I'm writing this a little differently, so if it looks like you've missed a story, you haven't. There are only so many "how they met Torchwood" stories one can write (or read) before it gets old… but be assured, the back story will come out as. Sara Sidle didn't just drop into the Hub one day… not that stranger things haven't happened! ;-) (Can we all say "Face of Boe"?)
Thanks to Sidlerocks for giving this a once through and giving some wonderful advice
(not an actual beta read, so PLEASE assume all spelling errors and typos are mine.)
Timeline: Spring 2009
Torchwood: this is post everything else (set in this century, of course.)
CSI: looking at the current season (9), and presuming that Sara left (for the second time) sometime in the autumn when the season started, this is set in Spring of 2009. Reading the proverbial fine print, yes, Sara would be in Cardiff during the Fish Men Christmas story, but she isn't actually a part of Torchwood yet… (Fish Men, for lack of a better title, is part of More Short Stories and should really have had it's own story, but I never expected it to be more than a chapter or two…)
"Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives.
The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day."
Sara Sidle took a deep breath and wiped her damp palms against the smooth fabric of her skirt. She couldn't remember the last time she'd worn a skirt for anything other than a hot date. And she couldn't remember the last time she'd had a date hot enough to warrant a skirt. She smiled to herself; her co-workers were becoming a bad influence. Or possibly a good one.
As well as an updated wardrobe (which generally didn't include skirts) she was sporting a new haircut. It wasn't terribly different from the old one, just enough so that she felt she looked different.
Or maybe Jack was right, maybe it wasn't what was different on the outside, it was what was different on the inside that she saw when she looked in the mirror. Sara knew she was a very different person from the one she'd been when she found herself in Cardiff eight months ago, on what was probably the stupidest whim she'd ever indulged in… Stupidity. Serendipity. Fate. Whatever it was, she was glad she'd gotten on the plane, and not just because her co-workers had nudged her into buying a new outfit.
The skirt was silk, floral, perfect for London in Spring. It matched the light silk blouse she wore, something that looked like it might have come out of the seventies, but really she'd just bought it (although she would think twice before letting Wendy, Gwen and Abby take her shopping. Still, it could be worse, she'd heard about what shopping with Jack could be like. Her heart went out to Ianto at times.)
With one last deep breath, she shouldered her overnight bag and stepped into the spacious, well appointed lobby of the Marriot hotel, Canary Warf. Even though she hadn't been anywhere near London when Daleks and Cybermen descended on Canary Warf, she'd read the file. Her chest seize up thinking about what Torchwood One had done here.
At the time, on the other side of the planet, she had been as intrigued by the 'ghosts' as anyone else – and as ignorant to the possibility of aliens coming to earth. Of other dimensions, parallel worlds. It was with good reason that Jack considered Canary Warf the ultimate cautionary tale.
A large marquee in the hotel lobby welcomed the attendees of the International Forensic Technicians Conference. She smiled as she read the small print: with keynote speaker, Dr. Gilbert Grissom.
Sara took a moment to reflect on the way seeing his name made her feel… giddy. Nervous. Uncertain.
He was, of course, the reason she was here.
As soon as Abby brought up the conference Ianto decided that at least one of Torchwood's resident techs should go, and since Abby was busy planning a wedding, it seemed only natural that it should be Sara, even though Abby did a good ninety percent of the forensics work the team needed done.
She smiled again. Her friends had gone through considerable lengths to pretend they didn't know she would have asked for a weekend all on her own. If she could have gotten up the nerve, that is. She wasn't sure she would have.
It wouldn't have been the asking Jack part that would have made her hesitate, it would have been the fear that he would say yes and she'd actually have to come… as it was, Ianto simply arranged for her accommodations and handed her a train ticket. She was sure it was the first time she hadn't heard him complaining about budget. Not that he denied any of them anything. She'd seen Abby make enormous requests for equipment and typically in very short order whatever she needed arrived with what seemed to be only obligatory moaning on Ianto's part. (He probably grumbled at everyone's requests so he could keep Jack in line… those two made her smile. Of all the couples she knew, they were truly the closest thing she'd ever seen to 'soul mates'.)
Moving with a confidence she knew hadn't had when she left Las Vegas, Sara strode towards the front desk. She was wearing a brand new pair of flat-soled summer sandals. Her job didn't allow her to wear 'girly shoes' or dress up much, even on her own time. She'd been called away from dinner more than once to chase down a Weevil or some other alien… how Abby pulled off it off in those platform boots she wore all the time was a mystery.
