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
Chapter 9: Domestic Disputes
Chapter 10: A Slight Miscalculation
This chapter takes place immediately after the previous one.
"Nat, it's Sarah."
"Oh, god. Where are you? Are you alright? We've been so worried."
"I'm fine. I got out of there safely. Not even a scratch."
"You mean to say you were there? Sarah, you said this would be safe."
"I wasn't expecting it to blow up in my face like this, Nat. Don't worry, this is the last time I'll try something like this." Sarah regretted the lie, but the events of the day meant a quick trip to the Cardiff branch. And that would truly be safe. At most, she'd stay one night, she just needed to get a handle on Jack Harkness. She wished she'd remembered to ask the Doctor about him earlier.
"Yes, Nat, I promise." Liar.
"I've got a possible new date for the decorating party - June 21st. Are you free?"
Sarah winced, remembering. That was the date of the hen party that Rose had planned to attend. Now she was trapped in that parallel universe. Not that it was relevant to the question. "I was going to talk to you about that. Once I got the spare room cleared out I realised it was too small. I'm going to start looking for a house tomorrow."
"I thought you were worried about money, Sarah. Are you sure you can afford it?"
"This is why I was worried about money. I knew that sooner or later I'd want a house and that there would be other expenses. Schooling for one. I never meant to give you the impression I was broke. Besides, I've finally managed to track down her father." Sarah started idly going through the mail which had piled up in her absence and found nothing very interesting.
"Her father?" Nat repeated, pointedly.
Sarah laughed. "Yes, it's a girl, just like yours. You finally pinned me down. They'll probably hate each other."
"Or marry each other. You never know these days. Anyway, I interrupted, sorry. You changed the subject from money to her father, and I'm assuming that is not a non sequitor."
"No, he's given me access to a bank account here in England that he only uses in emergencies. Enough that even with mortgage expenses, aside from some articles for various scientific magazines, I can stop working, at least until the baby is born. After that, we'll see. He and I have a lot of things to sort out."
"Just a sec, Sarah. Josh just walked in."
Sarah opened the newspaper and started looking at house listings to see what she could afford. She could hear Nat filling Josh in on what she had said, then Josh came on the line, "Would you be interested in the gatekeeper's cottage on our property? It's a nice area, almost country."
"And you'd be able to keep an eye on me. How much do you want for it? And don't say nothing. Or what are you willing to spend?"
To her surprise, Josh didn't argue, but named a figure. Sarah suspected he'd discounted it as much as he thought he could get away with.
"I'd like to see it first, but that sounds reasonable." Slight emphasis on the last word.
"Sarah, you're too independent for me to even try. Nat says you're letting the baby's father help you out."
"Yes. That's differ-oof. Sorry, violent baby." Sarah stroked her stomach hoping it would calm the baby.
"Nat has the same problem. The point I was trying to make is that as long as you're not trying to do this completely alone, I'll respect your decisions."
"And if I become too obstinate, you'll start going behind my back and paying my bills or something."
"Precisely. If you're in the gatehouse, we'll give you all the privacy you need, but you won't be able to isolate yourself."
"Got it. I can live with that. Can I come round tomorrow to see the place? And if I take it, we do this properly, legally binding contract, mortgage and all. Mortgage from a bank, not from you. And no pulling tricks with the interest rate." Sarah hoped she had covered everything. If she'd left a loophole, she knew he'd try to take advantage of it, no matter what he said.
"Whatever you say. Why don't you come for lunch? Noonish."
"Sounds good. See you then."
She made another, shorter call to Liz, to reassure her that she was alright, and to bring her up-to-date. After checking on K-9, she settled down on the sofa, wrapping herself in her quilt. She knew she was too wound up to sleep tonight - and sleeping for twenty-four hours on the TARDIS had left her wide awake.
Before Nat had called, she had been planning a Battlestar Galactica marathon. She'd been watching it obsessively, alternating between the relief at losing herself in a fantasy war and the feeling that sometimes it hit a little bit too close to home. She hesitated, then picked up the one box she hadn't sorted through and brought it over to the sofa.
