"Of course dear, you can talk to daddy and me anytime," Sarah said.
"I just … well, I wanted to talk about what happened today. Is that OK?" He looked at John.
"Of course it is, Luke," John said, giving him a hug.
"Alright then, why didn't the two of you tell me the truth? Did you think I was too young to handle it?"
Sarah Jane knew that Luke was trying hard not to show his hurt and anger, but she could tell how he felt and she didn't blame him. "Sweetheart, we trusted you, but we just felt it would be easier for you to deal with if we waited till you were older and perhaps better prepared to face it."
John put an arm around his adopted son. "I know you feel like you're a big man and in a lot of ways you are, but sometimes parents have to make a judgement call, and sometimes you might not agree with it."
"I have a right to know who I am, not telling me was wrong," Luke said, holding his ground.
Sarah Jane put her hand on her son's. "You're right, Luke, and I hope you can forgive us. Sometimes parents make the wrong choice, but for the right reason. Try to remember dear that we love you and we always want what's best for you."
"I guess," Luke conceded. He was quiet for a few moments. "I suppose I'm not as angry now as I was when I first found out. It's just … well, can you at least promise me that from now on you'll tell me what I need to know, especially if it's about me?"
John hugged him, but he looked warily at Sarah Jane. On the one hand, he didn't like the idea of making such a blanket promise. On the other hand, did they really have any more secrets? "Luke, I know it feels like we kept things from you, but we really weren't meaning to. What else do you want to know?"
He hesitated. They could see that the crux of what was bothering him was just beneath the surface. "Did you want me?" he asked quietly.
"Oh Luke," Sarah Jane exclaimed as she hugged her son tightly. "Never even think about that! You have been not only wanted but loved from the moment I knew you existed."
"And actually, Luke, there's something else important you need to know," John said. "Your mum and the Doctor certainly loved you as soon as they knew about you, but so did I. As soon as I figured out your mum was going to have you, I already loved you before anybody else even knew about you. And I couldn't love you more if you were my very own biological child. As far as I'm concerned you're just as much my child as Sid and Lisa Ann."
Luke smiled at that, his lip quivering a little as he tried to be so grown up. "I love you both, too."
"That's what's really important, Luke," said Sarah. "That, also and making sure that nothing like what happened at the circus ever happens again. We need to make sure that all of us stay safe and sound from now on."
"Um … yes, well about that … I think what happened was my fault," Luke said as he put his head down and picked at the blanket he was sitting on.
"Your fault," said a confused Sarah Jane. "Why in heavens name would you think that?"
Luke bit his lip. "I … I took my watch off."
John sat up. "You what?!"
"I didn't mean to," Luke said defensively, "and it's not like I knew how important it was!" But John and Sarah could see the tears in his eyes.
John held him. "No, it's not," John said. "It's all right, you didn't know."
"What matters is that you're alright and you know now never to take it off again." Sarah Jane paused. "Actually, we're to blame because we didn't tell you why you needed to keep it on, so it's just as much our fault as anyone's. Isn't that right John?"
"That's right," John said. "And anyway, even if you did take it off, that doesn't mean that all of this was your fault."
"But they were looking for me," Luke said.
"No dear, they were looking for me, but because you and your brother and sister have my DNA, they locked in on you." She put her hand on John's arm as she realized what she had just said. "Oh John, this is all my fault. My travels with the Doctor have endangered my children. We'll have to do something about this."
"Well let's not jump to conclusions," John said, looking surreptitiously to Luke as if to say, 'not in front of the children'. "I mean, it's been a decade since you've been with the Doctor." He thought for a moment. "I suppose, actually, that we could give you a watch like Luke's. You've traveled through time, and we've always said you've got a bit of that temporal gravity that comes with being a complicated space-time event. We can mask that."
"There, you see Luke, your brilliant dad has saved all of us." She tousled John's hair. "My quiet, gentle hero."
John blushed. "Don't be silly."
