Summary: Kate and Sarah Jane’s second date doesn’t go quite as planned.
Notes: This is a sequel to The Clean Up Date by Selenay, although you don’t have to have read that to understand this.
Kate checked her watch. She was hoping it would be the interval soon, but it turned out she’d only been watching the ballet for ten minutes.
She hated ballet. Or at least she had on the one occasion she’d been before. It had been on a school trip, of all things. After that she’d vowed never to go back. But Sarah Jane had invited her and if Sarah Jane liked ballet then maybe it was worth giving it another go.
Ten minutes was enough to conclude that she still didn’t like ballet.
It didn’t help that she had no idea what was going on. Presumably there was a story, but as far as she could tell they were all dancing with no reason. Remembering that problem from last time, she’d bought a programme from the usher on the way into the theatre. However, she’d only managed to flick through it: she’d been too busy talking to Sarah Jane to read it properly.
Or rather listening to a story about an alien Sarah Jane had helped. She’d had to keep her voice down with other people so close by, although they were all busy talking to each other. This particular alien had turned out to be a lost child, which Sarah Jane had kept safe until its mother came to rescue it.
Kate hadn’t only been interested in the story, she’d also been thinking how glad she was Sarah Jane was around and helping out with alien rescues. Many of them responded much better to a woman and a group of teenagers than they did to a military organisation. She’d also been transfixed by the way Sarah Jane’s eyes lit up as she told of the mother and child reuniting.
She glanced over at Sarah Jane now, who was unmoving, absorbed in the ballet, a small smile on her face.
Although Kate returned her attention to the stage she couldn’t see the appeal. Although she had to admit, she was impressed by the way the dancer who played Odette used her arms to simulate wings. It was easy to tell she was supposed to be a swan.
And there was something else, she noticed: Odette’s feet didn’t touch the ground. She knew that ballet dancers were supposed to look as light as a feather. But they did have to obey the laws of gravity.
She kept watching and sometimes Odette’s feet were closer than others. But there were occasions when Kate could see the lights at the back of the stage beneath her feet. And those weren’t the times when she was lifted by her partner.
She got Sarah Jane’s attention with a hand on her shoulder and leaned over to whisper, “The white swan’s feet don’t touch the ground.”
Sarah Jane leaned forward, studying the dancer. After a few moments she sat back and nodded at Kate.
At least she wasn’t imagining things, not that imagining things was something she was prone to do. But it was good to have another witness to what was going on. And it had made the ballet more interesting, at least for a few minutes. But then the rest of the first half was interminable. Kate wanted to know what was going on, but they couldn’t leave without making a scene. And they couldn’t speak to the dancer while she was on stage.
The one thing she could do was to touch Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane had leaned on the armrest between them and left her arm there now. Kate reached up to place her hand on top of Sarah Jane’s. Sarah Jane twined their fingers and glanced over at Kate to smile.
Kate smiled back and spent the rest of the first half caressing Sarah Jane’s fingers, enjoying the tingles that went through her hand as she did so. She wanted to spend more time holding Sarah Jane’s hand like this.
It still felt like hours before the first act finished. But when the curtain came down and the lights came up, Kate reached underneath her seat for the programme she’d stuffed in her coat pocket. Sarah Jane pulled her phone out and started texting.
Kate found the plot before she found the dancers’ profiles. It was only two paragraphs, so she didn’t feel too guilty at reading it. At least it explained all the dancing at the start – it turned out they were just dancing and there was no plot. And after that she hadn’t been concentrating on the story at all, so it was good to know what she might have missed if she hadn’t been so focussed on Odette.
The profiles of the dancers started on the next page. She read the relevant one out to Sarah Jane. “‘Odette/Odile is danced by Annis Arras, formerly of the American Ballet Theatre. She recently joined the Royal Ballet and this is her first role.’”
It didn’t tell them much. Although it was worth trying the North America branch of UNIT on Monday to see if they’d come across her.
Sarah Jane’s phone lit up and she reported, “Mr Smith doesn’t have anything on her.”
