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
Chapter 6: Synchronicity
Chapter 7: Remember When
Chapter 8: Think of the Children
Sarah pressed a palm against her slightly swollen belly as she peeked round the corner of the building and wondered how she had got herself into this mess. Not the baby - she remembered all too clearly how she had managed that. And not the running from the crazy cultist who wanted her (and her baby) dead. No, her biggest problem at the moment was that she had agreed to meet Nat and Jo for a knitting lesson and she was going to be late if she didn't find a way to lose or stop the man who was following her.
She saw him running along the street and resorted to an old trick - she tripped him. A little bit of Venusian Aikido and he was soon out cold in the alleyway. She debated leaving him there, with a note that said 'better luck next time', but decided against it, choosing instead to find a policeman and report an attempted mugging.
The paperwork took a little time, but she was only fifteen minutes late when she arrived at Jo's door. Sarah was relieved to see Nat's car in the driveway, Jo's house could be difficult to find, but she was not looking forward to this ordeal. Nat had already put their plan to decorate the baby's room off twice, and Sarah had decided she'd rather wait until the dates worked out. Surprisingly, their pregnancies hadn't brought them closer together - they actually seemed to be driving them further apart. Part of the reason she'd agreed to come today, was in the hopes that it would be a bonding experience, never mind that she'd rather be watching James Bond than learning to knit.
Sarah felt Nat's disapproval whenever they were in the same room these days. Nat clearly didn't think her a proper mother, between the life or death clashes with the Crimson Chapter acolytes and her apparent lack of that whole nesting instinct thing. Whilst Nat was burbling over widdle bitty baby clothes and cots and things, Sarah had a total of one baby outfit - the one Liz had bought - and nothing else. She didn't see the point in buying anything yet. The baby wouldn't be born for ages. The sonic screwdriver gave her a different due date each time she used it, but the earliest had been the end of October. As it was only the end of May, Sarah didn't see any reason to rush into things.
When Jo had offered to teach Sarah knitting, she nearly refused. Knitting seemed like such a cliché, but Nat had wanted to learn and Sarah had been seizing every opportunity to be sociable. Staying at home and brooding about what should have been wasn't going to help her, or the baby for that matter. So she accepted, on the condition that she could bring Nat along.
Cliff answered the door and directed her to a room Jo referred to as her study, though Sarah suspected that Jo only called it that because she liked the way it sounded. As she approached she could hear Nat and Jo talking.
"Have you met the mysterious father?" Nat was asking as Sarah walked into the room.
Jo nodded. "Bit of a shock when I found out about them. I always thought of him as more of a father figure."
"You wouldn't think that now," Sarah couldn't resist saying, though that was approaching dangerous ground. She turned to Nat, "I see you found the place."
"No problem. You, on the other hand, are late." Nat's eyes glinted with amusement. "Or maybe early."
"It sounded like I arrived just in time. Has she been grilling you, Jo?"
"You find that surprising, Sarah. I take it she's never met the Doctor. Here take these. Did you find some wool?" Jo handed her a set of knitting needles.
"To take your questions in order, no and yes." Sarah displayed a skein of garish multi-coloured wool.
"Not going for subtle, are you Sarah?" Nat showed off the more subdued shade of yellow that she had chosen.
Jo giggled. "You've definitely never met the Doctor. He'll probably love it."
"If he ever sees it." Sarah met Jo's eyes. "I did hear from him...a note with pictures from the last time we met. His current travelling companion will be in town for a wedding in June, and he suggested we meet for dinner the night before, while she's attending the hen night. We'll see if it works out." She explained to Nat, "His plans, well, they don't always go as planned."
"Now let me show you how to cast on. There, I think you've got it. Sarah, that's the beauty of my idea. As I've been talking to people about this little get-together I'm planning, I've been telling them to pass on a message if they happen to run into him. Don't look at me like that. I've just been saying that you need to talk to him about something. I have better sense than to drop that little bombshell into this community. I'm trying to plan a gathering of all the people who've travelled with the Doctor over the years," Jo explained to Nat. "See this isn't hard, Sarah."
"I think I'd feel more comfortable building a baby monitor from scratch."
"Why would you need to, when you have K-9?" Jo picked up her own knitting.
"I'm sure he'd love that. I got one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners and he's been sulking ever since. When he's not chasing it around the room."
"See, I should have known the Doctor liked you best. He never gave me a robot dog."
"He liked you too, just in a different way. And you're madly in love with your husband, so why are you complaining?"
