They tumble out from the theatre into the sunshine, laughing. Rani and Clyde and Luke racing down the street for the ice cream stand before Sarah Jane can call out to them, arms looped and twined around waists and shoulders like one joyful, living thing. Sky starts after them, but Sarah Jane catches her hand and pulls her back.
“Oh no you don’t,” she teases. “Someone’s got to stay and keep the old woman company. I ought to have a few years yet before you abandon me for uni and the whole wide world!”
“Everything looks bigger!” says Sky, twirling in place and bouncing on her toes. “Is it supposed to?”
She ruffles her daughter’s hair. “What do you mean?”
“The buildings are taller, and the cars are faster, and I’m taller and faster–but not really, but it feels like that. From all the music, and the story, and everything still rushing around inside me. Is it supposed to do that?”
Her daughter’s eyes are wide and curious, and her daughter’s hair is tousled, and the marquee lights above them are popping and fizzing with her excitement and wonder. And she has a daughter, and a son, and it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen in all of time and space.
She hugs Sky to her side, kisses the top of her head. “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do.”
Luke and Clyde and Rani sweep back towards them like the tide, and skid to a halt, slightly guilty-faced. “Er, Mum, we forgot–“ “Sarah Jane, do you think we could–“
“The cheek,” she says, but she can’t tamp down her smile and give any kind of believable performance. “I’m starting to think you’re only after my money.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Clyde says, slinging an arm around her shoulders. “The aliens and adventure and all that rubbish–it’s a distraction. We’re just hanging about to steal your pension.”
She laughs, and buys them all chocolate ice cream.
Into the woods without regret
The choice is made, the path is set
A shower of sparks nearly hits Sarah Jane in the eye; she swears.
“Clyde, get out of there right now, we’ve got what we came for!”
Crackle of static over the intercom.
“Aw, come on, Sarah Jane, the Force is strong with me today!”
“Now, young man! The rest of the Sontarans will be here any minute–Rani, on your left–nice hit!” She swings her sonic lipstick in an arc, jamming the comm. systems so their enemies can’t call for help. A temporary solution at best. “Clyde, get back up here this instant!”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, with this bad boy holding them back is easy as–”
A thud, like punctuation.
No matter what you say, children won't listen
No matter what you know, children refuse to learn
Clyde does not look like Clyde in the brand-new pin-striped suit. His mouth is set in a hard straight line, and he would never clasp his hands like that over his stomach.
No, the boy in the coffin does not look like Clyde at all.
“Remember, it was an electrical surge,” Sarah Jane says to Luke.
“I know, Mum.”
Sky sits motionless next to them, her eyes wide. Her hands gripping at the seat.
“We can’t let anything slip to Carla. I know it doesn’t feel right to lie, but she’s safe as long as she doesn’t suspect–”
“I know, Mum!” Luke’s voice cracks, choking into a howl, and heads all over the funeral parlor swing in his direction. He leaps up, knocking over his chair with a crash and a clatter, and flees from the room.
Sarah Jane’s already on her feet before she remembers Sky, and her heart wrenches, torn in two directions as she looks at her daughter, but at least Sky is holding still so she only lets her gaze linger, anguished, for half a second before she runs after Luke.
She finds him on his knees in the car park, beating his fists against the ground as his sobs wrack him. She wraps her arms around him and squeezes as tight to her as she can, her boy, her lovely sweet fragile boy–so thin in her arms, his bones so slight, skin soft and breath seizing–who is crying and whose heart is beating and who she will never ever ever not need to look at and hold close and call safe if she ever wants to breathe. Her lovely boy who is hurt and here and in her arms and all her own. “Oh, Luke. Oh, Luke.”
“He looks s-so s-sm-small,” he sobs, his fists hitting the ground and hitting her. He is shaking against her frame like his grief has reached up inside him to rattle him back and forth. “He looks so small in the c-coffin, he can’t be small, it’s not logical and h-he can’t, he can’t–“
“Oh, Luke.” She is crying now too, the tears slipping down her cheek and into his hair. “I know. I know. I know.”
Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The six most useless words in human history, but Carla doesn’t even seem to hear them. She just nods, and her mouth smiles, and her face is dead except for the screaming in her eyes, Wake me up, wake me up, wake me up and tell me this isn’t true.
Clyde’s father hasn’t come.
Sarah Jane spies Rani, no longer under the protective umbrella of her parents. Perhaps she was imagining it, but in Haresh and Gita’s stares during the service there had been something…not exactly suspicious, but alert. Defensive.
Not that she can blame them.
But Rani is alone now, staring at the pristine, untouched piece of white-frosted cake in the plate on her lap. Tears sliding down her face, silently now; she has not stopped crying all day. She is no longer raising her hands to wipe them away.
Sarah Jane crosses to her, touches her shoulder. “Clyde was very brave.”
Rani’s head snaps around, trapping Sarah Jane in her glare. Her eyes are red-rimmed and swollen, tears leaking unchecked down her cheeks. “He was the bravest. Ever.”
She makes it an accusation, and Sarah Jane has no defense.
Her hand falls from Rani’s shoulder, and inside her heart something too drops, heavy and aching.
It’s too soon, she tells herself as she retreats. The wounds are too raw. She has to give her time, let Rani come to her when the time is right. And Rani will come.
They will all need each other to get through this.
This is the world I meant!
Couldn’t you listen?
“Sarah Jane!” Maria’s face lights up like the sun, relieved. “I’ve been trying to get into contact with you for ages!”
“I’m so sorry,” she says, putting aside her laptop and turning to face Mr. Smith’s screen. She can’t help but smile back; it’s so good to feel wanted, needed. To be greeted with enthusiasm and relief instead of despair and silence behind closed doors. “I meant to return your call on Friday, but I keep forgetting to charge my mobile; there’s been so much to do–“
“I know.” Maria’s expression turns grim. “I’ve been tracking the Sontaran battle fleet–“
“What?” Sarah Jane starts forward. “Why?”
Maria gapes at her. “To make sure they don’t get away with it! They are rules, we can call the Shadow Proclamation on them, we can get the Doctor–“
The world is falling out from under Sarah Jane’s feet.
“Maria, listen to me.” She tries to make her voice firm, but it is coming from somewhere far away, echoing. “This is dangerous. You shouldn’t be tackling this on your own.”
“I’m not.” And oh, Maria is so young in her confusion, in her blazing confidence, so young and self-righteous and sure. “I’m calling you.”
“Maria–” And for a moment all she can say is her name, she can’t find the words and all she can do is say her name with every bit of feeling she has ever had, oh Maria. She has to make her understand. “Avenging Clyde is only going to call more attention to Earth. We can’t afford a conflict like that right now, we have to let them stay occupied with their war against the Rutans until–”
“So you’re just going to let it go?” Maria is disbelieving. “He was our friend, Sarah Jane!”
“Yes, and look what happened to him!” she snaps, and immediately regrets it. The look on Maria’s face, as if she’d hit her. “Oh, I’m only trying to keep you safe–“
“I’m not a kid anymore,” Maria says. The angry tears she’s blinking back giving the lie to her words. “The stuff I’ve done–I’m the American Sarah Jane now.”
“And if you’re not going to help–”
“I’m not someone to want to be!”
The screen goes black.
“Mr. Smith, call her back!”
Maria does not answer.
She leaves a message on Maria’s phone, and another, and another, and writes an e-mail telling her to call back, they’ll discuss this like rational adults, please, if she’ll just listen…
Couldn’t you stay content,
Safe behind walls, as I could not?
Maria does not call back.
There is a picture of Clyde at Sarah Jane’s desk, grinning in his skateboarding gear. Fourteen? Fifteen?
Younger than he is now–was. Younger than he was.
“You stupid boy,” she says aloud, and her voice breaks.
Clyde just grins. He was always grinning. Always with a grin and a corny joke, and the way he’d always put his feet up on her sofa with his muddy trainers even when she’d told him and told him not to, and the way his face would go so puzzled when you told him he was good at something–art or cooking or being a friend, like he couldn’t quite believe you. Like he was almost afraid to believe you, because it might be a lie.
She picks up the picture.
