Harry went off to find Sarah Jane, but he wasn't exactly hurrying about it.
He had a lot on his mind.
It was more than John's physical condition that was bothering him. Oh, certainly, that was enough; John's body had been through the ringer, and even when he'd been "released" it hadn't been over. Each shock it had taken to get his heart back into a proper rhythm had done more damage, and while they had ultimately brought him back from the brink, Harry was definitely concerned.
Especially with the high levels of C-reactive protein that he'd detected in John's bloodstream. It signaled a much higher level of inflammation than he expected, even with John's injuries. He was going to have to keep an eye on that; it pointed to the potential for even more heart trouble later.
Which made his other problem - John's reaction to questioning - even more troubling. It was natural that John would have a strong reaction, considering the torture he'd evidently experienced. But his actual reaction was akin to something more sinister.
In his early days in the Navy, Harry had been excited to find that he'd been assigned to work with a particularly revered instructor, who'd just returned from Vietnam as part of a mission to train Australian troops. For the life of him, Harry couldn't remember his name, but he'd never forget the look in the man's eyes when people asked him about the experience, because it was a look he'd seen so many times on his own father's face when he'd returned from North Africa in 1944 minus a leg lost to a German mine.
His father was the reason Harry had decided to become a doctor. He was also the reason that Harry had not, as many of his colleagues had, chalked his instructor's anxiety attacks and behavior up to "battle fatigue" and forgotten about it. Instead, it seemed to him a condition known as "post-Vietnam Syndrome", though he'd been hearing rumblings lately that some of those writing about it wanted to call it "post traumatic stress disorder".
He didn't care what anybody called it, it was clear that John was suffering from it, and they were going to have to be careful to make sure they kept it in check until he was strong enough to deal with it.
He found Sarah Jane fluffing flowers bought from the hospital gift shop and pulled her aside. "Congratulations," he said.
Sarah leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Oh Harry, I'm so happy right now that I'm in love with the whole universe. John's better and we're getting married in a few minutes, what else could I possibly ask for?"
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "Sarah Jane, there's something we should talk about before the ceremony."
Her smile faded into concern. "I don't much care for the way you said that, Harry. What's wrong?"
"Well, it's John. He is going to be all right, but you need to know that he hasn't exactly come out of this unscathed."
"Oh is that all," she said with relief. "Of course I know that, it'll probably take him weeks to recover."
Harry saw her relax and felt terrible going on. "Probably," he said, trying to choose his words carefully, "but he's never going to be one hundred percent of what he was. His heart took a lot of abuse, and it's … well, it's not gone bad, exactly, but it's not quite good either. He's going to need to be careful. No more of those huge fry breakfasts he likes so much."
"So, he'll just have to take care of himself and he'll be fine, right?" Sarah's eyes were asking him, no pleading with him, for reassurance.
Harry looked at her, radiant as she prepared to get married. Oh, what he would have given to be the groom. But in the end, he wanted her to be happy, and he couldn't bear to crush her. Not today. "That's right," he said. "He'll be fine. But you're going to have to keep him calm for a while. And he's really going to have to be serious about it, and so are you. And he'll need regular checkups," he warned. "I don't care how much he complains about it."
"I swear to you Harry, he'll eat right, exercise, take medication and get as many checkups as you say he needs. You have my word on it. He will be able to lead a normal life though, won't he, and a long one, right?" Again she gave him that pleading look.
He nodded, a smile plastered on his face. He'd handle things later. "Of course. Now you," he said, pointing her back at her flowers, "you go get married."
"One more thing, Harry. We'll be able to uhm, try to have children once he's fully recovered won't we? You see, we've discussed it, and we really want to start a family as soon as possible." She could feel herself blushing and she put her head down.
'Oh, the temptation,' Harry thought, but he had to be honest. "Yes, but you're definitely going to need to let him recover first."
"Of course. I know we'll have to wait awhile, but as long as John's going to recover and we can have children, then all's right with the world," she was smiling again. See you in a little while, Harry. Don't be late for the wedding, after all, you're the best man."
