This oneshot has been weeks, maybe even months in the making.
Would you believe it if I said I got the idea while I was in the shower?
Anywhozers, enjoy and then review!
Sliver of Hope
It was snowing the day Ariel disappeared. January 23rd. There had been strange noises, a couple of shrieks and screams, and an odd whoop, whoop noise before silence descended upon the house. If anyone had been around to hear it, they probably would have called the police. But nobody had been. She lived in a two-story brick house at the edge of the suburbs. She had always liked her privacy. That was in 2021. Ariel was twenty-five.
In the summer of 2023, her parents stopped looking for her. They finally gave up hope. They couldn't wander around town, searching the crowds aimlessly for a face that hadn't been seen in two and a half years. But her younger sister never gave up hope. She always thought that one day, her big sister would show back up and the world would sort itself out again. Sarah was six years younger than Ariel, an age gap that had seriously hindered their relationship growing up.
When Sarah was eight and Ariel fourteen, they had been horrible to each other. Sarah had stolen her sister's things, hit her, kicked her, annoyed the hell out of her on a regular basis, and a ton of other things that made it absolutely impossible for her to stand Sarah's presence.
Ariel had just been flat out mean to her, shouting at her, ignoring her, and accusing her of things she didn't do. She had been rude to her many a time, and just couldn't see the reason she had a sister in the first place. Many times, she remarked she would have loved to be an only child again. Utterly horrible sisters to one another, they were.
Neither of them were sure when their relationship began to change. Maybe it was when Ariel turned eighteen and headed off to college, leaving Sarah to realize just how much she missed her annoying sister. Maybe it was even earlier, when Sarah was dumped by her first boyfriend and had cried her eyes out over him. Ariel had come in and comforted her, even though she looked uncomfortable about it. She didn't know, and probably never would be able to pinpoint the exact location when they had turned into best friends.
They told each other everything. When Ariel began sending her completed novel to publishers in the area, she told only Sarah. When Ariel thought of a new plot point in her book, she turned to Sarah to ask if it was any good or to iron out the discrepancies. It was Ariel Sarah turned to when she needed to talk to someone. It was Sarah Ariel sought out when her fiancée ran out on her, claiming he just couldn't go through with it.
Then, Ariel disappeared. One day she was there, the next she was just gone. Poof. Just a note, telling them not to worry. Yeah, right. Sarah searched more fervently then her entire family combined, because if her big sister was really gone, then who would she talk to? Who would listen to her babble on late at night when everyone else had gone to sleep? Who would call her late at night, going on and on about something totally weird and that made no sense? Who else would hold her hand in the dark when she was scared?
The sun was obscured by the dark clouds that had been rolling in all day. Sarah parked her car in the driveway of her sister's house, sighing. Once a month, every month, ever since Ariel disappeared, Sarah had come to her sister's home. She tidied up, dusted, that kind of stuff. But she also waited. After she cleaned, she always sat down in a poufy red armchair, looking out of the window facing the road. She still thought, after all this time, that her sister would just turn up one day, happy as can be, complaining that her beloved flowers in the flowerbed in the backyard were going to die because Sarah hadn't been taking proper care of them in her absence.
As she settled down into the cushy chair, she suddenly felt the urge to go outside. She looked out the window, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Maybe the clouds were a bit darker than they were twenty minutes ago, but other than that, nothing had changed. Still, she went out, closing the door behind her and sitting on the front step.
She thought and thought and thought. Mostly about her sister; a little about her parents, a little about her boyfriend, and a little bit about her job, but mostly about Ariel. She hopped up, deciding to clear her head by going for a walk. It might help, it might not, but it would hopefully cure the restless feeling that had been growing inside of her for days now. That's why she had come here early; she thought that maybe the feeling had come because something had happened here. But it hadn't; the house was just as she had left it.
Sarah strolled aimlessly through the flowerbeds at the back of the house, pausing to check each bed for any dying flowers. There were none, as she kept all of them in perfect condition. She ended up on a small hill overlooking an old field, overgrown with weeds and thorns now. She sighed and put her hands in her pockets, staring out at nothing in particular, lost in her thoughts.