Clyde playing the guitar, and flipping pancakes, and dancing with Rani and keeping Luke up all night with videogames and frowning to himself as he tried to fix the shading in a picture–sticking out his tongue behind Mr. Chandra’s back or snoring like a freight train or showing up with a fire extinguisher when she’d promised to make eggs–
“You stupid, stupid boy.” She grips the frame. “You should have listened, I told you to get out, I told all of you to stay away, why couldn’t you have just listened, for just once couldn’t you have just–”
She smashes the picture against the wall, and again, and– it breaks, the frame cracks and the glass shatters right over Clyde’s face. A shard slices down her thumb.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, and her voice catches and rips, shreds. “I shouldn’t…you were never–”
His face blurs and her hands shake and she can feel it coming like a tidal wave. “Never, not once, even from the start, I’m sorry, please, I’m so so sorry…”
It hits, and she chokes on her sobs, sinking to her knees on her dusty attic floor. He is gone, he is gone, she never should have let him stay and now he is gone–
Clyde grins up through the broken glass.
She can never put it back together.
Maria does not call back.
It takes two
I thought one was enough, it’s not true
“And how are classes?”
“And your internship?”
“What are you doing?”
“It’s complicated, I can’t really explain it in laymen’s terms.”
Luke’s face on the screen is sullen and blank and he feels so far away, further than all the miles between Bannerman Road and Oxford.
I loved him too, she wants to say. We all did.
But she doesn’t know how Luke loved him, and she doesn’t know how to ask. She has never known, and before she didn’t need to. The exact nature of that dynamic–she had always tried to respect their privacy, Luke and Clyde and Rani. They were young, and a part of their lives took place in an entirely different world to hers. A distant and alien world that belonged to them, with their youth and nerves and hormones and changing bodies and mysterious shifting unspoken allegiances, and so she never even thought to care.
She had let herself dream, sometimes, of grandchildren; but the face of the other parent had belonged just as often to Maria as it had to Clyde, or to Rani or Sanjay or a blurred idea of someone else Luke might meet. An extraneous, unnecessary detail.
And suddenly, in a way she can’t define, it matters that she know. And she doesn’t.
She doesn’t know anything about her son at all.
“I have to go,” Luke says. “I’ve got stuff to do.”
“Oh.” She casts about for something to say; she can’t just let another conversation end like this. But she has nothing. “Well, goodbye then. Have fun, I love you–”
“Bye, Sarah Jane.”
Her name stabs at her as he logs off, a second too late to hide the relief on his face.
He hasn’t called her ‘Mum’ since the funeral.
But it’s probably only a phase.
It has to be.
Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood
They will not protect you the way that they should
Rani’s arms hug the stack of sketchbooks and loose papers to her chest as though Sarah Jane might snatch them away, her fingers digging into the cover of Rider of the Night Dragon, crinkling the black lines of the beast’s coils and the inky shadow of the hooded female figure astride it.
“I saw the moving van,” Sarah Jane says, a little out of breath from running across the street. Hovering in the doorway. Rani’s room is a maze of boxes. “What’s–did your father get a new job? What about Blooming Lovely?”
“It’s–Mum found this place, up in Wales. This sort of…spiritual retreat. They think it’ll be good for me. Us.” She presses the papers tighter to her chest, adds defensively: “I was going to tell you.”
“Oh.” She puts her hand on the doorframe, steadying herself. “Do you–do you know when you’ll be back?”
“Well. I see.” She takes a breath. Straightens her waistcoat. “Well. We all deal with pain in our own ways; I’m sure your Mum and Dad are just doing what they think is best for you. I’m sorry.”
Rani’s whole body tenses, her chin snaps up. “What for?”
“For…for having to go along with it. The spiritual retreat. All that…well, hokey stuff. I know it’s not rational, but sometimes people–”
“How do you know?” Rani snaps. “Maybe they’re right. How do you know you’re always right about what’s real and what’s not? Maybe you’re not always right, you know! Maybe some people have a better idea of how the universe works than you do!”
Her hands are trembling, as if clutching at the notebooks is the only thing keeping her from lashing out. The rustling of the paper is the only sound in the dead and silent room.