Sarah stared at the box, labelled "Brighton" trying to will herself to open it. She felt foolish. After all the real problem wasn't that there would be something in it that would remind her, but that there would be nothing. Maybe that was what she was afraid of. The lacuna. The missing piece of her past that should never have happened, that as far as the rest of the world was concerned didn't happen. The memories that were supposed to have been wiped away, but weren't.
She had to get it over with. She didn't want her child growing up under this shadow. With that thought, she quickly sliced through the tape, before she lost her nerve. Sarah had packed this box the day after she returned from Brighton. A fortnight later, when her memories hadn't faded as she'd been told they would, she had taken the position of war correspondent and flown out to the Middle East, trying to distract herself from her worry, her fears and her pain.
The box contained mostly clothing from her trip to Brighton. Nothing to remind her; nothing to prove that it had been real. Sarah absent-mindedly started going through the pockets before she folded the clothes to pass on to charity. She found a handful of change, a few receipts, and a notepad and pencil, before she found what looked like a marble in the pocket of a rather battered leather jacket. She froze realising that she had brought something back after all.
"K-9, can you read this?"
He rolled up to her. "Affirmative, mistress."
A slot slid open and she inserted the sphere inside, then she plugged an external hard drive into his usb port. "Transfer over as much as you can, convert to the optimal Earth standard formats." Why was she doing this? Weren't these the memories she was trying to escape from? Maybe it was vindication she had been looking for, proof that it had really happened and that she had lived through it.
"I thought there would be more on there."
"Negative, mistress. Photographs and some text files. Would you like me to translate them, mistress?"
"Can you create a font usable by my laptop, so that I can read them in the original?"
"Do that then." Her journal. She'd been in the habit of updating it whenever she had a few minutes. She must have shoved the data sphere in her pocket and forgot about it. If time had reset itself as it was supposed to, the sphere should have disappeared. She'd always thought that it was just her - that the universe had healed, and that her memories were just an echo.
K-9 signalled he was finished, and she unplugged the hard drive and plugged it into her laptop. Tonight, of all nights, she didn't want to do this. Tonight, of all nights, she had to.
It was surreal, opening the folder of pictures and suddenly realising that technology had caught up with her in some ways. Digital photography, portable computers, streaming and downloadable video. She had had access to similar gadgets eighteen years ago. Admittedly there was fifty times as much storage space on the datasphere as on her laptop's hard drive or the external one she was using now, and the rest of her current selection of hardware was still primitive in some ways, but it was much closer than she would ever have expected back then. And it was getting closer.
The pictures were in multiple folders by date and place. K-9 had rewritten all of the file dates so that they didn't confuse the operating system, but they were listed in the folder names and in the meta information so she had some context. She opened the first folder - the one with the pictures from Brighton - the only ones that she had taken with a film rather than digital camera. At the time it had taken the Doctor a few days to figure out how to convert them to computer files, now she could just take them down to the shop on the corner or even scan them herself.
She had tried living near Brighton for a while, an attempt to replace the memories with better ones. Despite the fact that their time in Brighton had been the most pleasant part of that experience, and that the events that caused her nightmares hadn't happened until after they had left, it hadn't worked. And it hadn't helped that, at the time, she had still thought he had died. She would always associate the city with everything that had happened, and after she had returned from Texas, had sold the house and moved back to London.
Sarah set the photos to display in a slide show. They looked like they were lovers on holiday. Admittedly he wasn't dressed for a summer day in Brighton, but she'd never known him to wear less than two or three layers, even on the warmest days. There had been Sea Devils, Sarah thought. Something she had forgotten. She supposed it was less relevant than what had happened after. There were no pictures of the Sea Devils in the folder - no time to snap pictures when you're trying to save the world.
In a way it had been like Deffrey Vale, their individual investigations had led them to the same place and time. He'd been travelling alone after his previous companion had left. After they'd saved the day, he'd grinned at her - that grin that stayed the same, no matter what face he wore - and pointed out that they had never made it to Florana. She'd resisted, but eventually agreed. She'd been thirty-four, had no close ties that would be broken if she left, and she'd always been a sucker for that smile.
They had never made it to Florana on that trip either. The slide show ended and she closed down the folder and then the computer. She'd look at the other folders, but not tonight, she promised herself. When she returned from Cardiff, she'd stop trying to block the memories and start trying to move past them. Tonight, she'd focus on the Cylons and threats that could be ended by turning off the telly.