Kate sighed. She wanted to go and speak to Annis Arras. If she had a UNIT team she could have stormed backstage with them. But she didn’t have a UNIT team, she had Sarah Jane. And she didn’t want to make a scene. Which meant waiting until after the ballet finished.
“I hate waiting,” she said.
Sarah Jane smiled. “At least you have the ballet to distract you. What do you think of it?”
Kate considered her answer. There was no point in lying and saying she liked it when she didn’t. She and Sarah Jane didn’t have to like the same things. But she wanted to like the things that Sarah Jane did. In the end she said, “I don’t hate it as much as the last time I went.”
Sarah Jane laughed. “There’s hope for you yet.”
The second act was less dull, now she knew what was going on. And was concentrating on the story. Although the dancing still went on for longer than it needed to. But she noticed that the longer Annis danced, the further away from the ground her feet got.
After the first curtain call Kate had her coat on and was on the edge of her seat, ready to go. But they were in the middle of an aisle and the people on either side were busy applauding. As was everyone else in the theatre and the curtain calls were never-ending.
Eventually the curtain went down and stayed down. Kate edged through the throng but realised she was leaving Sarah Jane behind. Once she’d caught up, Kate took her hand, so they could make sure to stay together. They strode to the stage door and only once they were there did she remember what she was doing, and drop Sarah Jane’s hand.
There was a woman at the stage door, either security or gatekeeper. Kate was ready to flash her ID and claim important government business, but Sarah Jane got there first.
“Sarah Jane Smith, Limelight Today, here to see Annis Arras.” Sarah Jane held out a business card, albeit not quite long enough for the woman to read it properly.
She nodded and waved them past.
“That was easy,” Kate said in a low voice, once they were out of hearing range. She had been expecting to need to sneak in or call the cavalry or, if it came to it, wait outside in the cold until Annis came out.
Sarah Jane grinned at her. “That’s what happens when you date one of the country’s top journalists.”
Kate smiled back. Mainly at Sarah Jane’s admission that they were dating. She already knew Sarah Jane was a well-respected journalist. It was a good thing she was already on UNIT’s side.
“There it is.” Sarah Jane pointed at a door on their right, with Annis’s name on it.
Sarah Jane knocked on the door and Kate hung back. It made sense to carry on with the same story about Sarah Jane doing a piece on Annis.
Annis was still in costume, minus the shoes. Kate thought her feet were on the floor, but it was harder to tell from this angle.
“Sarah Jane Smith.” She waved her business card vaguely in Annis’s direction. “I wonder if–”
“Oh, you’re Sarah Jane Smith!” Annis’s eyes lit up. Which was strange because Kate didn’t think Sarah Jane had ever written anything about ballet. “Come in.”
Kate gave Sarah Jane a questioning look as they entered the dressing room, but Sarah Jane shrugged in response.
Annis waved them to a pair of folding plastic chairs propped up at side of the room. As they opened the chairs and sat, Annis return to her seat at the dressing table, turning it to face them.
“I want asylum,” Annis said once they were all sitting down.
Kate blinked. That was not what she’d been expecting.
“I was told you can help me. You help aliens in trouble.” She turned a hopeful expression on Sarah Jane.
“Why do you want asylum?” Sarah Jane asked.
Kate had been wondering the same thing.
“I’m from Brumenia and I can’t dance at home.” She slumped a little on her chair. “I have to do a boring job there and never dance again. I can’t live that life.”
Kate had never heard of the planet Brumenia. Which meant she had no way to confirm Annis’s opinion of it. Although it wasn’t the best case for an asylum claim she’d ever come across, her sudden disappearance could make waves across the ballet world. She must be a good ballerina if she was dancing the title part with the Royal Ballet. But it wasn’t enough to grant her claim – after all, people went missing all the time.
“What will you do if someone notices your feet don’t touch the ground?” Sarah Jane asked.
Annis reddened. “When I’m happy I float. I don’t always remember to concentrate on that. But I’ll try harder, I promise,” she said earnestly, turning wide eyes on Sarah Jane.
“I can’t do anything official, but my friend, Kate, can.” She turned to Kate, who glared at her briefly for dropping her in it.