Sarah Jane’s hands are shaking.
“I…I didn’t know you felt that way.”
Rani looks away. “Well, you don’t know everything, do you?”
“Rani…” And a note of pleading creeps into her voice, and she hates how weak she sounds, but she can’t be losing this (can’t be losing her too). “I couldn’t have known the General was coming up in Clyde’s blind spot–I’ve sat up nights and nights trying to find a way I could have prevented his death but I couldn’t, I, I never wanted anything to happen to any of you, I warned you–”
“This isn’t about you!” Rani chokes on the last word, it cuts her throat from the inside. “It’s about Clyde, and he’s dead and he was brilliant–”
A page slips free from her grasp, flashing harsh inked sharp teeth and splattered blood. Rani snatches at it; it crumples in her fist.
“I see.” Sarah Jane grips harder at the doorframe; she is going to fall if she does not hold tight. “I’m sorry.”
Rani swallows, looks away. Tears down her cheek.
“There’s…” Sarah Jane gathers herself together. “I have contacts, in Wales. Editors and such. I could finagle you an internship, if you’d like.”
But Rani shakes her head, still not looking at her. “I don’t want to be a journalist anymore.”
You’re so nice
You’re not good; you’re not bad; you’re just nice
“And then I said to Santiago–or was it my James? I think it might have been James. Or Mikey–oh, it’s so hard to keep track of all of them–“
Jo chatters on, her voice high and bright and carrying as they leave the care home. Sarah Jane cannot make it go away, and she cannot focus on the words.
She is still trying to scrub the picture off her eyelids of the Brigadier lying so still on the hospital bed, eyes closed, sallow skinned and shallow breathed. Old age, the doctors had said. Caught up with him eventually. Nothing we can do, really. Just wait. Tough old bird.
And Jo had sniffled and sobbed and flung her arms around Sarah Jane, and now she was just talking about her grandchildren like it hadn’t even happened–
“And well, you know how kids these days, oh! That reminds me–”
Sarah Jane halts. Watches the flow of Jo’s words carry her along the pavement, not looking back or even noticing a thing had changed.
And though scary is exciting,
‘Nice’ is different than ‘good.’
“What the hell were you thinking?”
Alan’s face is a storm, streaked with tears. He does not lower his voice in deference to the unspoken code of hospitals, and nurses and patients glance their way, intrigued and embarrassed.
Sarah Jane is still weak from the blow of the newspaper headline, dizzy with jet lag and anxiety and terror. The world is bobbing up and down. Her mind flails at lifelines, her only thought is to make herself heard over the thunder, she is drowning and has to make herself heard. “I tried to warn her not to, I told her–”
“And you didn’t tell me? I’m her father, for Christ’s sake!”
“I didn’t think–” and her voice is a small weak thing, a puff of air, and Alan’s face is hard and he slaps her words away.
“You didn’t think? She’s never going to be able to walk again. You could’ve stopped this all with one call to me but it never even occurred to you? She’s never going to walk again.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. She cannot tell if she makes a sound. The fluorescent lights are buzzing, the sound rising like a swarm. The light is blaring into her eyes. It is taking everything she has not to cry because if she cries she will not be able to make herself understood: “Please let me see her. I won’t even talk to her if you don’t want, I just have to see that she’s all right.”
“What are you?” Alan’s voice is that of a wounded animal. “You’re supposed to an adult! You’re supposed to take care of them, not pander to them and keep their secrets and put them in danger just so they’ll think you’re cool!”
“It wasn’t like that–”
“From now on, you stay away from my daughter.”
If the thing you do
Is pure in intent,
If it's meant,
And it's just a little bent,
Does it matter?
Her editor’s voice crackles down the line. “Sarah Jane, it’s just that there’s so much pressure from advertisers right now–“
“I promised anonymity, and I will not compromise my sources!” she snaps. “It’s called journalistic standards, and I happen to have them!”
A long silence.
“It’s not just that.”
“Sarah Jane, have you…”
“Have I what?”
“It’s just–this latest piece, it’s not what you–” The next words come out in a rush. “Have you been drinking?”
