her chair and flung herself at Sarah. “It is so good to see you again.”
“You too. Both of you.” Sarah gestured for Romana to join the hug. “I missed you both so much.”
They talked quietly for a while, waiting for the Doctor to come back. Sarah filled them in on about the Crimson chapter and her life on Earth and they talked about how they would live and plans for the future.
The Doctor finally bounced back into the room with a burbling baby in tow.
"We were about to send out a search party." Romana said, supressing a laugh. "I didn't think changing a baby took that long."
"It didn't. Jack called. They figured out how to get Rose back to the alternate universe, but there was a limited time frame, so she's going rather than lose the opportunity."
Sarah stood up and put an arm around him. "And you're going off to say a proper goodbye?"
He smiled sadly. "At least this time I know she's getting on with her life, instead of mourning me and some fantasy she built up in her head. And if you take that personally, I swear...she wasn't at my side for decades during the war. I wouldn't have wanted her to be. You made a bad time better. She wouldn't have." The Doctor handed Fred over. "I'll be back soon, I promise." A quick kiss, and a hug for Romana and Susan and he was out the door.
Susan started clearing away the tea things. "Didn't you mention something about a shower?"
"Shower or bath, your pick. And if you don't mind my tastes in clothes, we'll find you both something to wear until we can get you some proper clothes."
"Sounds like a plan." Romana said. "From what I can remember of Earth, my torn, worn Presidential robes would not be appropriate."
Sarah led them up the stairs, remembering how she had dreaded the future when she had first found out she was pregnant. Now the future looked much less grim. And whatever happened couldn't be worse than what she'd already been through. Perhaps they hadn't been able to save Gallifrey, but at least she had some of the family she had built there, back.
Fred blew bubbles at her and she grinned at her daughter and the prospect of a life she'd never expected to have. There would be time later for tears and mourning and serious discussions about the future, for now it was just nice to have them back and to know that neither she nor the Doctor were alone any more.