Jo stuck her tongue out at Sarah.
"I hope that by the time I'm your age, I'm a little more mature," Nat commented. "K-9 was a gift from the Doctor. Doesn't he have a proper name? Is this right?" She displayed her knitting and Sarah was instantly jealous.
"Not really. Though he used to go by John Smith occasionally." She looked closer at Nat's knitting. "Perfect."
"Jo, on a more serious note, is there a Jack Harkness on your list?" Sarah frowned at her knitting, which didn't look quite right. She looked enviously at Nat.
"No, should there be?"
"Let me get back to you on that. I've placed him with the Doctor and Rose Tyler, who I mentioned last time, but his name came up in reference to something else I'm working on - a story about the ghosts that have started appearing around London - and I want to investigate further before you contact him. There's something odd going on there." Sarah had promised herself that she wouldn't get involved in another investigation until after the baby was born, but curiosity had got the better of her.
"Should you really be investigating things in your condition?" Jo asked. "Oh, let me see that." She grabbed the knitting from Sarah's hands. "You're twisting your stitches. See here. You want to stick the needle in from this side. This is what it's supposed to look like."
"Oh, I see now. And as for the investigation, it's nothing dangerous. Just a little background information on what's causing the ghost shift. Undercover work at a place called Torchwood." Sarah had purposely waited until now to tell Nat about it. "I've got a low level position there and I start tomorrow. If it looks like I might be in danger, I'll get out of there. I've got enough people trying to kill me, already. But I also need to keep working to cover expenses."
She knew she should be thinking about the baby, and doing something safer, but the ghost shift had spooked her, and there wasn't much left that did. She'd grown accustomed to being the one who noticed abnormalities and saw the dangers others ignored. Saving the world was what she did and being pregnant hadn't turned that instinct off. She couldn't tell them that; she knew they wouldn't understand.
"Didn't your Aunt Lavinia leave you some money?" Nat displayed three neat inches of baby blanket.
"Show off." Sarah was still struggling with the first row. "She left me some money, but babies are expensive. I'm not worried about where the next meal is coming from, I'm worried about future expenses - schooling and such."
"And even if she does manage to reach him, the Doctor is unreliable and rather vague about money."
"He sounds like a bit of a character," Nat said. "Oh, come on. You've got to tell me more."
Sarah finally finished the row without errors. "You wouldn't believe some of the stories we could tell about him." She caught Jo's eye and shook her head. It would be one thing if the Doctor were here babbling on about being a thousand-year-old alien, it always sounded so much more sane when he said it. She thought about ways to change the subject. "The one thing you two have in common, besides actually being good at knitting, is that you've both been trying to get me more excited about the baby. You've got me at your mercy. Why don't you tell me what I'm doing wrong?"
Jo winced. "Sarah, I never intended for you to feel that way."
"No, you just think I don't care about this child. You think that if I'm not babbling happily about baby names and nursery plans, there must be something wrong with me." At least Jo had reacted, Nat was just staring at her like she'd grown two heads. "I don't...I can't...." The words just wouldn't come. "I never intended for this to happen, but if it had to, why now, why not when I was younger and less set in my ways?" Less damaged, she thought. "And okay, not being able to reach the Doctor is bothering me more than I realised. I'm sorry I don't seem to be as, I don't know, enthusiastic as you expect me to be, but even if this had happened in my twenties - if I'd fallen in love with some nice normal bloke, got married and did things in the proper way - fluff and frills isn't the way I'd have handled it."
Sarah heard the hysteria in her voice and stopped, trying somehow to get herself under control. Nat and Jo weren't the problem, the real issue was that she suspected they were right, that she should be more concerned about the baby and more excited and that the baby deserved a better mother than she could ever be. She had never let Calla affect her this way, even at her most condescending, but now everything the other woman had ever said to her kept running through her head, reminding her of the promises she'd made that were now impossible to keep.
"Sarah," Nat said finally, softly, "I never realised it upset you so much. I've been so happy about Josh and our baby, and yes, it does seem sometimes like you resent your baby, and I worry a bit about how it will be for you when the baby is born, when you're struggling to take care of it alone."
"You're afraid I'll take my anger out on the baby. That I'm too cynical to be a proper mother." She couldn't blame Nat for that. More than once the other woman had been subject to the hard choices Sarah had been required to make. "I'm not. I promise you that. I would never harm the baby, I just...I worry that given my lifestyle, I won't be able to take care of it properly." Calla had believed that. And now that she was gone and there was no way to raise the baby the way she had wanted Sarah to, she was feeling inadequate. And now that Sarah had no choice in the matter, she couldn't help worrying that Calla had been right.