She hangs up on him.
“Mum?” It’s Sky, at the door. “Is everything all right?”
“Fine, just…fine.” She dusts her hands off on her jeans, trying to keep them from shaking with suppressed fury. “Go downstairs, there’s sandwiches on the counter.”
“Actually, I was wondering–Melly, this girl from school, she said I could come over to her house for dinner if I wanted–”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea! It’ll be late by the time you get done, and I don’t want you walking home in the dark.”
“Melly’s dad could drive me–”
“A strange man, giving you a ride? Sky, I thought I taught you better than that.” She pats her daughter on the shoulder. “Now go downstairs like a good girl, your mum’s got a lot of work to do tonight.”
Sky brightens up. “Is it aliens? Does someone need our help? Are we having another investigation together?”
“Just rewrites,” Sarah Jane says firmly. “Now scoot.”
Sky scuffs her shoes along the attic floor, and leaves; Sarah Jane gets out her laptop. She pauses for a moment, looking at her thumb. She cut that, only a few months ago, on Clyde picture–there should be a scar–
Her screen flares to life and she goes to pull up the relevant word document. ‘Have you been drinking’ indeed, she’ll show them…
But it’s not what she wrote. It can’t be. Misspellings leap out at her–they litter the page like bits of trash, puncture her argument like gunshots. That turn of phrase, that segue–what could she have been thinking? And her sources…she’s never heard of the man before. A quick Google search reveals that neither has no one else, and his book has never been published, not even in a vanity press.
It’s nothing like her memory, her memory is crumbling apart looking at it, her eyes can’t focus on the nightmare. It was supposed to be an expose of working conditions at some of Serf’s shell companies, but halfway through the focus changes, and then it changes again, wavering, falling apart…
She takes a deep breath and faces her computer.
“Mr. Smith, I need you to scan my brain.”
Don’t you know what’s out there in the world?
Someone has to shield you from the world
Sarah Jane has never had to worry about money before.
Oh, maybe she’d had to pinch her pennies for a week when she got stranded in Uzbekistan or somewhere on an assignment, and more than once the Doctor had landed them on a planet without bringing along any local currency, but that had always been temporary.
For all of her childhood and adolescence and longer into adulthood than she’d like to admit, Aunt Lavinia had been her safety net. Even if she hadn’t faced the truth herself, she would have seen it in the eyes of the other girls at uni: Easy for her to escape the kitchen, on a monthly allowance and her aunt’s coattails. She didn’t pay for those shoes with a journalist’s notebook. And they say she’s the sole heir too.
And by the time that inheritance ran out, Sarah Jane was a respected journalist worldwide, who could pick and choose her assignments, who could get advances from any editor, who could go on her own lectures if she so choose. And so she did not have to think of money.
But now she has to worry.
Now she can think of nothing else.
Luke will be fine. He’s got a full ride to Oxford, her clever boy, and the job opportunities will line up in the streets for him. But Sky…
Sky will need a safety net when Sarah Jane is gone.
Mr. Smith’s scan had not been promising.
She needs to set up the safety net before her brain degenerates further. Before she can’t take care of herself anymore, let alone her children.
She has to keep moving or she will scream.
But newspapers won’t touch her (word must’ve gotten out) and she can’t blame them–for all that she rails against them, breaking vases, muttering deprecations, realizing too late she’s frightening Sky again–she herself can no longer trust her words or the mind that produces them.
She starts selling things off, the furniture she never uses, clothes she never wears, the TV and radio and iPods they don’t really need–her daughter protests, and Sarah Jane snaps to cover up the panic: “You’d only burn them out by accident anyway, you know what you did to your alarm clock. Do you think those grow on trees?”
Sky runs to her room and locks herself in and doesn’t come out till breakfast, no matter how Sarah threatens or cajoles.
The buyers take advantage of Sarah Jane and don’t give her full value. She knows they do, she can’t prove it but she knows.
And it’s still not enough.
And she thinks of Sky, having to get a job in some cafeteria, not going to sixth form, getting put out on the street, scrounging, trusting the wrong person–
No. She will not let that happen.
