Angelic Paranoia

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[Doctor Who] A Life Full of Compromises
Sunday 22nd March 2009

Rating: PG
Beta: hhertzof
Summary: Sarah and Harry’s long and non-disastrous marriage.
There's a remix of this by hhertzof: No Sacrifice: the What Are We Doing In Love? Remix
Children of Time Awards Runner Up

Sarah couldn't help feeling that other women, when faced with a marriage proposal, greeted it with a delighted 'yes', whereas she'd just looked at Harry shocked and unable to reply. She probably should have guessed what was coming, given that he had offered to cook her dinner. Beforehand she hadn't even known he could cook - she'd expected him to be a typical man and be completely useless in that respect. Which he was, in a way, because he admitted that he could only actually cook one thing. But he cooked it well, and along with that he'd set the table with candles, put on romantic music and made the lighting dimmer than usual.

When she'd recovered enough to tell him she'd have to think about it, he had looked disappointed. She suspected that his romantic idea had ended with her saying 'yes', but she wasn't going to jump into it. The evening had gone slightly downhill after that and she'd ended up at home, unable to sleep for thinking about it.

In order to help her decide, she'd attempted to write down any reasons she could find to marry Harry and reasons not to marry him. Under the former she had 'Great sex'. Under the latter she had nothing. One reason - especially that one - wasn't enough of a good motivation to marry someone, however.

After a moment's thought she added 'He understands about the Doctor and aliens' and then crossed it out. She couldn't imagine marrying someone who didn't know about the existence of aliens, even if she'd have to convince them. But there were plenty of other people who also knew and she had no intention of marrying them.

Harry's proposal hadn't been any sort of arrangement on his part either, because he did love her. He'd told her that once, although not again since that first time. More out of curiosity than uncertainty she'd once asked if that was still the case. He'd given her a funny look and said, "Of course I do, old girl," as if saying it once meant it was obvious after that. She supposed it was obvious to Harry, but he didn't seem to have considered the idea that it was nice to hear it from time to time, or that it was possible to fall out of love.

Even so, she didn't want him to do that because she loved him too. It had taken her a while to realise that he wasn't just convenient, but he was sweet and thoughtful and treated her far better than any other man had. Oh, he frustrated her, sometimes to the point where she was ready to walk out, but somehow, in comparison, anyone else was too tame. She could no longer imagine herself in a relationship with someone who wasn't Harry.

She supposed she should have written this down in the 'Reasons to marry Harry' column, but it seemed too obvious. The trouble was, she decided, was she was trying to think about this logically and love wasn't logical. If when she first met Harry someone had told her she would be in this position she would have laughed at them.

She sighed, screwed up the sheet of paper and threw it at the bin. It missed. She decided not to take that as a sign and called Harry. She knew he wouldn't be upset at being woken in the middle of the night once she gave him her answer.

~*~*~

Sarah stretched lazily and smiled when she encountered a still-naked Harry. She'd had a job the night before to convince him not to put his pyjamas on and she only won because neither of them were sure where anything was. They'd made the bed the previous evening, then fallen into it, but apart from that everything in their new flat was in boxes. If they'd just been able to agree whose flat to live in there wouldn't have been such a problem, but the only way they'd been able to compromise was if they both moved. Even if it was a compromise that negated both their arguments on the subject. At least they'd been able to agree on that.

"Good morning, Mrs Sullivan."

Sarah opened her eyes and looked over at Harry. She hadn't realised he was awake. "I told you, I'm keeping my name."

"I thought you might have changed your mind." Her fingers drew patterns on his chest as he pulled her closer.

"Tomorrow I'm going to America, where I'm going to be Felicity Barnes. It's enough to remember which alias I'm using, I don't want to have to think about my own name too." She suspected that for him it was a point of pride for his wife to take his name, for Sarah the opposite was true. But her excuse was also true: it was never a good idea to forget to answer to your alias and she didn't want another that she would have to remember all the time.

He sighed. They both knew she had the winning hand in this particular argument because there was nothing he could do to force her. Not that he would ever force her to do anything, just be very persuasive from time to time.

"Let's not discuss that now." She reached over to kiss him.

Although he kissed her back just as enthusiastically, he didn't let it go on very long before he pulled back and said, "We really should unpack."

"We should," she agreed, and moved her mouth down to his shoulder. "But we're both leaving tomorrow and I want to make the most of our honeymoon, even if it's just one day."

"Maybe I shouldn't leave."

At that she stopped what she was doing and raised herself up with a hand on his chest. "What?"

"Well, it's not much of a marriage with both of us never here, is it?"

She didn't think the Navy was that easy to leave, from what he'd said in the past, but he hadn't been very specific, so she didn't really know. "But you like being in the Navy. And we both knew what we were getting into."

