"As he held her in his arms he considered telling her. It would be so easy to tell her all about the parallel universe where her only major concern at that moment was whether or not she was too young to be a grandmother. But he wasn't there to point out the things she didn't have, he was there to help her mourn what had been taken from her."
She slept on and off during the night, but he didn't mind all that much. Whatever she needed he was going to provide because, and this had taken him a few hours to work out, he felt guilty. Then again, he always felt guilty when people he cared about got hurt because of him. She did all of this, fought back and protected everyone from her attic in Ealing because of him. She understood them, she was strong and brave because of him. And now she was broken because of him. Because he set her off on this path that led her to that registry office and the Trickster using someone she loved against her.
She dreamt, and he held her tighter as she was gripped by another nightmare. He didn't need to ask when she woke; she would shudder and her eyes would snap open, on one occasion she woke with such a cry the Doctor was convinced that Luke was about to burst in to find out what creature was devouring his mother.
It would have taken some explaining.
'Yes, hi Luke. I'm just here in your mother's bed because she's having nightmares and I can't make them go away but I can be here for her. Until I go away that is…'
"You're still here." Her voice was quiet and slightly hoarse.
"Of course," he replied, pressing a kiss into her hairline. "Nowhere else I need to be. Nowhere else I want to be."
"Whole of time and space, and you're choosing to be here with me?"
He smiled down at her. "Every time."
She gave a small smile. "Peter really loved me."
"Yes he did."
"I love him. I know it's stupid, but I still love him. I'm in love with a man I technically never met."
"You did meet him, Sarah. You met him and he loved you. Why wouldn't he?"
Sarah said nothing, just rolled back onto her side, allowing him to curl protectively around her. This was her wedding night she reflected. That was something else she was missing out on. She'd never seen his place, Peter had been an absolute gentleman in that regard. No sleazy encounters in rooms, no pick ups, no stolen moments. For tonight they'd booked a room in a hotel in the City with river views.
So much for that.
"I miss him," she said. "And it hurts."
"I wish I could make it all better for you."
"Take me back and I can stop him from…"
"Oh, Sarah. If I could…"
"I know, I know. I want to go to his grave. Is that weird?"
"I just… wish I could see him again. I wish we could just talk the way that we used to. We could chat for hours, I remember on our second date I think it was? We met for lunch and the next thing I knew I had to race home so Luke wouldn't miss me."
She lapsed into silence, running over the last few months in her head. "It was so quick, wasn't it? I mean, we didn't really know each other…"
"How long had we known each other before you dropped everything to come with me?" he asked. "Sometimes you just know, Sarah. And when you know time doesn't matter."
"Says the Time Lord."
"Says the Time Lord who knows exactly what time means. You and Peter were meant for each other."
"Then why can't I be with him?" she asked before descending into sobs again.
He held onto her, her breaking heart pounding through her back and shattering his own hearts.
"I wish I could make this better for you," he said quietly, his voice humming against the back of her neck.
"I just want him back." Her voice was so quiet that anyone else would have missed it. "Even if it's for a couple of hours. I just want him back."
She fell into another restless sleep and he wished it could be dreamless for as long as possible.
When she was in the shower he went downstairs to make her a cup of tea. It was only when the kettle had boiled and he had the cup in front of him that it struck him.
"Strong and milky," came a half-asleep voice behind him.
"Thanks," he said, looking around for the tea bags. Luke opened the cupboard closest to them and grabbed the tin. "I…"
"It's fine," Luke said, rubbing his eyes and moving to the fridge. He grabbed the juice carton and took a swig from it.
"Sarah let you do that?"
"Don't believe you."
"Don't care," Luke said, slamming the door shut.
"Oh, c'mon," the Doctor said, pouring the hot water over the tea bag. "It's not…" He stopped, unable to say that it wasn't his fault.
"It's not that," Luke said. "It's just… I don't know how to fix this. She is hurting so much and I can't do anything for her."
"Just be there, all she needs right now."
"What she needs is Peter," Luke said. "She really loved him, didn't she?"
The Doctor nodded.
"I reckon he would have been really good for her."
"He would have," The Doctor said with complete certainty.
"Maybe in another time…"
"Oh, no maybe about it." He stopped and caught Luke's eye. "I don't know if telling her will help or not."
"Telling her what?"
"Marriage, kids, grandkid on the way… She would have had a life with Peter if…"
"If you'd not been in it?"
"Something like that," the Doctor admitted.
"Thing is, if she'd not met you, she'd probably not be involved in all this," Luke said, gesturing upstairs. "And if she wasn't then she wouldn't have been at the factory that day. Don't know what would have happened to me. And I know that's selfish…"
"She loves you."
"I know. But she'd love her own kids. Probably more."
"Are we talking about the same Sarah Jane?" the Doctor quipped, the subtext obvious. There was no way she'd not have loved Luke. "If she'd not come with me…"
"She wouldn't be my mum, would she?"
The Doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. But she would have been happy?"
"Maybe that would have been for the best?"
"She loves you. Never seen her so happy, content and complete. Well…" He trailed off as they both realised that right now Sarah Jane was anything but happy. "She's a great mum. I'm glad she's got you, got the chance to be one."
"Wish she'd got the chance to be a wife," Luke said sadly. "But I know she doesn't regret going with you."
"I don't regret taking her," the Doctor grinned. "We had some amazing times."
"She said, but I always feel weird asking her about it."
"It's almost like another life. She doesn't talk about it much so I don't know if I should ask or just leave it be."
"Yes, well," Sarah announced, stepping into view, "that's because I'd rather not have you worrying about stuff like that just yet. Almost bad enough you dealing with what happens here on Earth. There will be plenty of time for all that later."
She shoved her hands into her jeans pockets as she turned to face the Doctor with the beginnings of a real smile on her face. Her hair was damp and beginning to curl around her shoulders, evidence that right now she was just about able to focus on being upright and not sobbing. He could still feel the thundering vibrations of her heart as easily as he'd done the night before.
"So," the Doctor said, clapping his hands together and rubbing the palms. "Plans for the day?"
"I thought I might just… take a walk," Sarah replied.
"I can come with you if you want," Luke offered.
"Thanks, love, but I'd rather be on my own at the moment." She caught the worried looks on the faces of the (remaining) two most important men in her life and forced a wider smile onto her lips. "Really, I'm fine. At least I will be. Just need to… get my thoughts in order. Bit of time, space, some fresh air? Do me the world of good."
It was only when she'd gone that the Doctor remembered the tea he'd made for her. This domestic stuff was way beyond him.