The answer comes to her one day, out of the blue–Harrison, and the Skultians. That’s the key.
There’s a whole underworld she never knew about before the things Harrison told her. Alien tech is at a premium in the backrooms of modern corporations, and she’s got an attic full of the stuff. If she has to turn an blind eye to what they want with an Atraxian hyno-inducer or half a Judoon firearm, if she has to pretend she doesn’t know about their other sidelines, the other things they buy, they other people they buy…
Her stomach twists. She can’t think about that now. She can’t afford to care about that now.
She can only afford to care about Luke and Sky.
She locks the doors when she leaves; she has new locks. They only open to her sonic lipstick; they keep things out, and keep things in. Sky is so curious and such a light sleeper and she asks so many questions. Sarah Jane cannot let her follow. Anything could happen. Anything could hurt her.
If she doesn’t get enough money, if she miscalculates, if they’ve been cheating her, all of them, cheating her and laughing behind her back; if her little girl is left all alone and there is no one to trust…
She hates to do it. She does. But she has to.
She dismantles Mr. Smith.
“Will her be okay?” Sky asks, her wide eyes worried as Sarah Jane places the Xylok crystal into a Tupperware bin.
“Oh, this’ll be a nice rest for him, I expect,” Sarah Jane says as brightly as she can. Lies have always rolled easily off her tongue, but Sky is not as trusting as Luke was at her age. Always pushing, always asking questions. “And it’s not forever. But the Peladonians need these computer components to rebuild their government, and it’ll give us a nice chance to upgrade Mr. Smith’s systems.”
“Can I go with you, Mum? To deliver them to the ambassador? You said I could help out again if I got full marks on my history essay and I did–”
“I said I’d think about it,” Sarah Jane interrupts. “And you’re certainly not coming along tonight. You’ve an algebra test tomorrow.”
“That was yesterday.”
She fumbles the Tupperware. “Well, I’m certain you have some sort of test tomorrow.”
“Can I go study with David then?”
“David from school. I know you said it’s safer if I keep to myself but you don’t have to worry, he’s really really nice and his grandparents will be there the whole time.”
“Go to the house of a boy I haven’t met? On your own?” She feels her voice rising. “Don’t you listen to a word I say? I knew I should have pulled you out of school–”
Sky’s lip wobbles.
“Oh, Sky.” Sarah Jane crouches next to her. “I’m only trying to look after you. I won’t–” She wraps her arms tight around her daughter. “I won’t always be able to, so I need to now, do you understand? I need to keep you safe. Promise me you’ll do what I say and stay here. Promise me you’ll be a good girl.”
“I promise,” whispers Sky.
You may know what you need,
But to get what you want,
Better see that you keep what you have.
“Sarah Jane,” comes K-9’s voice over her mobile, and it takes a second to realize where the gut-punch of confusion and fear in her stomach is coming from–-he hasn’t called her ‘Mistress.’ He always calls her that. “I will be unable to pass along further updates as to Master Luke’s condition.”
“What?” And the fear becomes a spike, long and sharp and stabbing. Her fingers grip the steering wheel tight. “Why? What’s happened?”
“Master Luke has discovered our communications,” K-9 says. “He has instructed me to cease communication with you following delivery of this message.”
“Has something gone wrong?” She hits the brakes, swerves to the side of the road. “Is Luke hurt? Has your programming been compromised?”
A long pause, the only sound his servos humming.
“I…cannot comply. Message has been delivered. Communication will now cease.”
“It is unfortunate that our friendship should end in this manner, Mis–Sarah Jane. But it is Master Luke’s command. I am his dog now.”
Guide them along the way, still they won’t listen
Children can only grow, from something you love, to something you lose
She doesn’t stop trying to call Luke the entire drive up to Oxford. For the first ten calls it goes to voice-mail, Sarah Jane leaving increasingly frantic messages, and then:
“The number you have dialed is not in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please hang up, and try your call again.”
She calls up his name on the contact list over and over, the mechanical voice mocking in its repetition of those two sentences, its refusal to alter a single syllable, and won’t this car go any faster, who can she call, who will believe her, who will help, no one, no one–
Sarah Jane almost falls over in relief when Luke opens the door to his room.
