Sarah had never quite figured out how Jo and Cliff had managed to have a son like Ianto. The colouring she could understand, both of them had parents with black hair, but the tidiness wasn't so easily explained away. Perhaps it had been a reaction to his surroundings. Two rather scatterbrained parents dragging him around the world like that was bound to have some effect on a child.
Not that she would know. She'd never had children of her own and somehow over the years she had become a surrogate auntie to Ianto and his two sisters. It had been difficult being a bad influence since the Joneses had not been the strictest of parents, but she had managed somehow. And like all children, they had managed to find paths that would horrify their parents.
Mary had become an investment banker, Elen a solicitor, and Ianto had gone to work for Torchwood. They all wore neat suits, never had a hair out of place and were always on time. It scared Sarah sometimes, but she loved them anyway.
So when Ianto called her out of the blue, and invited her up to Cardiff for the weekend, she didn't hesitate. Given his amazing competency, he wouldn't have asked her to do this if it hadn't been an emergency. And she needed something to take her mind off the way Luke had turned on her. She felt betrayed and disgusted over the way things had finally turned out. She hadn't been able to save Luke, and Maria would never forgive her for what had happened, much the way Nat had never forgiven her for Josh's death.
The feeling that this was an emergency grew when he met her at the train station and insisted she come to Torchwood with him. There were some unspoken understandings about such things. He knew she didn't want to draw Torchwood's attention to her. She didn't want to think about what would cause him to cross that line.
For a moment when she stepped into the main room of the Hub, she almost envied him working there. Even if it was a government organisation dedicated to keeping Britain safe from the Doctor, she wouldn't have minded working in a place like this. Maybe, if she hadn't been fighting alone, she could have saved Luke or Josh. None of the other staff were there, for which she was thankful.
The problem was simple really. They had mislaid Captain Jack Harkness, and Ianto told her in the car that he had heard a sound that he suspected was the TARDIS, though he couldn't be sure. He'd also told her that, according to the procedures Jack had given him, she was to be brought in to take command of Torchwood.
Sarah didn't understand why until she was ushered to Jack's desk and looked at the paperwork. She had the right security clearances from her days at UNIT, she was one of the few people known to have worked with the Doctor and unlike Jo or Liz, she'd kept up her investigative work. Ianto had seen this and brought her in on a weekend so that she could settle in while the others were off.
She knew Jack had also been a companion of the Doctor's, though they had never met, and it didn't take her long to realise that he had a few secrets of his own. She studied what she found carefully, trying to grasp everything she needed to know about the responsibilities that had fallen on her shoulders and wondered if she could manage this. Sarah wished she had K-9 with her, but he was still dealing with that black hole.
However, as she was leaving Jack's office, she heard the unmistakable vworp vworp of a TARDIS. She leaned against one of the desks and watched the familiar blue Police Box appear. It didn't take long until a man emerged. Jack, by the relieved look on Ianto's face. He was quickly followed by the Doctor she had met at the school and a girl who Sarah assumed was the latest assistant.
The Doctor gave Sarah a startled look, then strode over and embraced her.
Sarah just stood there in his arms for a moment. The last few months had been a nightmare. Finally she looked up at him and said cheekily, "Has your steering improved then?"
He gave a delighted laugh but didn't answer the question. "And what are you doing here, Sarah Jane?" He arched an eyebrow. "Is this how you're getting on with your life?"
"Hardly." She glanced at Ianto and Jack, who seemed to be having a rather enthusiastic reunion. "Apparently, I'm their backup plan. Or Jack's, at least. Even though we've never met. I suppose I have the qualifications that he considers appropriate for this rogue branch of Torchwood." She finally disentangled herself, and turned to the woman and held out her hand, "You must be the latest. Sarah Jane Smith, former assistant or companion or whatever you're calling yourselves these days."
"Martha Jones. Pleased to meet you," The other woman said with a smile. "So, this is Torchwood." She looked around with wide eyes.
"The Cardiff Branch at any rate. From what I understand the London Branch goes for a more corporate look," Sarah said with a smile.
Ianto performed his magic and suddenly there were scones and coffee. And shortly thereafter silly conversation and teasing the Doctor.
Sarah arched an eyebrow at Ianto and surreptitiously aimed her mobile at the Doctor. "You haven't told me how your parents are doing, Ianto. I haven't seen your mum in ages." If anyone could keep a straight face, he could.
"Oh, mum's doing fine. Dad too. They're spending the summer in the Galapagos, researching something or other having to do with turtles."
Jack looked at them both oddly, before turning to Ianto and saying in an incredulous voice, "She knows your mother? Do I want to know how?"
Sarah grinned at him. "Old friends of a sort. Don't you do background checks around here? I'd be surprised that it didn't come up. Especially for someone planning to work for Torchwood." She knew it hadn't. When Ianto had applied for the job, Jo had pulled strings at UNIT so that her connection to the Doctor would not be a factor.
He smiled back. "Not that I remember. Jo Jones, wife of scientist Cliff Jones, did you do an interview or...?"
Jack was interrupted by the Doctor choking on his coffee.
Sarah surreptitiously snapped a picture. The Doctor tried to get the mobile away from her but she managed to send the picture to Jo before he could stop her.
"I know mum will appreciate that." Ianto said with an arched eyebrow and a slight smirk playing across his lips.
The Doctor gave them both a dark look but said nothing.
"Jo was a former companion of his. The one right before me as a matter of fact. Oddly enough we'd attended the same boarding school too, so we keep in touch," Sarah explained with a laugh. "So what have you been up to?"
The Doctor sighed. "I'm just glad I didn't have to deal with the two of you at once. As to where Jack was, he was helping me defeat the Master...he survived the destruction of Gallifrey, and Jack got into his TARDIS thinking it was mine."
Ianto looked like he was going to say something, but didn't. Of course, his mum had fought the Master more often than Sarah had.
Martha snorted. "I can't believe he's your arch enemy. All that black and that overcomplicated plan; he's like a caricature of a villain."
"Judging by what mum said, you shouldn't underestimate him because of that. He can be quite deadly." Ianto poured another round of coffee.
Jack stared at Ianto appraisingly, before muttering something about hidden depths and Sarah resisted the urge to laugh at that. It was a bit of an anticlimax not to actually be needed to save the world, but given her track record, she supposed it was just as well. She had too many deaths on her conscience already.
Sarah wasn't quite sure what happened after that, but at some point, Martha announced that she had decided to stay and work for Jack at Torchwood and the Doctor offered Sarah a lift home. When she looked at him suspiciously, he hinted at a stop off at Florana first. She cursed her curiosity and accepted. The possibility that they might actually get there trumped her scepticism about his ability to steer the TARDIS and after what had happened with Luke, there was no longer any reason for her to stay on Earth.
So after the hugs and goodbyes, she followed him into the TARDIS, feeling a certain amount of deja vu and wondering if they would make it to Florana this time around. But underneath it all, she hoped that somehow they'd find a way to heal each others scars.