“I can’t do anything at this time of night,” Kate said. “But if you can give us your contact details we’ll send someone round to help you fill in a claim form.” She wished she’d brought a notepad and pen with her, but she was supposed to be on a date.
Annis hunted around the dressing table and produced a receipt which she scrawled on the back of. She tried to hand it to Sarah Jane, but Kate intercepted it and checked the address was recognisable and the phone number readable.
“I knew you’d be able to help me.” Annis continued to speak to Sarah Jane, with a wide smile and the sort of enthusiasm teenagers usually greeted celebrities with.
Kate bit her lip to keep from smiling. “We can’t promise anything.”
Annis’s expression turned more serious and she nodded.
“We’ll be in touch,” Kate said and stood. She left, Sarah Jane in her wake, before Annis could indulge in any more hero worship.
“I didn’t know you were famous,” Kate said to Sarah Jane, once they were outside, somehow holding back the laughter.
“Neither did I.” Sarah Jane’s expression was one of surprise. “But it might explain why aliens needing help often come to me.”
Kate nodded, although that still didn’t explain how they found her. “How about a drink?” she asked. It was quiet around the theatre now, with everyone having left except for a few stragglers. But there were a couple of pubs around whose light invited them in from the cold.
“A drink sounds great.” Sarah Jane took Kate’s arm.
Before they could take more than two steps Kate’s phone rang. She was tempted to ignore it, but couldn’t in case it was an emergency, like one of her children having set the house on fire. But it wasn’t either of them, it was UNIT.
She gave Sarah Jane an apologetic look before disentangling her arm and answering. She really needed better boundaries around work. Like not being available at weekends.
“We’ve had a message,” the soldier on the phone reported. “Someone from a planet called Brumenia. She says her daughter is being held hostage and she’ll start shooting if she doesn’t speak to someone in charge.”
Kate closed her eyes for a moment. What were the chances this was someone else from Brumenia that had nothing to do with ballet? “She didn’t say her daughter’s name was Annis Arras, by any chance?”
Sarah Jane looked sharply at her when she said the name.
On the phone the soldier was surprised. “Yes, ma’am. How did you know?”
“I’ve just spoken to her. I’ll be right there.” She had thought once they left the theatre that would be it for alien troubles for the evening and they could enjoy the rest of the date in peace. Sometimes she wondered why she tried to have a life outside of work.
“I’m coming too,” Sarah Jane said, before Kate could explain why she had to go. Her chin was raised and her face set. “I have clearance.”
It was the winning argument: she did have clearance. Although goodness knows how Sarah Jane knew about it. When Kate had found it, a few months ago, she’d quietly put it to one side, thinking it might come in useful one day. This wasn’t the use she’d been thinking of.
But maybe it would be helpful, having Sarah Jane close by. If they needed to speak to Annis again they could be sure she would listen to Sarah Jane. And if they could sort this out quickly they might be able to salvage some of this date.
“All right,” she said in the end. “But I’m taking the lead on this.”
Sarah Jane saluted. “Yes, ma’am.”
When they reached the tower they headed to the main office, Kate keeping hold of Sarah Jane’s hand. She knew Sarah Jane was apt to wander off and who knows what she might poke her nose into. As long as they weren’t here too long they should be safe.
Kate would have liked to have changed: a dress meant she was on a date, trousers meant she was at work. Working in a dress didn’t feel right. But neither did she want to change in front of Sarah Jane and nor was she letting Sarah Jane anywhere on her own.
Once she’d positioned herself in front of the main monitor – and made sure Sarah Jane was off camera – one of the techs on the night shift put Annis’s mother on the screen.
The alien appeared to be as human as Annis was. And she was certainly related to Annis, given the way she resembled her daughter. In response to Kate’s greeting, the alien introduced herself as Ninais.
“I hear you believe your daughter is being held hostage. How did she come to be on Earth in the first place?” Kate asked in a conversational tone, hoping that would calm Ninais.