Luke backs up a few steps, startled, but does not unbar the doorway. “You shouldn’t have come.”
“What did you expect me to do? You have K-9 leave a message like that–I was scared out of my mind--”
Luke’s posture in the doorway is odd, almost hunched, as if he’s trying to block her view of a certain angle without letting her know. Her eyes automatically follow the line behind him, and:
“What is that doing there?”
There is a folder on Luke’s desk. It bears the Torchwood insignia.
“I’m an adult, Sarah Jane. I don’t have to justify anything.” A pause, then grudgingly, “There was a recruiter, going around the Science Department. He said I showed promise. I’ve helped them out since then; they’re going to take me on when I graduate.”
“Oh, Luke.” The words come out helplessly, washed forward on a tide of hurt disbelief. She cannot make herself believe it enough for disappointment or betrayal. She waves her hands, trying to catch her reasons in the air. “Guns! Violence! Everything I’ve tried to show you we don’t need!”
“They’ve got the right idea. Your way, it’s–it’s not practical. It’s a dream. A stupid, fairy-tale dream.”
Her boy. Luke, her boy. Where is he? He cannot be this man standing in front of her. He cannot be this cold.
“Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?” she asks desperately. “Do you know what the casualty rate is there?”
“I know what the casualty rate was at home,” he snaps. His lip wobbles for just a second, her big grown-up boy who thinks he can charge off into the sunset and take all comers. Who thinks a weapon will make him invincible. “All you gave him was a sonic shield. If he’d had a gun–”
“Luke. Please.” She is begging now. “I know you’re angry, but don’t do this. Punish me any way you want, but don’t throw your life away. Don’t throw your ideals–
He cuts her off. “Don’t make me call campus security, Sarah Jane.”
He looks at him, and knows he would do it.
“You don’t have your sonic lipstick or K-9 or anything else to overpower them. I’m an adult–I’ll press charges, and they’ll take you away.”
When did her boy become this? When did she let him become so cold and hard and hurting?
“I love you, Luke.”
He blinks rapidly, and then his face is stone again. He turns away. “I won't be coming home for the hols.”
“You have my number,” she chokes out. “And you know you…will always have a home with me. I will never turn you away.”
She makes it all the way back to her car before the crying starts. Seven times on the ride home she has to pull over when the road becomes too blurred from her tears.
At least Sky hasn’t left her, she reminds herself. Yes, she still has her daughter. Sky is a good girl.
She will never let her go.
Princes wait there in the world, it’s true
Princes, yes, but wolves and humans too
I’m sorry about the lock but I can’t pick locks so I used my electricity to short it out sorry. And I couldn’t find any nice stationary so I did this on your printer paper and I hope that is okay. But I don’t know why I hope that it is okay, you know what? I don’t. Because you don’t love me.
I thought maybe you did in the beginning and maybe you did but you don’t anymore. You just try to be good. You make me dinner but you don’t eat with me. You don’t talk to me unless I talk first.
You never talk to me about anythingYou don’t hug me anymore except when you want me to promise things. We don’t help people together. You always go by yourself.
I love you so much and it hurts and I know I’m young and sometimes my powers mess things up but I could’ve helped you. I helped you before.
But I’m a weapon and you don’t like weapons. You love Luke because he chose not to be a weapon but he was never really one, not like me. Just because all my genes are turned off doesn’t mean I’m not one. You don’t need me but the Fleshkind need me and I don’t want to be an old lady locked up in this house all my life because you don’t want to feel like a bad person if I get hurt. And I can’t be a good daughter so I’m going to be a good weapon.
And it’s too bad if you don’t like that, maybe if you’d thought about that when you
Sorry also about the communicator you wanted to give to the Peladonians, but I needed a way to pay passage on the cargo ship. You can find another one.
Sometimes the things you most wish for
Are not to be touched
“I can’t find my pictures. They’ve taken my pictures. They steal, you know. I had such lovely pictures, Doctor, all over the attic, Harry and the Brigadier and all the U.N.I.T. boys, and K-9 from all those years when it was just the two of us–oh, don’t look at me like that, I’ve forgiven you!
