Sarah Jane stood over the pots of potatoes and beef she was cooking, not even seeing the spoon that she was ruthlessly using to spear and separate the beef. In her mind, she was still back in the warehouse with her sonic lipstick in her hand and feeling like it wasn't nearly lethal enough of a weapon for her in that moment. In her days with the Doctor she'd seen more than her share of things that could torture, maim and kill, but this was the first time she'd really wished she'd had one. If the Doctor were to come crashing through her front door right then, she was sure he wouldn't even recognize her.
She could hear the sound of the water squeaking through the pipes as Luke showered; she'd sent him upstairs as soon as they got through the front door. She'd told him to shower, get in his night clothes and come down for tea; she'd made it through the entire ordeal without showing him how horrified she was, how sick and angry, but she could feel her composure slowly slipping and he didn't need to be around to see that. The beef spat hot grease as it cooked, splattering painfully against her hand even though she hardly noticed except to move to stir it again so it wouldn't burn to the bottom of the pan.
The whistle of the kettle let her know that the water was boiling and she took it off the stove, pouring cups and settling teabags by rote memory. Having Luke with her these past few weeks, being a mother for the first time even if it wasn't in the conventional way, had changed things she hadn't expected. Suddenly she had someone who was completely dependent on her; meals had to be made at reasonable times instead of just piecemealing things together when she reached a pausing place in her research, she had to have Luke to bed at night so that he could get up for school the next day, she had to actually remember to be home when Luke got home from school so he wasn't left alone on what was basically an alien planet with no idea what to do with himself. And this was all from a woman who didn't either bother to keep a garden because she wasn't home often enough to water it, and didn't remember to water it even when she saw all the leaves browning and wilting.
The pipes squealed again as Luke turned the water off upstairs and Sarah Jane was spurred into action by the sound; she poured out the water from around the potatoes and got the ketchup from the fridge. Luke was very adventurous in what he would eat, but in the last week he'd taken to pouring ketchup over just about everything. It was times like that, when she'd bought two bottles of ketchup from the market, that she wished there was some kind of manual for parenting children who weren't from Earth. She set the bottle down on the table with more force than she'd intended and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs abruptly. Right now she wished she had that manual, or even just a time machine that was a little more simplistic than the TARDIS so that she could grab Luke and make him miss school today and take him to the countryside for a week. Neither solution was feasible; there was no book that could possible explain how to keep Luke happy, safe, and healthy, and time travel was a terribly finicky thing that almost always wound up worse when someone tried to meddle.
Luke appeared in the doorway, as watchful and silent as ever, and Sarah Jane got to her feet. She aimed for a smile but was sure that she was missing the mark by quite a lot, so she stopped. "Come sit, tea is just about ready."
He came in and perched on the edge of his chair, watching Sarah Jane intently as she removed the teabags from both of the cups and brought them to the table. She moved the sugar bowl in front of him and got milk out and set it on the table without having to ask, letting Luke add as much as he wanted to his tea.
Sarah Jane went back to the stove and turned off the heat on the beef. It was a little overcooked, but it was better than leaving in the pink. She'd done enough damage to Luke for the day without managing to give him food poisoning as well.
She served them both, preparing their plates and bringing them to the table, only sitting when she was sure that Luke had everything he needed. Her hands were tight around her tea cup despite the heat and she stared down into the liquid as if waiting for an answer to appear. She wasn't even sure what her question was.
"Are you not hungry, Sarah Jane?" Luke asked, looking up from where he had been carefully cutting his potato into even pieces and arranging them on his plate.
Sarah Jane looked at her own plate, realizing that she hadn't even bothered to pick up her silverware. She'd always been fairly terrible at masking her emotions, though she was a fair bit worse than she'd thought if even Luke could see her behavior was off.
"Not at the moment," she said. Her voice was a little sharper than she'd intended and she took a breath before taking a closer look at Luke's plate. "You neither, I suspect?"
Luke shook his head and set down his fork. "Not really."
Sarah Jane nodded and looked back at her tea again, her thoughts slipping away from her. When the clink of china against the table caught her attention, she found Luke had poured some milk into his tea and was now sitting in a way that was almost a direct imitation of her. His head was bowed slightly as he stared into his own tea and his hands were wrapped around the cup. Her smile was more pained than anything else at the reminder that she was the adult, the caretaker, and needed to be setting a proper example.
"Let's wrap our plates up, then. We can try again later when we're a little more up to it," she said as she got to her feet. Skipping a single meal wouldn't hurt, even though she was sure that Luke had already managed to grown more than a centimeter in the time she'd had him, and moving and accomplishing something seemed better than just sitting at the table.