“She went to Earth to dance. She was to spend a year there and then come home. That was our agreement. But she has not and I have not heard from her.” Ninais paced around the room, which was too dark to see any details of. “We cannot trace her. The only reason must be because you have captured her.” She turned her head to face the camera. “I demand you release her at once!”
“Are you sure that’s the only possible reason?” Kate stepped closer and lowered her voice. She hoped that keeping calm herself would calm Ninais. “I know what teenagers are like. They do rebel, even if it’s not in their best interest.”
Ninais harrumphed and turned her head away.
“She’s fine, but she’s requested asylum,” Kate went on. “Our laws say we have to investigate her claim.”
“She’s what?!” Ninais faced the camera once more.
The last thing Kate wanted to deal with was an angry mother coming to Earth, weapons-ready, searching for her daughter. Annis had said she couldn’t dance on her planet, which sort of matched her mother’s story. But there was something one – or both – of them weren’t saying about why Annis was staying.
“Why do you think she would do that?” Kate asked, hoping for answers.
Ninais folded her arms. “You have her there, ask her.”
Kate shook her head. “She’s not here. I saw her earlier, but she’s gone home. It’s late.”
Ninais leaned closer to the camera to say, “You will tell her to speak to me.”
And the feed cut out.
Kate took a deep breath, which was enough time for Sarah Jane to step closer.
“I’ll go and fetch Annis.”
Kate shook her head and turned to Sarah Jane. “No, this is a UNIT matter.”
“But she trusts me. She’ll come with me. I don’t think she’ll go with anyone else.”
The trouble was Sarah Jane was right. And Kate hated it. They were supposed to be on a date, not in UNIT headquarters contemplating sending Sarah Jane off to fetch a recalcitrant teenager to speak to her threatening mother.
They could stand around and argue about it, but the outcome would be the same. Might as well get it over with. She sighed. “Fine. I’ll organise you a car.”
At least they had Annis’s address, which Kate pulled out of her coat pocket.
Once they were ready to go Kate led Sarah Jane into the corridor, behind the solder who would be driving her, but stopped her with a touch to her arm. “Be careful.”
Sarah Jane gave her an amused look. “She’s just a girl. I’ve dealt with worse.”
Kate let her go. Sarah Jane was used to dealing with teenagers, one of whom wasn’t entirely human. But it didn’t make Kate feel any better about letting her go off on her own.
While she waited, Kate went to her office. Even if they sorted this out quickly, which she doubted would be the case, it was still going to be a late night. She should be having a drink with Sarah Jane in the pub right now, not sitting alone in her office with a strong cup of coffee.
At least Sarah Jane understood why her job meant working strange hours, and Kate could tell her about it. However, it didn’t make her feel any better about it. But there was no point in dwelling on it – she’d have to find a way to make it up to Sarah Jane later.
To stop her worrying she pulled out her phone and texted her kids to tell them she’d be home late. A minute later Gordy proved he wasn’t in bed, as she’d hoped he might be. His reply to tell her he’d make her breakfast in bed late puzzled her for a moment.
It was only as she was taking another sip of coffee that she remembered it was Mothering Sunday tomorrow. The shops had been reminding her for weeks but it had felt a long way off. Until suddenly it wasn’t.
Her coffee grew cold as she switched her computer on and searched the internet for last-minute flower delivery. It came at extortionate cost, but she’d never hear the end of it if she didn’t do something for her mother. While she was there, she ordered a smaller bunch for Doris.
She hadn’t long finished when she was paged to say Sarah Jane had returned. Kate joined her and Annis in the main office. Annis had a scowl on her face, every bit a stubborn teenager.
Sarah Jane nudged Annis.
“I’ll speak to my mum,” she said, sullenly. “But I’m not going home.”
Kate managed not to roll her eyes, but Sarah Jane, standing where Annis couldn’t see, didn’t resist. Kate turned her head to hide her smile and directed one of the technicians to get Ninais back on the line. Sarah Jane stepped away to leave Kate and Annis visible on the feed.
When Ninais appeared on screen and saw her daughter she grew taller again. Or perhaps the floating was a family or a species trait. “Annis! I’ve been so worried.”