“And Maria and–oh, you never met Maria, did you? You’d have liked her. Smart as a whip. And Clyde and Rani and Luke and Sky…they’re better off without me, you know. It’s good that they learned that, it’s good. But I only wanted my pictures, so I could remember…
“Oh Doctor, don’t you leave too!”
Let the moment go
Don’t forget it for a moment though
“Sorry about that, Dr. McCrimmon,” Nurse White says as she leads him from the room.
“Quite all right,” he says. He steadies himself against the one-way glass of the observation window. “I just didn’t expect…I never expect her to recognize me.”
“You were with her during the inciting incident?”
“Incidents.” He looks at his fingernails. His shoulders are tight. “More than one.”
“Pardon me, Doctor, but you don’t look old enough for that.”
“Oh, I just have one of those faces,” he says with a sudden, sparkling smile. It doesn’t reach his eyes.
His eyes are older than any she has ever seen.
“If you wouldn’t mind clearing some things up, then,” she says.“Her chart, it’s awfully vague. There’s mention of cults, and brainwashing…”
“Brainwashing? Yes, I suppose you could call it that.” His eyes cut away to the observation window, the patient curled on her bed. Staring blankly ahead, no longer weeping. “We traveled together, for a time. Trying to right wrongs, trying to stand up to injustice, trying to find a beach. Sometimes there were cults. Sometimes…other things.”
“It’s only, we’ve dealt with things like that before, here. But Miss Smith–in all the years she’s been here, we’ve never seen another patient with anything like her level of delusion.”
“No, you wouldn’t have,” he says, and doesn’t offer any further explanation.
“Have you?” she presses.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” he says instead of answering. “I should have seen–humans, such open, vulnerable minds. The littlest thing–and they kept going after her. But I didn’t see, and she hid it…heaven forbid I should ever think her fragile.”
“And so you didn’t know until…”
“Until I came back. 1983. But she thought she was already traveling with me again. As I was back then. Home, to Gallifrey.”
“Before my time, then. I was brought on in ’02. She was starting out on the Josh and Nat one then.” She waits to see if he’s heard about that delusion, but he doesn’t respond. “I know it’s not the most professional thing,” she adds after awhile. “But I did hope this one would last. Five years was a good run, and I think all of us hoped…it made her so happy. All those kids, especially Luke. You should have seen her smile, when she thought she was talking to him. It lit up the room.”
“Yes,” the Doctor says. “She always had a lovely smile.”
His hand steals up to the one-way, shatterproof glass; traces the lines of Sarah Jane Smith’s face. As though he could trace that smile back into existence. “Oh, Smith. Why keep building worlds just to tear them apart?”
“Well, Dr. Mann thinks it’s because she used to be a journalist, back in the seventies and eighties?” She pauses to make sure she’s not just background noise to his memories; goes ahead when he nods, though his gaze stays on the patient. She’s probably not telling him anything he hasn’t already heard. “Reckons her brain is sort of trained even more than most to pick apart inconsistencies and unravel lies, even one’s she’s telling herself. But if that’s the case, I say, then why hasn’t she ever imagined a world without monsters and aliens? Seems like that’d be a fair sight easier to believe in than all that science fiction nonsense, aliens from Raxicoricofalliopan–”
“Raxacoricofallapatorius,” he corrects.
“Right. So you know what I think?”
There’s a flicker in the pale reflection of his eyes, anguish. He turns to her, slowly, his shoulders bowed by an invisible weight. He is holding his face like stone, but his eyes shine out through the mask.
Desperate for answers, and also afraid.
“I think it’s…well.” Her tongue trips her up, the way he’s focusing on her. As if nothing in the universe matters so much as what she will say next. What must it have been like, to have been young and pretty and swept away by this man and the promise of adventure? “You look at her history, and I think it’s pretty clear that–that she breaks down her delusions because she doesn’t believe she deserves it. Any of it. Friends, family, happiness. Deep down, she’s thinks she’s missing something.
“She doesn’t believe she’s good enough for anyone to want to stay.”
Careful the tale you tell
That is your spell…