After covering their meals, Sarah Jane helped them both relocate to the sitting room. Luke's schoolbooks were sitting neatly on one of the side tables, not that he actually needed to truly study them, and she had a few of her more innocuous research projects on the shelves and tables. Luke sat down on the sofa, his tea cup nestled in his lap as he fidgeted his sock clad feet against the edge of the rug. Sarah Jane settled in the armchair next to the sofa and took a sip of her cooling tea. The wind blew against the windows as night fell and she got up after a few minutes to turn on the lamp at the front of the house and make sure the doors and windows were secured.
It took a few minutes after she returned, Luke having finished his tea with only granules of undissolved sugar sitting at the bottom of his cup, before Luke looked up and spoke. "The man who took me, he wasn't an alien was he?"
Sarah Jane closed her eyes for a minute, remembering her resolve from when she first took Luke home that she didn't believe in sheltering children from the truth and that she would answer Luke's questions with as much honestly and wisdom that she could muster. And Luke always had questions, though after spending more time with Clyde and Maria she was starting to suspect that was just part of being young as opposed to Luke's unique alien circumstances. "No, he wasn't," she answered as she set aside her still mostly full cup.
Luke paused, his eyes narrowing as he thought. "And he wasn't being directed or controlled by an alien either?"
"No," Sarah Jane agreed, her chest aching as she anticipated Luke's next question.
It took a while to come, Luke spending time to work everything through in his mind before he formulated the question. "Then why did he take me? And the two boys that were there also? He said that he was missing his dog and asked me if I could help him look. He didn't have a dog."
Sarah Jane fought to control the wince that crossed her face. Part of her wanted to blame Clyde and Maria for not being there to walk with Luke after school, even though she realized how unreasonable that was. If anything that could have just placed them in danger as well, even if they were both probably too street smart to fall for such a ruse. Part of her blamed humans and Earth and the entire galaxy for being such a dangerous place to begin with; there was no place where children could roam unguarded. And mostly she blamed herself for not being there, not going to pick up Luke from school even if he did walk home with the other children most of the time; for not even going over the basics of 'stranger danger' even if it had never crossed her mind to explain that in the first place. With all the dangers they faced from tracking down - or usually stumbling directly into - aliens and creatures from other planets, humans had never even made her dangerous species to be aware of list.
"Sarah Jane, what was his purpose in taking me?" Luke asked again. He had his arms wrapped around himself and looked nearly as lost as she'd ever seen him.
In that moment Sarah Jane made a decision, the innocence and uncertainty in the question leaving her with few other options. She wasn't about to explain in detail to Luke about humans who preyed on children when Luke didn't even have the background to understand what the man had wanted from him. "There are some very dangerous people on Earth, Luke. People who are just humans and not motivated beyond their own gain and hurting other people."
"Like the man in the paper who murdered two people? Or the article about those children who had been kidnapped?" Luke asked, his eyes blinking rapidly as he processed the information.
"Yes, like that," Sarah Jane agreed, grateful to not have to explain that much at least. "Which is why it's important to be careful. Most people aren't out to hurt anyone, but if an adult you don't know is trying to get you alone you should try to get somewhere with more people and get someone to pay attention."
"And stay with Clyde or Maria, because it would be harder for them to take all of us?" Luke asked, brightening a little.
"Yes, exactly." Sarah Jane sat back in her chair. Maybe this wasn't the best way she could have handled the conversation, and she'd have to do some research about what other things she needed to tell Luke so they wouldn't find themselves in another situation that information that was typically taught to young children could have possibly prevented, but that covered a few of the basics at least.
"It's when I'm supposed to get ready for bed," he said suddenly, looking up at the grandfather clock that stood in the room as it chimed the hour.
"Did you want to finish your supper?" Sarah Jane asked, remembering their uneaten meals she'd placed in the oven to keep warm.
"No, thank you. I'm not very hungry tonight," he said and got to his feet. Luke paused halfway out of the room. "Are you angry that you had to come find me?"
The question, like so many questions Luke asked, caught her off guard and Sarah Jane found herself on her feet and holding onto Luke tightly before she even realized she'd moved from her chair. "Not angry at you, not at all. This is not your fault," she said with as much conviction as she could put into the statement. Holding Luke for the first time since she'd rescued him late in the afternoon, Sarah Jane remembered all over how she could have lost him entirely and held him even closer as he put his arms around her and patted her shoulder uncertainly.
When she released him, her heart beating a little faster and her eyes a little watery, she swallowed hard and turned her head. "Go on up and finish getting ready for bed. I'll be up in a few minutes to check on you."
Luke hesitated for a moment before he went up the stairs, his feet hardly making any noise on the steps.
Sarah Jane made it back to her chair before she sunk down, glancing at her now cold cup of tea before leaning forward to rest her head in her hands. She'd never expected being a mother to be filled with so much fear and horror. She'd never known how painful it was to fear for the life and safety of a child for whom she was responsible. And she hadn't realized how much Luke had become an integral part of her life until today.