Summary: Family secrets, buried in a box.
Fandom: Sarah Jane Adventures/Doctor Who
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Possible spoilers for S3 of New Who
Title, Author and URL of original story: "Family Documents" by hhertzof
Family Documents (The Multi-Generational Remix)
"Well," said Sarah Jane, "this is the last of them." She set the box down on the attic floor and sat in front of it, motioning for Luke to join her. "I don't know why I didn't finish this years ago."
If she were honest with herself, though, she supposed she did know. Partly it was just that Aunt Lavinia had left behind so much stuff that by the end going through it all had simply got too tedious, too time-consuming. But it was more than that. She'd rather liked the idea that some piece of Aunt Lavinia's life still existed, unopened and unexamined. It didn't make her aunt any more alive, of course, but somehow it had made Sarah Jane feel as if her last remaining relative were a little less... gone. Sentimental, really, but somehow it had seemed right And it also seemed right to finally open that last piece here, with Luke. He was her family now, which meant that he was Aunt Lavinia's family, too, even if she hadn't lived to meet him.
"Go on, Mum, open it!" said Luke, breaking into her thoughts.
"I am, I am! No need to be impatient," she said, but she couldn't help smiling at his eagerness. "It is a little exciting, isn't it? A sealed box, full of the unknown." Aunt Lavinia, bless her, had not been good about labeling things. "Best not to get your hopes up too high, though. It's probably more of her virology journals. As I recall, she had those everywhere."
She slit the tape, opened the box, and laughed. "What did I tell you?" She lifted out a scientific journal.
"Can I see it?" asked Luke.
She handed it to him, and he flipped to the table of contents. "She had a paper in here. Look."
Sarah Jane glanced at it. "I'm not surprised. She was very prolific in her field. She did some very well-respected research, too."
He turned to the article and started reading. Her aunt's papers had always largely gone over her head; she wondered if they made more sense to him. Her genius son. Would the two of them have been able to have fascinating conversations about biology? Would her aunt have been as proud of him as she herself was?
Underneath that journal was another. She removed it and set it aside. And beneath that...
"Oh, look at this!" she said, lifting the photograph out.
Luke did. "Your parents," he said quietly.
She nodded. "It's a lovely picture of them." They looked so young, so happy. "The glass in the frame is broken," she said. "That's probably why it's in the box. Aunt Lavinia was terrible about getting anything repaired." She laughed, and it helped to dispel the lump that was building in her throat. "Let's see what else we have," she said, and started pulling out the rest.
More journals, and some letters to Aunt Lavinia from her colleagues. "Could be useful, I suppose, if I ever decide to write her biography," she told Luke. Old shopping receipts, newspaper clippings about long-ago community events and scientific conferences. More photographs, mostly of Sarah Jane herself as a young girl. "I can't believe I ever dressed like that!" she exclaimed, making Luke laugh. And then, very near the bottom, another photo matted in a cardboard frame.
"Who's that?" said Luke.
"That's Grandma Joan," she said. "My father's mother. And Aunt Lavinia's. They were twins, you know."
"She's pretty," said Luke.
"Yes, she is." She touched the photograph gently. "Or was. I never knew her. She died years before I was born. It's funny. No one ever talked about her much, not even Aunt Lavinia."
"Why not? Did she do something wrong?" Luke looked curious, and concerned.
"By the standards of the time, I suppose she did. She wasn't married when her children were born, you see. It was terribly scandalous."
Luke's brows drew together. "Why?"
"It wasn't a very enlightened time," she said. "Women weren't supposed to even think about men they weren't married to."
"Oh," said Luke, clearly still not entirely understanding. Then, "Look," he said. "There's something attached to it." So there was: a thick sheet of paper fastened to the photo with a rusty paperclip. Sarah slid it out.
It was a sketch, hastily but artistically done, of a man's face. A particular, recognizable man's face. And beneath it, a signature: "John Smith, 1913."
Luke's brows knitted together in that puzzled expression again, though Sarah Jane, staring at the picture, barely noticed. "That's the Doctor," he said, "isn't it?
"Yes." Her own voice seemed to come from somewhere far away. "Yes, it is." It was the new Doctor, the one she'd most recently met. The Doctor, who'd drawn a self-portrait in 1913 that Aunt Lavinia had kept attached to a picture of Grandma Joan.
Grandma Joan, who had given birth in 1914 and bestowed on her children the last name of "Smith."
"Can't be," she said. "It can't be." Well, it couldn't. She didn't even have two hearts or anything, did she? Human all the way through. She was certain of it. So why did she suddenly feel so light-headed?
"Mum?" Luke's hand was on her arm. She hadn't noticed him putting it there. "Are you all right?"
"What? Oh. Yes, yes, of course." She drew a deep breath, pulling herself back together. "But I think I need to make a phone call."
It was funny. She remembered when the Brigadier had made him set up that space-time telegraph thing, how put out he was whenever the Brig actually dared to use it. And nowadays, you could call him up on your mobile, and he'd answer on the second ring. She wondered if he needed a sense of contact with humans more, now that his own people were gone. She wondered if that were the reason why he'd taken up with her grandmother. If that, ultimately, were the reason why she existed.
He came promptly, at least, even though she'd only told him that she wanted to ask him a question, face to face. She'd give him credit for that.