"Dad's a hero," Luke said. "He saved everybody."
"Ah, I see," Sarah smiled. "Quiet, gentle and modest as well. How did Dad save everyone, Luke? Be sure not to miss a single detail in the telling." Her eyes twinkled as she teased him.
"Now, I don't think that's necessary," John said.
But Luke ignored him. "Dad kept the Daleks busy even though I was mad at him - and I really am so sorry about that, Dad - but even so all of a sudden somebody started shooting and when they were distracted Dad shoved me through the fence and told me to go for help and I didn't know what was going to happen but I went off for help but when we came back he was there with the Daleks and then they were mad because they were looking for the Doctor and he pretended that he was the Doctor and the Torchwood people said that he was and they were going to get him and then the Doctor came because I brought him and Dad whacked the Dalek and made it go 'pop'!"
Sarah Jane grinned at John, her head down and her eyes looking up at him. "Oh really now? Your father is a hero, Luke, and I adore him for it." She threw an arm around John and the other around Luke. "Both of my 'boys are heros. I'm the luckiest woman on the entire planet." She proceeded to smother both of them with kisses.
John smiled. "Well, if it weren't for my heroic boy bringing back the Doctor I don't know whether that Dalek or Torchwood would have gotten me before I got the Dalek, so he's the big hero here, isn't he?" John asked, tickling Luke until he threatened to wake up his siblings giggling.
"Luke, can you tell me what happened when you found the Doctor," Sarah asked cautiously.
"Well, I was looking for help when I saw a big box that said 'Police' on it and I thought it was a phone booth but when I tried to go inside and call the police this man opened the door and it was the Doctor and I saw the inside of the DISTAR!"
Sarah nodded. "The real name of it is the TARDIS dear, I just call it the DISTAR in my novels.
Luke ignored the correction. "Well, I saw the inside, and it was HUGE, just like you said," Luke said. He seemed to hesitate, and chewed his lip. "Can I ask you something else?"
"Of course," John said. "Ask us anything."
"Well, I said I wouldn't tell anybody, but you always said I should never keep secrets from you so I'm sure it's OK if I talk to you about it."
"In this case dear, if you feel the need to talk about it, then you should, but only to us. This sort of thing, like dealing with the Doctor, has to stay within our family. I'm afraid you can't tell anyone else about it Luke, not even your friends. Other people won't understand the way we do."
"Well, see, there was this kind of weird thing. I felt really funny when I was around the Doctor. Kinda like my insides were shaking.
"It's the way Time Lords recognize each other Luke. I learned that when I was on Gallifrey years ago," Sarah said.
Luke was quiet for a few moments, laying his head on Sarah's shoulder once more. "My mum's been on another planet," he said simply.
"Maybe one day you will too, Luke. Perhaps the Doctor will return and take you traveling when you're all grown up and can visit with him." She smiled at him. "I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time. How do you feel about the Doctor now that you've met him, Luke?"
"First I was pretty mad at him because it was like he didn't want to do anything even though I told him it was important."
"What do you mean he didn't want to do anything?" John asked.
"I told him you were in trouble but he didn't do anything."
"No, well, I was kinda yelling at him," Luke said.
"Oh dear, why did you yell at him Luke," said Sarah with surprise.
"Because he left you and he left me too and he wasn't helping dad," Luke said, as though it were obvious.
Sarah bit her lip. "What did the Doctor say to that?"
"He said he didn't have a choice, but I asked him why he didn't come back then, and he said he couldn't." He looked very serious. "He really didn't seem to have very good answers."
John stifled a smile at his "sophisticated" tone. "Was there someone there with him, Luke?" he asked.
Luke shook his head. "I didn't see anybody."
Sarah flashed John a knowing look. "How did he seem to you?"
"Like I said, he didn't seem to want to do anything at first, but then he finally did help save Dad, so I guess I can't really be mad at him."
"Did he say anything to you about being his son or about me?"