'If only,' Harry thought.
Shortly, Sarah was hurriedly changing into the dress she'd asked her Aunt Lavinia to bring to the hospital with her when she called to ask her to be her Matron of Honor.
"So as long as John takes care of himself and I make sure he does, he should be fine," Sarah said as she finished catching Lavinia up on everything. "Can you help me with this zipper please?" She turned so her Aunt could oblige.
"It sounds, my dear, as though you've finally made up your mind," Lavinia said.
"Oh, I really have Auntie, and I couldn't be happier. I know now that I love John with all my heart. Of course, I will always care about the Doctor, but John is my life."
"Then I wish the two of you the very best," she said, pulling the zipper all the way up and kissing her niece on the forehead. "Now get out of here before my mascara starts to run."
"You have to go into the room before me Aunt, so after you," Sarah picked up her bouquet of pink roses and blue forget me nots with baby's breath. She bowed to her Aunt. "And don't forget your flowers. It took the florist fifteen minutes to make them look like a bouquet."
Lavinia picked up her flowers and signaled for Harry to press "play" on the cassette player. Pachabel's cannon gently floated through the room.
Lavinia walked in smiling at everyone. In a way she felt that this was her day as much as it was Sarah Jane's and John's. Of course, she wouldn't dream of saying anything, but to see her niece grown into a beautiful woman, married and happy, with a child on the way, made her feel very accomplished. She had raised her and fulfilled the promise she made to herself and her brother and his wife the day of they passed away. She had given Sarah all that she could and had succeeded in giving her a good start in life. Sarah was marrying a wonderful man who would be a good and loving husband to her and a caring father to their children. She couldn't wish anything better for her.
Sarah Jane followed her Aunt and when she walked into the room and saw John and their friends there, she felt as if she would explode with happiness. She knew that the room wasn't grand, and that her pink chiffon dress wasn't anything special and that they wouldn't have a wedding reception, but all that mattered to her right now was the look of love on John's face and that in a few moments they'd be man and wife.
John watched Sarah walk into the room and at that moment, there was nothing else in the universe. Weeks ago he and Sarah Jane had promised each other that they'd leave the past behind, but neither of them were really ready for it then. Now he meant it with all his heart. He had a future now, and it was walking towards him in the most beautiful pink chiffon dress he'd ever seen in his life. He couldn't imagine loving her more than he did at this moment.
The Brigadier winked at them and began the ceremony. He asked each of them in turn if they wanted to be married each other, then had them exchange vows. John slipped the ring he had given Sarah earlier on her finger again and he pronounced them married. It was a simple but elegant wedding in spite of the surroundings. There was an air of peace and grace about it. The Brigadier felt that it was as it should be when two people were that much in love. "Well," he said smiling. "What are you waiting for man? Kiss your bride."
John blushed; he hadn't realized this moment would come in front of everyone. He looked to Sarah for guidance.
She shrugged shyly. "We did it. We're married, John."
John motioned for her to come closer and slowly, tentatively kissed her.
Sarah gently put her arms around him and kissed him back. At that moment, she felt reborn and the world seemed bright and new and full of hope.
Standing quietly in the back of the room unseen, Lord Cornelius Wentworth watched the ceremony long enough to assure himself that everything was all right again for UNIT, Mr. Tinker, and Miss Smith, now Mrs. Tinker. He slipped away unnoticed, pleased with what he had managed to achieve. This event however, would not be reported anywhere in Torchwood's annals.
After a little over two weeks John had recuperated enough to be released from the hospital, and a veritable convoy made its way down Hillview Road. Stopping in front of Sarah Jane's house, UNIT soldiers made sure that everything was in order, while Harry helped Sarah pull a wheelchair out of the boot.
"Welcome home, Mr. Tinker." Sarah said, kissed John's cheek.
He smiled at her. "Thank you, Mrs. Tinker."
"Come on, let's get you inside and comfy. We'll get your things in later. Harry and I will help you stand and then you can lean on me until you sit down. After all, it's only fair, you've been letting me lean on you for some time now."