"Nice day, isn't it?"
Sarah jumped. She jerked around to come face to face with a woman. She was about five foot six, had black hair and really dark blue eyes. Her eyes gazed at Sarah, so intense it unnerved her.
"Who are you?" she asked, instantly on guard. She didn't know this woman; she could be a psychopathic murderer for all Sarah knew. But she didn't get that feeling from her. The woman radiated love and trust; it literally almost forced you to trust her. Sarah didn't know why one second she was on guard, and the next she had completely let her barriers down, relaxing for the first time in months. And it scared her.
She hadn't heard the woman walk up. She could usually hear anyone coming up from at least fifty feet away, but not this girl. It unnerved her that someone could walk that quietly or to think about why she would need to walk that silently.
The lady wore a simple tunic-style crimson shirt and deep red knee length skirt that swirled up around her in the breeze.
"Who I am is not important at the present moment, is it?" she asked, raising her eyebrows inquiringly at Sarah.
"I think it is. Who won't tell someone something as simple of their name?" she asked indignantly.
"Same old Sarah," she chuckled. "Always wanting to know everything, no matter how rude she is."
Sarah blinked. She didn't recognize this woman. She had never met her in her life. So how did she know Sarah?
"Oh, and don't ask how I know you, either, 'cause I'm not allowed to tell you. It's against the rules."
"Just…someone's. Someone important. Can't tell you that, either." The woman shrugged apologetically. "It's not my place to tell you what you cannot know yet."
Sarah sighed, frustrated. Who was this woman who could walk up to her, not even inform Sarah what her name was, and then tell her she wasn't allowed to tell her things? What right did she have to withhold information from her?
"Can you at least tell me why you're here? You don't seem like the kind of person to just walk up to a random girl and strike up a conversation."
The woman chuckled and nodded. "You're right. I came here to talk to you, actually. I'm here to deliver a message, but also just to talk. I know your sister is missing, and has been for a while, and I have…a connection, of sorts, with her.
The questions swirled around in Sarah's head.
"You know my sister? You know who she is? Well, never mind, everyone knows who she is, but more to the point, you've seen her, talked to her?"
The woman held up a hand, silencing Sarah's incoherent babbling. She sighed, and it somehow echoed. She flicked a piece of hair out of her eyes, internally grumbling. She should have worn it up. She would have, if it were any other day. But not today. Today she had to meet with Sarah, and it wouldn't do for Sarah to recognize her, would it?
Her hair was different from how it used to be. She had finally gotten tired of her light brown, stick straight shoulder length hair and had persuaded the Doctor to take her to a hair salon. He'd taken her to one on the planet Arilia, a planet famed for its flowers and plants. The spas and salons there were probably some of the best in the universe. It was now midnight black, with a dark blonde streak near the back of her head. It curled slightly now, creating a wavy look to the hair that had once been straight. Her hair would stay that way permanently, until she wanted to change it.
Her once ever-changing hazel/brown eyes were now the deepest blue. One day, she had just woken up and her eyes had just…changed. She had panicked and thought something was possessing her, or that something had happened to her on their last trip, but the Doctor assured her she was herself and went on to prattle about how traveling in the TARDIS could sometimes change appearances in tiny little ways. A little bit of a tan here, change of eye color there…
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
"It is immaterial whether or not I have talked with your sister. What is important is you."
"Yes. Despite what you may think, your sister will come back. You've got to keep believing that, or she won't want to. As long as someone wants her to come back, she will."
"But we all want her to come back! Mom and Dad and me and the whole family!"
"But only you holds any faith that she will come back. Keep that faith."
Sarah shook her head. That didn't make any sort of sense at all. How could faith bring her sister back? With nothing else to do, she started talking about her family. She didn't know why she was bothering with this total stranger, but she felt sure this woman wasn't going to tell anyone.
