Disclaimer: All this belongs to the BBC in some form or another. I'm just borrowing their sandbox for a bit, I promise to put everyone back where they left them.
This one is going to be darker than Taking in Strays. Consider yourself warned.
Thank you to Spydurwebb for consenting to continue being my beta. Much appreciated.
"Stop being ridiculous, Sarah Jane." She scolded herself as she focused on scrubbing the countertop. "You never needed anyone before, you don't need anyone now." The house on Bannerman Road felt empty. Too empty, too large. She could now imagine herself as the Doctor rattling around, all alone in that infinitely large TARDIS. That line of thinking only made her scrub harder. It was all so very much mangled up together the longer she actually thought about it.
Empty nest. That was what she suffered from. She knew that. Luke, and of course K-9 would be home for Christmas. Of course a darker voice, the one that fuelled this funk of hers, pointed out that that their visit would only be temporary. After having him as her son, reliant on her for so short a time, he was headed out to build his own life. She should have been proud of that. When she wasn't in one of her darker moments, pride was all she felt for him. It was just when she allowed herself to wallow that she didn't.
"You are a hypocrite, Sarah Jane Smith," she said to herself with a huff of frustration. "Everything ends." She quoted herself and put even more energy into scrubbing. Jealousy fuelling her latest round of cleanliness. Rose had won. No heartbreak for her. Off in that alternate dimension, her own cloned Doctor with her, in love with her. It was all well and good to be philosophical about it when you knew without a doubt that she would eventually have her heartbroken just like you. It just didn't seem fair that Rose hadn't, at least not permanently. Oh no, for her there was a clone and love, real love. Not platonic love, not choosing to raise a boy that you could imagine sometimes, in your own little fantasy, when your eyes were closed, was yours and his. Yet you never acknowledged those fantasies and never would.
What did she have? A robot dog. Well she had the dog, but now her son had taken him off to Oxford with him. A son. Off at Oxford. Leaving her with other people's children, and an alien supercomputer fighting aliens who could kill her and sometimes made her wonder if she didn't have suicidal tendencies for doing it. As well as a large, very empty house.
"Snap out of it," Sarah barked at herself.
"Oh yes, please do." An unfamiliar voice came from the entrance to the kitchen. "You're very nearly as dreary as the Doctor is when he's in one of his funks. He really did leave an indelible mark on you."
Sarah spun about to face the intruder and her brow furrowed as she took in the form of the unfamiliar woman who smiled at her in an appraising way as she took in readings on some sort of device. "Who are you?" Sarah's body coiled instinctively, preparing itself for movement.
"I, my dear, am the Rani." Her smile turned dangerous. "I suppose if I offer to take you for a turn in my TARDIS, you won't agree to come along like a good little girl." A swiftly fired beam from a wand she produced from up her sleeve ended Sarah's escape bid before it could even completely be realized. Sarah's vision was murky as the Time Lady appeared above her. "Thought not."
"Not the last," Sarah managed to mutter before she fell completely unconscious.
The Rani rolled her eyes as she adjusted settings on her wand and aimed it at Sarah's fallen form once more, her prone body lifting easily with the beam. "I wonder if he thinks as much of you as you do of him." The Rani shook her head in disgust. "At the hands of an unknown enemy and all you think of is the Doctor. Of course, that's exactly what I was hoping for." The look on the Rani's face would have sent chills down Sarah's spine had she been awake to see it.
Sarah had no way to tell how much time had passed as she returned to consciousness. Once she was, she wished she wasn't. A silent scream escaped her lips, her entire body felt as if it were on fire. On a cellular level, the substance of her very existence felt turned inside out. She couldn't move, not that she thought she'd have much strength to do so if she could.
The Rani once more stepped into Sarah's view. "I suppose you're wondering what's happening to you," she said as she made some adjustments to the lab table that Sarah was confined to. "I'm not in the habit of explaining myself to my experiments, but since I intend you to be something more than just an experiment, I will make an exception."
Sarah looked up groggily at the Rani as the Rani continued to explain. "It's obvious you know about the fall of Gallifrey and how very few of us are left in the universe." Rani looked at Sarah and took in her comprehension. "It leaves a gap, a gap in the power structure of the universe, a gap where any number of unsavoury creatures could step in."
Sarah gave her a look that clearly stated that she thought the Rani would welcome that. "I may be immoral Miss Smith, but even I would not relish a universe where something akin to the Daleks or Cybermen could step into the vacuum left by how the war was ended." The Rani shuddered slightly. "Nature abhors a vacuum." She made more adjustments and the pain seemed to increase for Sarah, even her mind seeming to be on fire.
"Still, it's so difficult to know what Nature will put in place if left to its own devices. I wasn't certain I would approve." The Rani looked down at Sarah calmly, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes in an almost maternal way. "Still, I couldn't very well just use ANY subject matter to for this experiment. That's when it came to me, the Doctor's companions. Always so resilient, such pluck."
The Rani folded her hands together in front of herself as she glanced at the ever-changing readings coming from the table. "He leaves a trace on you, not just artron energy no, something more. Only detectable by another Gallifreyan. Its strength, of course, is dependant on so many things. How long you travel with him, where you end up? How long ago it was?" The Rani paused and then fell silent, obviously choosing not to continue. "Imagine my good fortune, when I happened on you. You were teeming with it. Trace from three separate regenerations at least, with close contact. You were absolutely perfect."
"For what?" Sarah ground out, though each word nearly killed her to say and she couldn't help but think about her son and hope she'd see him again.
"Exceptional," the Rani praised. "You shouldn't be able to speak at all with all the pain you're in." She cupped Sarah's chin and decided to answer Sarah's question. "You're going to help me recreate the Gallifreyan race. Well not exactly that. You, my dear, are going to be my heir." She paused, "If you survive, of course. Right now your very genetic code is being mutated to Gallifreyan. You are dying, of course, there is no possible way you can survive that."
Sarah's eyes widened and tears she hadn't let fall before slid down her cheeks. There it was then, she'd not see any of them again. K-9, Clyde or Rani. Harry or the Brig. The Doctor. Luke. She wanted to scream that she wanted to live. That she didn't want this. No matter how much of a blue funk she'd been in. "Your only hope is that I've managed to change you enough, in which case you'll regenerate. Otherwise, I'll have to start again, with a new subject, of course."
Sarah finally found the strength to scream as a golden glow seemed to start beneath her skin and flow outwards.