Before making the trip from Cardiff to London, Sara had splurged on a couple of new outfits and a ridiculously expensive handbag… after all, one only lived once and the average lifespan of a Torchwood employee, while improving, didn't give her the impression she'd have to worry about a pension plan.
But that was ok. She'd faced death once already and she wasn't afraid of it any more. In a strange way, it had been liberating to come so close… to think she was going to die. To become determined that she wasn't going to die.
To know that she could have died.
To face the possibility of dying on the job at least once a week since joining Torchwood Three.
It made her feel free to live her life as if each day truly mattered. She supposed it did. There really might not be a tomorrow. And that was ok, because even if there wasn't a tomorrow for her, there would be tomorrow for someone else. Bobby was right, there was something electrifying about being a part of something so much bigger than herself, than her problems. Than her past.
"Here for the conference?" the older lady behind the reception desk inquired politely as Sara approached.
She smiled, "Sara Sidle. Torchwood." No matter how hard Jack tried to keep them from doing it, the entire team made dinner reservations, ordered pizza and checked into hotels under the name Torchwood. Of course Jack had mentioned that Torchwood London wasn't exactly a good example of a 'secret' organization… Ianto confirmed his assessment.
"Sara?" said a familiar voice at her elbow.
She turned and grinned at Greg Sanders.
"Wow. You look good." He blushed. "I mean… you know… wow."
She laughed, though not unkindly. She doubted he'd ever seen her in a skirt. "Thank you, Greg. You look good too. Almost all grown up," she teased him. He was wearing a jacket and tie with his jeans and almost wrinkle-free dress shirt.
"Yeah, well, Gris said I should try to look professional," he shrugged.
Her smile deepened as she wondered what Gil would make of Abby.
"Miss Sidle?" The desk clerk drew her attention back to the matter of checking in. "Your key… do you need help with your luggage?"
She shook her head, "I've just got the one bag, thanks."
"Enjoy your stay, Ma'am."
Sara took the key from her and steered Greg away from the desk so others could get in to register.
"You're staying here…?" he gawped.
"Yes, I'm staying here," she just smiled.
"Wow. I mean… you know Grissom's here, right?"
"Key note speaker. And probably giving some lecture on bugs," she retorted in a dry tone, feeling the smile grow broader on her face.
Greg managed a laugh, "Yeah. That too. Does he know you're here?"
"I didn't know I was coming myself until last week…"
"How'd you get a room? We just barely got in, and I registered three months ago!"
She shrugged. "My boss probably knows somebody who knows somebody." Or Ianto had hacked the computer… she actually preferred the option that started with Jack saying something like 'my ex boyfriend…' although the name 'Torchwood' did carry some weight and not just in Cardiff.
"Where are you working?" Greg wanted to know.
"Cardiff. Wales," she added to the slightly confused look he'd given her.
"You're over here? In England?"
Sara decided not to argue that Wales was its own country; it was part of the UK and if she didn't live there herself, she would probably call it England, too.
"How long have you been over here?" Greg was asking.
"About eight months."
"What are you doing…? I mean… we all thought you left because… you know… you got burned out or something."
"I was burned out," she confirmed earnestly, grateful that Gil had kept the explanation for her initial, sudden, departure simple, truthful, but without going into details. Even when she'd come back for Warrick's funeral, she had been loathe to give out too many personal details. Too many things had been too hard to admit, too many things had felt askew even if she didn't fully realize it at the time. "I'm not a forensic technician any more," she said, no longer sweating the little details of her life. "I just help out a little when our resident tech gets swamped."
"So what are you doing?" he repeated.
I catch aliens for a living… "Field work, mostly." She might not be sweating the little details, but the big ones… that was another story. Don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff…unless of course you're Jack… Ianto's sage advice from when she first started telling him the 'Sara story'.
Greg gave her a slightly perplexed work but didn't press the issue of what she meant by field work. "Grissom is going to totally flip out when he finds out you're here, you know that, right?"
Sara just smiled; Gris wouldn't be the only one flipping out. She had pterodactyls flapping around in her stomach…
I AM still working on the Dafydd story… I'm having a bit of writers' block (as if y'all couldn't tell). The sad part is I KNOW what happens next and exactly how it ends… but when I sit to type, I just end up staring at a blank page (anyone else see Johnny Depp in Secret Window?)
I'm hoping that by working on other things I'll be able to get the Muses to dance on over to that story and inspire me ;-)