"What about when we have kids?"

She bit her lip and flopped back onto the bed. They probably should have had that discussion much sooner, if they'd been sensible about it. Maybe one day in the future she might change her mind, but right now she didn't want children and couldn't see being any different in the near future. Which probably had rather a lot to do with why she had never brought it up in the first place.

When she didn't reply he propped himself up on one elbow to look over at her. "Sarah?"

"I bet you think all women are domestic goddesses who live to have children, don't you?"

He had been reaching his hand over to her waist, but now he brought it back to the bed, moving away from her a little.

She wasn't angry with him, so much as herself for being too scared to discuss anything that might mean the end of their relationship, but she hadn't meant to take it out on him. "I'm sorry." She reached out to stroke his arm. "But I can hardly go off after a story if I had a baby to worry about."

"You could just stay at home and look after it." She gave him a look and he added, "No, of course you couldn't."

"I'd go mad."

He smiled at that "So you don't have names picked out then?"

She really wanted to tell him that it really was just a cliché, except that somewhere along the line there were some names that had somehow stuck. "Luke and Maria. But I never told you that."

"What was that, old girl? Terribly sorry, but I wasn't listening," he said with a grin.

She laughed. "We're wasting our honeymoon with talking when we can do that over the phone."

"But the unpacking..."

She cut him off with a kiss and then made him forget the unpacking completely by pushing him back onto the bed and straddling his hips.

~*~*~

They didn't have what most people would think of as a normal relationship, but it worked for them. Although Harry didn't go away at sea for months at a time, the Navy seemed to be determined to send him to the most remote places in Britain: bases in the middle of nowhere with no big newspapers or magazines for Sarah to work for. Since she was often off around the world after a story, it made sense for them to live apart and just see each other when they could. At least it led to fewer arguments, although Sarah would never admit that she liked arguing with Harry. She suspected he felt the same way, given that their marriage had lasted this long.

But at some point it had to crack and at least they'd made it past what was surely a mythical seven year itch.

"I'm sorry I can't make dinner next week," Sarah said, over the crackly phone line. "There's a story in Africa and--"

He cut her off before she could explain. "It's our anniversary. What can possibly be more important than that?"

She bit her lip. Whatever else happened, they always made sure to be together once a year on their anniversary. Without fail, they'd both be in the same restaurant at the same time for dinner. Until now, when it was just too inconvenient. "We'll just have to postpone it for a week or two, that's all."

"Sarah, I can't pick and choose when I get leave, not with that short notice. You know that."

She did know that, she just chose to forget, that's all. She had thought he wouldn't mind too much, that he'd be able to swing it some way if he really wanted to see her. "Let's just forget it this year, then."

"Let's forget about our marriage you mean."

It wasn't that she didn't want to see him and it was just an arbitrary date in the end, but she'd known he wouldn't see it her way, which is why she'd agonised over it in advance. It was a hard decision, but this story was important and there would be plenty of other opportunities to see her husband. However, she knew he didn't see it that way, especially given the threatening tone of his voice. "Harry, I love you." But she was talking to thin air. She decided it was because they had been cut off, not because he put the phone down on her.

~*~*~

In the end it was nearly a month later when they next saw each other at their home in London. Sarah hadn't been entirely looking forward to the meeting, expecting Harry to be cross or upset, but in the end he wasn't either of those things.

"Things have to change," he begun, once they were both seated in the living room. "I'm taking a job at MI5, so I'll be living here permanently."

For what was possibly only the second time in her life, Sarah was speechless.

"I've been doing some intelligence work, so it's a logical move."

He looked at her with a worried expression on his face and Sarah couldn't help but smile. Aside from it being quite sweet the way he worried about her, she was sure she had surprised him just as much by not acting in the way he'd expected. "That's a good idea," she said, and he gave her a relieved smile. "I do miss you when you're away, you know."

When he held out his arms she happily hugged him back. "I thought you'd be angry with me for missing our anniversary." Although now she could see that was illogical because Harry never got angry.

"No." He shook his head. "I'm glad you did. I don't know if we could have carried on the way we had been." He smiled down at her when she lifted her head, and brushed his thumb against her cheek. "There's just one other thing." She frowned as he calmly removed his wedding ring.

"Harry, what are you doing?" Why was he contradicting himself?

He put the ring down on the coffee table before he answered. "You don't wear yours because you don't want your enemies to come after me. It's only fair that I do the same for you, since I'm likely to make a few enemies in this job."

She looked down at her left hand guiltily because she hadn't remembered to put hers back on and it was still on her bedside table. "I don't need to be protected," she said, not because she ever won this argument, but more because of how it felt to see Harry take that ring off. She finally understood the look he'd given her the first time he discovered she did it.