The three of them sat at her kitchen table: her, the Doctor, and Luke. She'd thought Luke should be part of this conversation, but he seemed unsure how to behave and mostly just sat there, curious and quiet.
Wordlessly, she slid the sketch across the table to the Doctor.
He looked down at it, and she thought she saw a strange shadow flit across his face for just a moment. "Where did you get this?" he said.
"It was in some of my aunt's things."
"Your Aunt Lavinia?" He sounded deeply surprised.
"Yes, my Aunt Lavinia. That is you, isn't it?"
"No. Well, yes. Well, no. In a manner of speaking." He sighed. "It's a long story."
"Most of your stories are, Doctor. But this is one I'm particularly interested in hearing."
He waved a hand, and she could tell he was about to brush her off with some excuse or make a sudden attempt to change the subject, but she glared at him, and he reconsidered. Reluctantly, he started to talk.
It was a typically Doctorish story, really, full of powerful, body-snatching aliens and complicated Time Lord technology. Luke seemed riveted by it. But even if Sarah Jane hadn't known better, she would have been able to tell that there were gaps in the narrative. And he never once mentioned the name "Joan." All the pieces fit, though. It made sense of everything, even her perfectly human DNA.
"That's all very interesting, Doctor," she said when he was finished, "But I don't think you're telling us everything." She stood up, pulled out the picture of her grandmother, slapped it down in front of him, and gave him a challenging look.
That shadowed expression came over his face again, and this time it was a little slower to leave. He stared at the picture for a moment, then looked back at her with wide, questioning, disconcertingly vulnerable eyes.
"My grandmother," she said. She had difficulty getting the words out, and they emerged a little too loud, a little too sharp-edged. "Joan Redfern. Mother of Eddie and Lavinia Smith, born out of wedlock in 1914. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
"I... I didn't know." He ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up at strange angles, so that Sarah Jane had to resist the absurd urge to smooth it down again. His voice shifted from a near-whisper into a sort of manic urgency. "Sarah Jane, if you ever trusted me about anything, you have to believe me. I really didn't know!"
She did. She did believe him. But she suddenly felt the need to sit down. Hard. "It's true, then. I wasn't sure." And then suddenly, uncontrollably, she started to laugh. Great, heaving sobs of laughter, shaking through her. She raised trembling hands to her face, and pressed them to her lips, but it didn't stop.
"Mum?" Luke suddenly stood at her side. She waved away his concern, touching though it was, and got her laughter, finally, under control. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said, to both of them. And then, to the Doctor, "It's just... Of all the strange, strange things in my life, I never expected this! And, oh, dear..." She felt laughter burbling up again. "You know, there was a period in there where I was certain I fancied you! God, isn't that disturbing to think about now!" She let herself start laughing again. What else was there to do? Life was so ridiculous, really.
It was the look on the Doctor's face that sobered her up at last. He looked so... lost, somehow. Stunned. Completely at a loss for words. What a rare, amazing thing for him. "Oh, Doctor," she said, sympathy welling up inside her and driving off the laughter. "It's all right. Honestly, I'm not going to tear into you for getting my grandmother into trouble or anything. Come here." He didn't. "Come here," she insisted, "and give me a hug."
She stood up, and slowly, hesitantly, he came towards her. He put his arms around her, awkwardly at first, and then, without warning, he was squeezing her, clinging to her as if he were afraid to let go. Well, she understood that, didn't she? She knew what it was like not to have anybody, and to find yourself with an unexpected family. "It's all right," she murmured, soothingly. "It's all right, Doctor. We are family aren't we?"
He pulled back a little and looked at her. "Oh, Sarah Jane. We always were."
She smiled at him. He smiled back, an expression that started out tentative and slowly expanded until it split his entire face. Behind him, she could see Luke, shifting uncertainly from foot to foot.
She let go of the Doctor, finally. "That makes Luke your family, too, you know."
"Yes," he said, smiling at the boy. "I know. This is... This is brilliant! Really, it is, isn't it?" He sounded, Sarah thought, a little as if he were convincing himself of the answer while he was asking the question. "It's brilliant! I mean, really? Could I ask for a more brilliant family? Sarah Jane and Luke Smith!" His teeth flashed, and his eyes twinkled dazzlingly.
Luke looked shyly pleased by this. "What should I call you?" he said. "If you're Sarah Jane's grandfather, that makes you my great-grandfather. Is there some sort of title for that, or should I just call you 'Doctor' or...?
The Doctor's manic grin softened into something that Sarah Jane, somewhat to her surprise, could only describe as tender. "You can call me, 'grandfather," he said. "I know Sarah Jane won't--"
She laughed. "I think that would be a little too strange," she said. "Even after all this."
He nodded. "You see? She won't. And 'great-grandfather,' well, it's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?. But I think..." He put a hand on the boy's shoulder, and his voice became low and soft. "I think I might like being called 'grandfather' again."
"All right," said Luke. "Grandfather."
They stood there, smiling at each other for a moment. "Right, then," said Sarah Jane. "Come on, you two. Family hug!"
She grinned and spread her arms. "Look at me," she said as the two of them embraced her. "the single strangest family on the face of the Earth."
"Well," said the Doctor, "you could do worse."
"I don't think I could do better," she said and wrapped her arms around them both.