And she sounded it too. If it wasn’t for her being alien or threatening Earth she could have been any other mother Kate had met.
Annis shrugged. “I’ve been here. You knew I was here.”
“You never called. I thought you’d been discovered and the humans had captured you. I’ve heard things about that planet.” Ninais put her hands to her chest in a dramatic fashion.
Annis rolled her eyes. “Earth is fine, Mum. I’m fine. I joined the Royal Ballet School. It’s very prestigious.”
“Nevertheless, it’s time to come home. You know the terms of the arrangement,” Ninais said firmly,
Annis examined her foot as she stubbed a toe against the concrete floor. Both her feet were very definitely on the ground, Kate noticed. “But I want to dance.”
“I let you dance.” Ninais threw her arms out. “We agreed you could stay for a year. Now you have to come home and do the work you’re contracted to.”
“But it’s boring.” Annis’s tone was that of a typical teenager’s whine. “I don’t want to work in an office. I want to dance.”
Ninais sighed. “If everyone did what they wanted, where would we be?”
Out of the corner of her eye Kate saw Sarah Jane take a step forward. Kate held up a hand. “I think we should leave the two of you to discuss it. Go and get a cup of tea,” she said to the technicians. Fortunately, being late at night, not many people were on duty.
When they’d gone, Kate headed to the door, Sarah Jane following after a moment. In the corridor, Kate said, “UNIT aren’t here to get involved in family arguments.” Not even during working hours and definitely not when she was supposed to be out on a date.
“I’m not part of UNIT.” Sarah Jane leant against the wall, arms folded. “I could be useful. If Annis has heard of me, perhaps Ninais has too.”
“Let’s see if they can work it out first.” At least they were past the point where Earth was under threat. But Ninais could still decide to come down mob-handed and cause a scene. Dealing with that would be a pain.
“All right.” Sarah Jane sighed and released her arms to drop against her legs.
Kate moved to lean against the wall next to her.
“Luke’s taking his A levels in a couple of months,” Sarah Jane said, her gaze fixed on the wall opposite. “And then he’ll be off to university in the autumn. I…” She sighed again and Kate kept quiet, waiting for her to continue. “I’ve been alone for most of my life and I liked it that way. But now Luke’s leaving it’ll be… strange not having him here.”
Kate rested a hand on Sarah Jane’s shoulder. “He’ll be back for Christmas before you know it. Assuming he makes it through a whole term without bringing washing home.”
Sarah Jane smiled at that.
“And somehow I can’t imagine Rani and Clyde will be able to stay away from your house.”
“I know.” Sarah Jane leaned into Kate a little. “I never expected to feel maternal about anyone.”
Kate nodded. “It has a habit of creeping up on you. And before you know it he’ll have graduated, moved back home and you’ll be trying get him to move out again. I speak from experience.” She tilted her head towards Sarah Jane, smiling. Although she didn’t always mind having her two at home still. Since the divorce Gordy had picked up the habit of looking after her, having done so when he was little and it was just the two of them. It was sweet, even if his cooking left something to be desired.
Sarah Jane turned her head to smile at Kate.
“It’s called being a mother.” Kate reached for Sarah Jane’s hand, but pulled away when the door opened and Annis stood there, her face flushed.
“Can you talk to her?” Annis asked Sarah Jane.
Sarah Jane gave Kate a questioning look, which Kate nodded in response to.
Back in the main office, Sarah Jane took up a position in front of the camera, Annis beside her, arms folded. Kate stayed at the back of the room. “I’m Sarah Jane Smith. How can you help?”
Ninais smiled. “From what I’ve heard about you, I’m certain you can.”
Sarah Jane coughed. Kate hid her smile behind her hand.
“Annis must return home and do the job assigned to her. We need government employees.” She banged her fist on the table, making the picture jump.
“Would one person make that much of a difference?” Sarah Jane asked.
“It would set a precedent,” Ninais explained. “It would encourage other children to choose their own path too, and our world would be in turmoil without enough people to do essential work.”
Sarah Jane nodded. “Did you also have your job assigned?”
Ninais nodded. “Of course.”