"Sarah, I want to believe that, I really do. But it isn't just that you're not interested in preparing for the baby, it's that you don't seem to realise that it's one thing to risk your own life, but now you're risking your baby as well. You say there's nothing dangerous about this Torchwood investigation, but somehow danger seems to find you anyway. I know you have enemies, that it isn't necessarily deliberate, but then you go and do something like this." Nat looked down at her knitting, avoiding Sarah's eyes.
"I guess my priorities are different from yours. Or perhaps what I'm prepared to do to ensure the safety of my baby." She gestured with her own knitting. "I'm not as interested in making a cosy nest for my baby, as making the world that he or she will grow up in safe. I can see the other side, but the only time my nesting instincts were woken to that degree, was in a situation where it would have been insane to become pregnant. All I'm intending is a little reconnaissance. A fortnight and I'm out. And if I find anything dangerous, I'll alert UNIT and pull out sooner."
"I think you two need to agree to disagree," Jo said. "Sarah, it isn't the choice I would have made, but your life has been different from mine. Nat, one thing you'll learn quickly as a new mother is that everyone has a different approach to motherhood, it doesn't make one right and the other wrong. In the interests of peace, I think we'll try something a little different." She put her knitting aside, stood up and walked over to her desk.
"Why do I suddenly have a desire to bolt?" Sarah asked with a grin, relieved that Jo had diffused the situation.
"Oh, it's not that bad," Jo said, although the tone of her voice implied otherwise.
Sarah looked at her suspiciously, "Dare I ask?"
"Oh, come on Sarah, it'll be fun. You need to have more fun." Nat put down her knitting.
"Embrace the fluff, is that it?" Sarah asked dryly, but she took the other.
"You're taking this all too seriously, Sarah. Have a little fun. Whenever we force you into some baby related activity, you have fun, don't you?" Jo was at her most bubbly. "Having a baby isn't supposed to be doom and gloom and saving the world from the forces of evil."
"Oh, alright." Sarah pasted a smile on her face, determined to enjoy whatever Jo had cooked up, even if it killed her. "So what are these for, anyway?"
"I figured this would be fun if you got frustrated by the knitting, so you've got plain white babygro and fabric markers. A quick and easy craft, so that you both could go home with something completed for your babies."
Nat suddenly smiled. "How about this, Sarah, I'll make one for your baby and you make one for mine. And I promise not to put hearts and flowers on this one."
"Are you sure you want to do that? You're a much better artist than I am."
"I'm sure. Sarah, I know we've been having problems recently, but you're one of my best friends, and I don't want to lose you. I just want you to be happy, and when I see you like this, with dark circles under your eyes and barely holding it together, it worries me." Nat placed a hand on Sarah's. "If this keeps on you might want to seek professional help."
"I'm trying, Nat." She couldn't exactly tell a therapist what was troubling her. Not when she found it hard sometimes to believe it herself. Nightmares of a war that had happened far away from Earth. Not something she could explain to Nat, either.
"If you're going to do that, why don't you surprise each other? Nat, come and work on my desk; Sarah you stay there.”
Sarah set to work on the babygro, considering for a moment before drawing a puzzle piece design all over the garment, and then colouring in the pieces with various bright colours.
Nat focused on her own work and Sarah noticed that she was looking at a book from Jo's shelves and didn't seem to be using any colour but black. Jo had picked up her knitting again and was watching the proceedings with a grandmotherly air, obviously pleased that her refereeing had gone so well. Silence fell over the group as each focused on their own work.
Finally, Nat looked up and said, "Done," just as Sarah finished the one she was working on. They swapped and Nat burst out, "Oh, that is so cute." Sarah had thought it workman like at best and she was relieved that her friend liked it.
Sarah just grinned at the one Nat had made for her, allowing the squeals to die down before she giggled and said, "You know me too well."
"It seemed appropriate since the only thing you've decided on for the nursery was glow-in-the-dark stars." Nat had drawn familiar Earth constellations all over the babygro.
After much admiration from Jo, they returned to their knitting in better spirits, and Sarah found she was getting along better. Nat's was still neater and she'd knitted more, but Sarah had a couple of inches to show for the afternoon's work when she left, and she'd decided to make it part of her cover, and knit at lunchtime while she was investigating Torchwood. A nice, harmless activity for nice, harmless Marie Carter.