"I know you can look after yourself, old girl, but it's far better if you're not in danger in the first place."

"Don't call me old girl," she retorted, rather more harshly than she intended and then soothed his wounded expression with a kiss.

~*~*~

In the end, Harry being around more didn't change their relationship as much as she thought it might. For a start, Sarah was away just as much as she was before and when she was around Harry worked all hours. Sometimes she thought they spoke less than they had before he joined MI5.

She suspected he still had visions of domestic bliss with 2.4 children and a dog, even if she thought they were too old for that sort of thing now. But the dog had been calling Harry 'Master' for years. That neither of their lives suited it was still the case and nothing was going to change now that they both properly lived in the same house.

"Your feet are cold," she complained one night when he slid into bed.

He'd stopped apologising for waking her by now, knowing she was too alert for any sounds in the house. He didn't even apologise for his feet being cold, but purposely touched them to her ankles instead.

"Harry!" Now she was definitely awake and looked over at the clock. Then wished she hadn't found out what time of night, or morning, it was.

"I thought you might warm them up for me." It was just enough light in the bedroom for her to see his grin, but she wasn't in the mood for this just now.

"Get a hot water bottle." She turned over and out of his reach.

"You're the one complaining, you get one." He put a hand on her arm and demonstrated how cold that was too.

She shook her head. "I'm nice and warm."

"You are," he agreed, shifting over to cuddle up behind her.

The shock of his cold body against hers woke her up enough that she decided she might as well give up on going back to sleep. She had to be up soon anyway. So she turned in his grip to face him and press a kiss to his mouth. "Go to sleep. I'll be gone by the time you wake up." She hated that she couldn't tell him where she was going, but he'd find out tomorrow - later today - why when he met her younger self.

~*~*~

"You had an unfair advantage," he accused her afterwards, over dinner at Jardine's. "You already knew what I'd be like in the future."

She smiled enigmatically. Although it had been at the back of her mind, not least because she hadn't been able to remember him wearing a ring, but she hadn't considered it at all when deciding whether to marry him. However, she was perfectly happy to maintain the fiction that she did, if he wanted to believe it. "You aged quite well, I thought. And you haven't changed a bit."

He frowned. "I haven't?"

She shook her head. "Not in the important aspects. You're the still the same old Harry I know and love."

"With emphasis on the old." He sighed.

When she was younger and had met this older Harry, she hadn't remembered him feeling like this. But then she hadn't known him as well back then and she was sure whatever he had been feeling he'd kept to himself, as usual. "You're not that much older than I am."

"No, not any more." He smiled and ordered them some coffee.

Not wanting to revive the subject, she picked a new one. "And you never said what it was like meeting the Doctor again."

"It was..." He swilled the remains of his wine around in the glass as he thought, while she waited patiently. "Different," was all he managed in the end.

She rolled her eyes, wondering why she'd expected something deep and eloquent from Harry. "Different?"

He nodded. "I've changed more than he has." He slid his arm over the table to take her hand. "I know you still miss him."

She swallowed. He knew her too well. "You didn't say anything to him, did you?"

He shook his head. "I thought about it, but in the end I didn't. It was selfish of me really. If he'd come back for you, you'd never have married me."

It had always been in the back of her mind and she'd assumed she would probably leave with the Doctor until Harry had proposed. Yet now, she couldn't imagine leaving Harry. "I'm glad he didn't come back." She smiled and squeezed his hand.

~*~*~

For a while they were happy. Until Harry announced he was going on a secret mission with NATO and then vanished off the face of the Earth. Of course Sarah did everything she could to find him, but no one seemed to know a thing about where he was and eventually she was forced to give up.

She feared that he'd been captured by aliens to get at her, but no one contacted her and there was no evidence to suggest it apart from her own paranoia. She half-wished he'd stayed in MI5 because at least his enemies there were in this country and there would be far smaller to space to look for him. But all she could do was carry on living and going to their anniversary dinners in the hopes that he would show up at one.

When she met the Doctor while investigating Deffrey Vale School she decided now was the time to move on and stop clinging to the past. Living in hope was killing her a piece at a time and the only way to save herself was to admit that Harry was most probably dead, act as if he was, and grieve. She moved into a bigger house with the insurance money and filled it with clutter in a way that Harry would have complained about, but let her keep in the end.

The built-in wardrobe in the spare room had enough space for all of Harry's things. He never had been very good at having many possessions - too much time spent moving around, he claimed, but it still looked like such a small memory of his life. At least here they were mostly out of her sight, so she could choose when to remember, but they were also safe, just in case. Adopting Luke helped, especially without K-9 around and in time she found she was happy again.