“But you wanted to act,” Annis interrupted. “That’s what you did on your gap year.”
“Exactly. I had my fun-” she gestured toward the sky “-and then I settled down to work.” She gestured toward the ground.
“Which you hated,” Annis said.
“At first,” Ninais admitted, tilting her head. “But over time I found aspects to enjoy about it. You will too, if you try.”
Sarah Jane had a hand to her mouth, thinking for a moment. “Is there any way Annis can extend her gap year, if she promises to come home after that and take up her government job?”
“Oh, yes.” Annis appeared to be growing taller and lighter. “I can’t stay here forever. A dancer’s career is short and I’d miss home too much anyway.”
Ninais’s expression softened. “Perhaps one more year could be arranged,” she said slowly.
“Yes!” Annis clapped her hands, a definite gap now appearing between her feet and the floor.
“There will be conditions,” Kate said, stepping forward. “That you continue to dance with the Royal Ballet School, you stay out of trouble and don’t tell anyone you’re not from Earth.”
Annis nodded. “Of course I can do that.” She made it sound as if that was obvious.
“And that you call regularly, so I know you’re all right,” Ninais said, waving a finger at her daughter.
“I will,” Annis promised.
Kate and Sarah Jane stepped back while the two of them said their goodbyes. Afterwards Annis flung her arms around Sarah Jane, her feet a good inch off the ground. “Thank you, Sarah Jane. I knew you could help me.”
“You’re welcome,” Sarah Jane said, hugging her back.
“I’ll have someone take you home.” Kate tried not to sound too amused.
After she’d organised a car she returned to find Sarah Jane lurking in the corridor. “At least Luke’s not going to university on another planet,” Kate pointed out.
“That’s something to be thankful for. Anyway, he’s only just got used to Earth.”
Kate smiled. “I can get someone to take you home.” She didn’t want Sarah Jane to go, but it was late, the pubs were shut and the Tower of London at night was no place for a date. And she suspected Sarah Jane would want to get home to Luke. Kate wished her kids were still young enough to check in on while they were asleep.
“I’d rather get a taxi. Nothing against your soldiers specifically,” Sarah Jane added, holding up a hand.
Kate smiled. “I’ll walk you. I’m going in that direction myself.”
As they headed out, Kate commented, “It’s interesting how our career choices change when we get older. When I was growing up, and sometime after, I wanted nothing to do with Dad’s job.”
Sarah Jane nodded. “When I was young I wanted to be a scientist, like my aunt.”
“And neither of us ever thought we’d be dealing with aliens.” They were outside now and Kate stopped Sarah Jane with a hand on her arm. “Speaking of, I’m sorry about this evening. I know it’s not what you were planning.”
“Hazard of the job.” Sarah Jane shrugged. “And I got to see UNIT’s new base, so it wasn’t all bad.”
“You don’t mind?” Kate sounded dubious. Although Sarah Jane knew what it was like, it was still frustrating to have a date disrupted by an emergency call from UNIT.
“I really don’t mind.” Sarah Jane stepped closer. “Next time let’s go for a picnic in the middle of a park and turn our phones off.”
“I like the sound of that,” Kate said, as Sarah Jane leaned up and kissed her, a kiss as thrilling as their first, outside Sarah Jane’s house.
When they parted neither of them stepped back. Kate smiled. Sarah Jane really didn’t mind. “You know, UNIT will check up on Annis, make sure she’s keeping up her end of the bargain. A few trips to the ballet now and then should do it.”
Sarah Jane smiled. “UNIT paying for us to go to the ballet? I can live with that.”
Unable to resist, Kate kissed her again. But much as she wanted to stay here longer, it was late and they should get home. And it was cold: she was dressed for an evening in the theatre, not standing around outside in the middle of the night in March.
She stepped away from Sarah Jane, but took her hand as they walked to the road.
“Text me when you get home,” Sarah Jane said, as a taxi slowed in response to her hail. “Just in case the driver turns out to be an alien.”
“Some of them are.” But Kate pre-empted Sarah Jane’s question and pushed her towards the car. “Why do you think it’s so easy to get a taxi around here?”