"Ariel's a writer, you know? That was her dream, writing. That and traveling. She wanted to see the world. She's a wonderful writer, sold thousands of books. Children's, young adult books. Always fantasy. She always loved fairy tales and science fiction. Was utterly convinced that magic existed. Said she could see it, everywhere. Everyone else thought she was a bit crazy. Then, two and a half years ago, she just vanished. We looked everywhere, me and mom and dad.
Searched the house top to bottom we did. The only thing we found was that some of her clothes and a suitcase were missing, and a note taped to the kitchen table. It just told her she'd gotten an offer to go traveling, and she wasn't sure how long she'd be gone. Told us not to look for her, 'cause we wouldn't find her.
We ignored her. We searched everywhere. Everyone knew that one of the world's most popular writers had disappeared. Everyone looked, trying to find her, but no matter how hard we tried, we never even heard a whisper of her. She was just gone, like she'd vanished off the face of the earth."
The mysterious woman smiled knowingly. She knew exactly what happened to Ariel Jackson.
"It's been two and a half years, m'am. If she were still out there, she would have told us. She loved us, all of us. I'm sure of it. Why would she just go off like that?"
The woman turned and spoke almost sharply to her. "Ariel loved you all so very much, Sarah. Believe it or not, she will come home. She is alive, and happy."
She shook her head in disbelief. "If you say so."
She asked again, "What's your name?"
The woman opened her mouth, as if to answer, then laughed, the noise sounding so familiar to her, but Sarah for the life of her couldn't place it.
"Nice one, Sarah. You almost had me there. I already told you, I'm not allowed."
"But why are you not allowed? You say you are here to talk to me about my sister, but all you've told me is she's safe and loves me. When will she come back? I want my big sister back!"
Sarah's emotions were taking a hold of her. She took a deep breath to calm herself.
The woman glanced at her through lidded eyes as she looked at the ground. This conversation was harder than she thought it would be. She had to end it soon, before she lost all sense of composure.
She took a deep breath and carefully said the rehearsed lines she had practiced before coming here.
"Just remember this, Sarah, whatever you do. When Ariel comes back, listen to her. She's got a perfectly good explanation. A really weird one, but it's perfectly true."
Sarah frantically searched the woman's blue eyes.
"You've really talked with her? Please, can you tell me where she is, if she's safe? Please…"
The woman smiled, flicking a strand of her black hair out of her eyes. She turned around, just for a moment to regain her composure again. If she had stared at Sarah for any longer, her resolve would have just melted and the story would have come tumbling from her pink lips. But she restrained herself. She restrained herself because she had to. She couldn't tell her, it wasn't the right time yet. She mentally sighed and turned back around, trying to formulate an apology for the girl standing in front of her. She was so different than she remembered, yet so much the same…
"I'm sorry, Sarah, so sorry. But I can't tell you where she is. But I can tell you this. She's alive, and so, so happy right now. She's traveling, just like she's always dreamed. Meeting aliens and saving worlds and having the time of her life. She's traveling the universe, time and space, in this really big blue box. She's with this man, this wonderful man; he's called the Doctor."
"Are you out of your mind? Aliens, sure, I believe. We've had loads of them. But traveling through time and space in a blue box? Now that's just ridiculous."
"I assure you, Sarah Sweere, that it's perfectly true, even if it's not exactly normal.
She's having the time of her life right now, traveling with him. She's been all over the universe seeing things that probably no one will ever see again. She's saved dozens of worlds, rescued entire civilizations from dying, and she has run an awful lot over these past two years. Seriously, there's been a ridiculous amount of running involved.
And I promise you Sarah, Ariel's more than safe right now. Oh, she might be in mortal peril and almost lose her life many times, but there is no man in this universe that will keep her safe like the Doctor will."
Sarah processed this information slowly. She didn't really believe this woman, but for some reason, she felt trust. She felt like she could trust this mysterious woman with her life, even though she'd just met her. She felt like she would die for this woman, and it scared her, because she didn't know why.
"Who are you?" she asked again, more earnestly this time, because she had to know. She had to know why she was so accepting of information she would have dragged the woman to the loony bin for less than a year ago. She needed to know why she trusted this woman. She needed to know how this woman knew her sister. And she really wanted, needed to find out how this woman knew her name.