At least until one night when she woke with the sound of the TARDIS ringing in her ears. It had to be a dream or a memory, but she couldn't just dismiss it. So she put on her slippers and dressing gown, and tip-toed downstairs to have a look. She didn't find the familiar police box shape, but there was a familiar sort of person shape in her living room.

"Doctor?" He didn't look like any of the ones she'd met, but she couldn't rule out him regenerating since they'd last met.

"Sarah?"

Unless the Doctor had developed a voice that sounded very like Harry, there was only one person it could be. She switched the light on to be sure and found that her hand shook.

She closed her eyes against the bright light and when she cracked them open she found it was indeed her formerly-dead husband standing in her living room, a hand up to ward off the light.

"Harry," she breathed, not quite able to speak properly, and not caring where he'd been, only that he was here now, she raced over and hugged him tight. With her face buried in his shoulder she could feel the familiar rough texture of his blazer beneath her cheek and her eyes filled with tears. She was determined not to cry, though, so she let go enough to reach up and kiss him. His stubble grazed her skin and irrationally, she wanted to tell him off for not shaving before he saw her.

"Where have you been?" She looked him over more closely and tried to decide whether it was her faulty memory or if he hadn't changed at all since she last saw him, when he left on a mission he couldn't tell her anything about.

"Gallifrey."

"They don't allow humans there," she said, without thinking and then realised if Harry was serious, and he looked it, that was the TARDIS she heard. He wouldn't joke about this sort of thing, she knew, but in that case why didn't the Doctor stay? But that wasn't the most important question at the moment. "Why?"

"There was a terrible war and the Doctor needed a doctor."

Once she would have made a joke about that, but this time she bit her lip. She could see now the pain written in Harry's eyes and wondered what he'd seen. "Gallifrey's gone."

"Yes, it is," he whispered.

He wasn't going to talk about it, she could tell that much, but she didn't quite care, now that he was really here. She took his hand and pulled him down to the sofa to sit next to her.

"Where are we?" he asked, looking around the room.

"Home," she said, and then amended it to, "My house."

He looked over at her. "Yours?" She could hear the implied, "Not mine?".

It wasn't that unreasonable that she'd moved, was it? Except that she remembered something important about what the TARDIS could do - and how the Doctor sometimes got that part wrong. "How long has it been for you?"

"A few months. I don't know exactly, I lost track." He frowned. "Why?"

She bit her lip. From his perspective it was no longer than they were usually apart, although they usually managed to communicate during that time. "Harry, it's been more like a few years," she said, softly.

"Oh." She could see comprehension dawning on him. He pressed his palm to her cheek. "You haven't aged a bit."

She smiled at the flattery. "I thought you were dead." She put her hand up to her mouth to keep herself from crying.

"Oh, Sarah." He pulled her closer. "I'm so sorry."

It was easier not to cry when faced with his familiar, comforting warmth for the second time tonight and she let herself relax, just a little.

"Tell me." He stroked her hair as she caught him up on the events in her life since he'd gone. There was rather a lot to tell.

~*~*~

She didn't remember falling asleep, but she must have at some point because she woke up on the sofa with a blanket covering her. For a moment she wondered if she had dreamt the previous night's events, but she could hear voices in the kitchen. She was glad Harry hadn't put her to bed and he was still close by since she wasn't at all sure about letting him too far out of her sight just yet. After running her fingers through her hair to make herself presentable, she went to join them.

Once at the door she smiled at the picture in front of her. Luke sat at the table and, in between bites of his toast, was telling Harry all about his first encounter with a Sontaran. With his back to Sarah, Harry sat opposite him, his hands wrapped around a mug, gazing intently at Luke and occasionally putting in his own observations. Sarah leant against the door frame and watched them until Luke noticed her.

"Mum!" he called, excitedly. "Did you know Harry once blew up a Sontaran spaceship?"

Sarah wouldn't have said that was quite what happened, but since Harry got up and put the kettle back on without being asked, she decided not to contradict him. She was just glad she'd told Luke about Harry because he was enough of a shock as it was, not being dead, never mind if Luke hadn't known she had a husband in the first place.

"I was there," she pointed out as she sat in the seat Harry had vacated. "But Harry's a much better storyteller than I am." Rather prone to exaggeration, but he always told stories well enough that she didn't mind. Luke would certainly appreciate them.

She smiled at Harry as he put a cup of tea on the table in front of her. "But you'll have plenty of time to hear them. He's not going anywhere."

"I'm not?" he asked amiably.

"We have enough work dealing with aliens here, you don't need to go anywhere else." She reached out to take his hand. "I don't want you to go away," she added, softly.

"Then of course I'll stay." He squeezed her hand. "After all, I have a lot of catching up to do."




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