Summary: What happens after Inconceivable
Blame: paranoidangel42 because she keeps asking for more.
As usual x-posted to my lj.
Chapter 1: Old Friends
Chapter 2: Girl Talk
Chapter 3: Ladies Who Lunch
Chapter 4: Back to the Beginning
Chapter 5: Retail Therapy
Sarah's mobile rang as she opened the door to her flat. She looked to see who was calling as she waved the others in. "I need to take this. It shouldn't be more than a minute."
Josh grabbed the bag of Indian takeout from her hand. "We'll set the table while we're waiting."
"Thanks. Hi, Liz. Did you get those tests done?" Sarah tried to keep her voice steady. She had spent the past fortnight dreaming up all sorts of possibilities for the look on Liz's face at their last meeting.
"Relax, Sarah. They went smoother than I'd hoped. The foetal DNA isn't completely human, but you knew that. The other blood tests I did were clean, except..." Liz hesitated.
Sarah broke in impatiently, "Except what, Liz?"
"There seem to be some minor anomalies in your own DNA. I don't think it will have any effect on the baby, but I'll do some more tests. I don't suppose you have any idea what might have caused them?"
Sarah replied quietly, mindful of the others, "I dunno. As I said, I was exposed to all sorts of radiation and weird atmospheres during my travels. I imagine that might have some sort of mutation." She knew better. Liz was only confirming what she already suspected. The important thing was that it wasn't anything that would harm the baby. "Anything else? I've got company."
"Just that I should start doing proper prenatal exams. I didn't even think of it before," Liz said briskly. "I was able to do some of the preliminary blood work with the blood I drew last week, but there are other tests I should be doing. And I'm feeling uncomfortable about using the UNIT labs for regular visits, so your place or mine?"
"How about we alternate? Start having dinner together Monday nights or something. I'll start. I'm not promising to cook, but we could order in, say 7:30? Set a regular pattern, so no one becomes suspicious." And make sure I have someone around at least one night a week, Sarah thought. She hadn't been sleeping well, and her depression when she had first found out had scared her.
"See you Monday, then."
Sarah hung up the phone, and joined the others in the kitchen. "I'm glad you didn't wait for me. Pass me some of the chicken masala." She grabbed a bottle of Coke out of the fridge and sat down at the table.
"Sarah, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but did you say something about tests?" Nat's concern was obvious.
"Not in the widely accepted sense, but in the I should have had more sense sense. If that makes any sense." Sarah paused. "Sorry, I'm a bit incoherent these days. I was going to tell you both tonight anyway. I'm pregnant."
Josh recovered first. "You're what? How?"
"The usual way. Ran into an ex, had sex with the ex, decided we were better off apart, found out that I'm not too old to skip the birth control, and realized I had no way of contacting the ex. I hope the two of you have better sense," Sarah said. "Oh, don't look at me like that. I know you've been together at least since Italy. I don't know why you felt you had to hide it from me. Were you afraid I'd disapprove? I'm not exactly in a position of high moral ground just now."
Nat smiled at her, "I guess we weren't sure how you'd react." She turned to Josh. "We probably should tell her."
"Tell me what?" Sarah looked from one to the other. "You're getting married," she guessed delightedly.
They both looked sheepish.
Nat said, "Yes, and, um, you aren't the only one who's had birth control issues recently. I'm about eight weeks along. We were thinking about telling you tonight."
Sarah hesitated. She wasn't absolutely certain that her pregnancy would run the traditional nine months, but she'd deal with that when she had to. "I'm about the same." She grinned suddenly at Nat. "This is weird. Almost a relief though. The last people I told were all at the grandmothery stage of things."
Josh said, "The wedding will be in a month or so. We want to keep it as low key as possible, after everything else that's happened recently. So, eight weeks, would this be the friend you ran into at Deffrey Vale?"
"That's the one. He's the one I told you about, Nat, who I used to travel with. I ran into him unexpectedly and promptly started behaving like the girl in that awful Cher song who hears her ex is back in town and is telling her friends to help her be strong, but the moment she sees him again falls right back into the same bad habits." Sarah took a sip of her soft drink. "It's not a healthy relationship, and maybe it never was, but no one else ever compared to him. I've spent most of my life trying to convince myself to get over him and it never worked."
Nat smiled at her. "If you were planning to tell us tonight, then the call can't have been about the pregnancy test."
Sarah nodded. "Just the usual prenatal tests, to catch any potential problems. The results were all clean, so that's one less thing to worry about. I imagine there will be more tests later on. There's too much of a chance of complications at my age. It's still not quite real to me. I never intended to have children."
"I wasn't expecting to be a father quite so soon, either." Josh reached over and squeezed her hand, "Sarah, if there's anything we can do?"
"I'll remember that when I need babysitters," Sarah joked. "Seriously, though, there is a favour I've been meaning to ask you, Josh."
"I'd like to read Duke Giuliano's journals."
"You don't believe in them, Sarah, why would you want to...?" Josh stopped, unsure of his ground.
"I believe there was a Duke Giuliano, Josh. I believe that the White Chapter and the Crimson Chapter exist, and that their actions are motivated by the contents of that book. I should have thought of this in Italy, instead of blindly assuming that the whole thing was nonsense. I need to know what might happen next, for the sake of my baby." Sarah hoped she didn't sound too hysterical.
Nat asked, "How could you have known, Sarah? We didn't even know about the existence of the cult until Italy, after everyone involved was dead."