John chuckled, and stiffly pulled his legs out of the car so he could stand, then let them help him to his feet and into the wheelchair. He still felt silly about it, but part of the conditions of Harry approving his release was that he didn't do anything at all stressful or strenuous. (That and following what John considered the blandest diet on the face of the planet, but he was willing to live with it as long as it meant he got to go home.)
While Harry got the chair up her front stairs, Sarah reached for the keys, but before she put them in the door, she turned to him. "Hold on, I have to make sure you don't get knocked over when we walk in."
John was confused. "Pardon?"
"Just you watch, you'll see what I mean soon enough." She put the key in and opened the door slowly, making sure she was standing in front of John as she did. In seconds a huge lolloping dog came charging up to her. "Down, Faraday, behave yourself."
The dog sat and waited, tail thumping wildly.
John gasped - in a good way. He let Harry help him onto the sofa, then sat down and smiled again at Sarah. "I love you," he said, then "Come here, boy," he told Faraday. The dog immediately bounded over and started licking his face, but much to John's relief, he didn't jump up. He was simply the perfect dog.
Sarah laughed. "I didn't think you'd mind, dear. He's been keeping K9 company while we were at the hospital. You see, UNIT managed to get everyone that was a member of your so-called family's memories back enough that they could all return to where they belonged. In fact, Gloria had a husband who had been searching for her for months, but it seems they got poor Faraday at the pound. Mr. Benton said they didn't know what to do with him and I told him we'd take him rather than have him sent back to the kennel. After all, he can't help it if he was trained to adore you, and I can't blame him for it, seeing as how I feel the same way."
"Well then," Harry said, "I can see we're all a bit redundant here, so how about we leave you two alone. Can I trust you to behave?"
"Absolutely," John smiled.
"Oh, you have my word on it Harry," Sarah promised.
"Good, because I know this isn't much of a honeymoon for you, but it'll be even less of one if I have to come back here and sleep on a cot until you're well enough to be back upstairs instead of on the couch." Harry looked sternly at the two of them.
"Well, we certainly don't want that to happen, do we John?"
"No, we absolutely don't," he said.
"Good. Then we're off," Harry said as he gathered up the UNIT crew and left.
Sarah sat down next to John and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Well, love," she smiled at him. "We're home."
John was extra diligent about taking care of himself, following every instruction the doctors gave him, attending every appointment, doing every physical therapy exercise they assigned, and in just under four weeks he was deemed well enough to re-open the fix-it shop.
Sarah had helped him put up the sign he'd made before everything had come crashing down around his ears, and he was out in the workshop by himself, working on the backlog of appliances that had built up while he was ill when he heard a knock on the open door.
He looked up to see a gentleman looking expectantly at him. "Mister Tinker?"
"Yes, that's me," John said, motioning for him to come in. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, I just moved in down the road and the neighbors say that you're the person to ask about fixing this radio," the man said. "I think it's got a loose connection. It keeps going on and off."
"Let's have a look," he said, taking off the back. "Looks like a simple enough repair, but as you can see I've got a bit of a backlog, so it'll take a few days to get to it. I've been ill, you see." John pulled a tag off a pile. "If that's all right, I can let you know when it's ready."
"Not a problem at all," he said.
"And your name?" John asked.
The man smiled, a big broad smile. "Jack Harkness."
... THE END
PLEASE NOTE: As many of you know, we post every Wednesday and Saturday, and we never start posting until a story is completed. Since we posted the last two stories back to back, that means that we have been posting twice a week since the beginning of last April. We feel that it's time for us to take a bit of a break. So rest assured that while we will not be posting next Wednesday, we will be posting the next story in this arc the minute we get back from our "working" vacation. We are hoping to start posting again in late January or early February, so if you're interested, PLEASE set us for Author Alert so you'll know when we start back up.
That said, thank you all so much for sticking with this story! We know it's been a long trip, and we appreciate all of you! Have a wonderful holiday and a fantastic New Year. All the best, Sarah Jane and Nick