The woman actually seemed to struggle to find an answer. Her eyes betrayed her conflicting emotions. They told of a struggle, a struggle to tell Sarah exactly who she was, and giving a cryptic riddle of an answer. She eventually settled for a mix of the two; a mixture of truth and riddle, giving room for her to guess it for herself.
"I'm…a message. Let's put it that way. You know who I am, Sarah. Deep down, really deep down, you know who I am. And I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry, but I can't stay. I have to go, really soon actually. So I'm going to leave you with this. Let's see if you can figure it out. See if you can figure out who I really am, Sarah Beth Jackson."
The woman winked, hugged her briefly, and started walking away. 'There,' she thought bitterly in her mind as she walked. 'The timelines are preserved, I didn't ruin the time stream continuum, and I got to see her again. Just what I wanted. But it's not. I want her to know who I am, and why I went away. I want her to know that I love her, that I wish she could come with us. But I can't. She can't know. Not yet.'
Sarah started when she heard the woman call her by her full name. No one knew her real name, not these days. She used to go by Sarah Beth, back when they both were younger, she eight and her sister just fourteen. No one had called her that in ages, though. Not since she decided she wanted to go by Sarah only.
She had made up a fake name when Ariel had first started becoming noticed by people, recognized for her writings. She hadn't wanted to keep her own name. She didn't know why at the time, and she still didn't know why, not really. She became Sarah Elinor Sweere to the public. Not many people knew that that name was made up.
She watched the woman walk away in silence, her hair blowing around her face, the storm clouds billowing in behind her. Sarah scrutinized the woman as she walked off, her elbow-length black hair swaying in the breeze, her red shirt standing out vividly in the dull brown of the wilted field. The way she walked, almost a strut but not quite. She turned away; ready to head back to her car, to the city. Then, she stopped.
And quite suddenly, she understood. She understood the subtle hints and the dropped meanings the woman had given throughout their chat, the way her eyes looked so familiar, though they were different, the way she had known Sarah's name. The way Sarah felt like she knew the woman intimately; the way that she felt like her heart had somehow repaired itself slightly during the conversation.
She turned back to where her sister was walking. By now, Ariel was almost across the field, heading up a small hill. Soon, she'd be out of sight.
Sarah ran faster than she ever thought possible. Thorns scraped her legs and burrs were stuck in her hair and shirt, but she didn't care. All she cared about was seeing her sister again.
"Ariel!" she called desperately. Her sister didn't even look back, although Sarah saw her hesitate for just a fraction of a second. If it was even possible, she ran faster.
Ariel disappeared over the rise of the hill. Sarah heard an odd noise, like an engine dying. Sarah reached the top barely a minute later, but stopped short at the top, her chest heaving. She was gone. Her sister was gone…again. And she hadn't even said goodbye, not properly, anyway.
She scanned the surrounding area feverishly, trying without success to locate the missing member of her family. Nothing. Just a wheat field, not a speck of black or red in sight. Just the wheat, swaying in the wind. There was no sign at all that Ariel had been there, nothing to say, 'I was here!'
And on that day, in the summer of 2023, for the first time since Ariel's disappearance, Sarah broke down and cried. It wasn't all sad tears. Some were happy, knowing her sister was alive and safe somewhere, knowing she was happy and having the time of her life. Some were sad, mourning for her sister, still missing, and that she hadn't said goodbye.
Some, however, were angry tears. Angry at her sister for leaving, angry for her not communicating with them for two years, angry with Ariel leaving her behind. Again.
But Sarah was ultimately happy. Her sister was alive, and once she came back, she would have loads of stories to tell. First, however, she was going to get a big hug, then a hell of a slap for leaving her twice. Ariel wouldn't do this again, showing up on her doorstep and not telling her who she was. Because her sister was her life, and she'd be damned if she let it go again.
Next time she saw the two of them, this mysterious 'Doctor' and her absent sister, she was going with them.