"Except Josh. What's the old saying – 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Once I knew about the Orbus Postremo, I knew that the White Chapter had to have placed someone close to me, someone who I trusted. The two of you, Liz, and Jo. And I knew it wasn't Liz or Jo." Anyone who had travelled with the Doctor would have started with a different set of assumptions.
Josh started to say something, but she forestalled him.
"I knew one of the two of you had to be members of the white chapter," she reiterated and then continued, "and I was certain of you after the incident in the crypt. It took me a while to piece the rest of it together, and for a while I wasn't sure if Nat was also involved." She paused.
Josh said sharply, "Nat was never a part of it. You have to believe me."
"I know that now, but at the time it just seemed too great a coincidence that her trip to Italy would bring the cult to my attention. I'm a better actress than you ever gave me credit for - I've known you were Donald Wakefield's son within twenty-four hours after I met you. At the time, I just put it down to wanting to escape your father's shadow, and as someone with way too many secrets in her own past...." Sarah couldn't help feeling she had said too much, but that had always been her problem. Too many secrets. It was time to let some of them go and to trust Nat and Josh to understand her choices.
Nat's gaze shifted from one to the other, "I never knew you suspected me. Is that why you didn't tell me about Josh?"
Sarah said softly, "The habits of a lifetime are hard to break, especially when the truth is stranger than any fiction I could possibly dream up. I'm sorry." She stood up and moved to the window, pressing her forehead against the cool glass. "I'm sorry I lied. I'm sorry if now or in the past it seemed like I was playing games with your lives. I'm not even telling you everything now and I'm sorry about that. I have a ruthless streak, honed by experiences that...I've seen too many people die. She turned to Josh, "I make a fuss about guns because I never want to have to use one again, though the way my life is going, I suspect someday I'll have to pick one up again."
Nat shook off her stunned look and said, "That's why you took the job at Planet Three. You must have nightmares about those years as a war correspondent."
"I took the job as a war correspondent to escape worse horrors and to give a plausible reason for the PTSD I was suffering. One of those things that I'm not ready to talk about yet." Probably not ever, it wasn't something she wanted to remember, let alone discuss with anyone.
Nat said gently, "Sarah, that doesn't matter. It isn't as though we hadn't noticed that you don't like to talk about your past much. The important thing is that we're your friends and you can trust us with whatever you're willing to talk about."
"Which is why I'm telling you this now. Because the Crimson Chapter hasn't gone away and I may have other enemies out there who aren't going to stop coming after me, just because I'm pregnant. And I've got something else to ask you both, which is going to sound horribly irrational."
Josh said, "You've put up with some rather irrational requests from me and for what it's worth, you've been very respectful of my beliefs even if you didn't share them and I appreciate that."
"Except for that deranged cultist snipe the other day. And I am sorry about that."
Josh smiled. "I took that as a sign that things were alright between us again. Whatever you need, Sarah, I mean it. And I'll arrange for a copy of the journal for you. I should have thought of what you suggested earlier, that it was a catalyst for the Crimson Chapter's actions, and might give clues to what they're going to do next."
Sarah laid a hand on his shoulder, "Thanks, Josh. You're a good friend. And I appreciate you both for putting up with some of my foibles. If I'm injured, or something happens with the pregnancy, I don't want to be taken to hospital. My doctor is Liz Shaw, who you've met, Josh, and I'll introduce to Nat soon. Contact her. No other medical treatment, except basic first aid and absolutely no aspirin. If Harry Sullivan were to show up, I'd trust him with my medical care. No one else. And I can't explain why at the moment, it's too complicated and too unbelievable. I'm asking for trust that I know I haven't earned, and I feel like a hypocrite after the way I went after Josh for lying to me." It sounded so bizarre, saying it out loud, like that. She hoped they would accept it.
"Sarah, you were mad at me because I'd lied about something concerning you. I get the feeling that this isn't related to us at all. Does your baby's father have enemies we should know about? Do you?" Josh's concern was obvious.
"Um. Yes and yes. I don't know that it will be an issue, and I'm trying to stay under the radar. It isn't...he has a dangerous life and if people knew the baby was his, it might mean trouble for me and the baby."
Josh joked, "Sounds like James Bond or something."
"Or something," Sarah echoed. "I wish I could say that I'm keeping quiet because you're safer if you don't know, but that isn't really the case. It's just complicated and a bit unbelievable."
"Sarah, after the whole cult business, I'd believe just about anything about your past," Nat said with a smile. "But in the end, it's your decision. Just remember we're here for you if you need us."
"I know, and I appreciate that. Liz accused me of holding people at arms length and I'm trying to change that. It's hard to break the habits of a lifetime, though." She smiled suddenly, and started clearing away the empty containers. "Not to fall into cliché, but would anyone like some ice cream?"
"I, for one will embrace the cliché, Sarah. I'd love some." Nat reached out and caught her hand. "Sarah, I don't care how dangerous your life is. You're not to think of missing the wedding. Hush. I know you were considering it."
"I've endangered you enough, Nat," Sarah said, as she got the ice cream out of the freezer. "But I'd rather believe that maybe things will be okay. I tell you what, if I'm not actively being pursued by someone who wants to kill me, I promise to show up."
"That's good enough for me," Josh placed the bowls and spoons on the table. "It'll be alright, Sarah."
"I hope you're right, Josh, but I have a bad feeling about the next few months."