"He knew you were my mum," he said. "He asked me where you were and I said I didn't know, because I didn't."
Sarah was quiet for a while. Finally, she drew Luke close to her and kissed his head. "What made him decide to help you?"
Luke looked proud of himself. "I yelled at him until he did."
John raised an eyebrow. "What did you yell at him?"
"I yelled at him that mum was always saying that he was a good person that helped people but he didn't."
"How long did he wait?" John asked.
"Oh, it had to be at least 10 seconds," Luke said.
Once again John suppressed a smile. "That long, eh?"
Sarah gave her husband a playful poke. "Of course he helped you. He cares, he really does Luke, but he sometimes has a difficult time showing it." She shook her head, for the first time in a very long while she thought of the Doctor in warm terms instead of hurt or anger. Trust John to bring that out of her. She really wished she could have seen all three of her 'boys' together. "The Daleks didn't have a chance with you, daddy and the Doctor to deal with."
"Especially you," John said, ruffling Luke's hair.
"Aww dad, I just went for help," Luke said.
"I suppose next it will be Faraday who saved everyone," Sarah said tickling John.
At the mention of his name, the dog leapt up on the bed and started licking everyone enthusiastically. Within minutes, the whole Tinker family were awake, and in the same bed laughing and hugging and being grateful to have each other.
Once they had gotten everyone settled down and back to bed Sarah Jane sighed softly as she slipped in next to John once more. "John, I have a rather important question to ask you," said as she snuggled into him. "How would you feel if I said that now that the children are all in school except for Luke, I'd like to go back to work full time?"
He looked at her warily. "You mean, like, go out into the field and get into trouble and such?"
She bit her lip and nodded. "I am an investigative reporter, my love. I can't promise that there wouldn't be some danger involved, John, but I did it for years and I managed very well. I need to do this, it's an important part of who I am and I've been neglecting it."
He stared at her, incredulous. "So almost being killed by Daleks wasn't enough for you?"
"To be honest, it wasn't," she said. "I was worried about you and the children of course, but aside from the worry, the excitement made me remember how much I've missed my work. I know you don't like it all John, but I'm used to it, in fact, I thrive on it."
"Sarah Jane, didn't we just have a conversation with Luke about keeping our entire family safe?"
"We did, but this would only involve me and I promise, you and the children will never get wrapped up in my work, none of you will get less attention from me and I will be extra careful about getting into trouble. Oh please, say you understand."
John was quiet for a long time. "Honestly, darling, I really don't understand. It's not about us getting wrapped up in your work, it's about you staying safe. Every time I step into the UNIT compound, the only thing I want is to avoid trouble at work, and you're just rushing headlong into it." He could see the crestfallen look on her face. "But I'm not you, and I suppose I just have to live with the fact that you need more … excitement than I do."
Sarah Jane threw her arms around her husband with enthusiasm. "Oh John, I love you so much! I can't even begin to tell you how much this means to me." Her mind whirled with ideas and plans. "I think first thing tomorrow I should write an article about our adventures with the Daleks and then call up some of the places I used to work for before we got married. I'm sure at least one of them will want an exclusive from someone that dealt with the whole thing first hand. Oh, and I'll have to see how many of my sources are still around too! Hmm, John dear, would you mind If I started back as soon as possible?"
He smiled in spite of himself. "Darling, do whatever you like, as long as it puts that smile on your face. I love you, Mrs. Tinker, and I love our life."
And with that they snuggled into each other and went to sleep, each ready for the next part of their lives together to begin.
Well, folks, that is the end of this story! Please subscribe to author alerts to get notified about the first chapter of the next story, "The Last Mile", in which we promise that all will FINALLY be revealed as we wrap up the entire story arc, due out next Wednesday as we go back to our twice-a-week posting schedule. So again, if you have theories about who or what John is, AND who or what you'd LIKE him to be, please let us know in the comments, along with anything you think we may have missed in the continuity...