Disclaimer: Characters are the property of Warner Brothers, Constant C Productions and NBC. Or so the first hit on Google said. I play with them because it brings me joy, and mean no disrespect or copyright infringement. Also, I'm appropriating the title of one BBC series while discussing a completely different (albeit somewhat related) BBC series in the actual ficlet. Same humble permission-asking applies.

Author's Note: Ooh, my first ER fic(let). Because drat it, the show alone can no longer sufficiently provide my Sarah fix! More stories about her should exist, is what I'm saying here.

This actually sprang from a line in another such fic I'm working on, but that one's longer and may take a while to see the light of day. Figured I'd show this off as an appetizer.


Lost in Austen

He's this close to finally relaxing for the night, frantic pace of the E.R. faded as far back into his thoughts as it ever gets, when a voice from the doorway startles him.

"What are you watching?" Sarah asks curiously, leaning against the frame. She's got her pajamas on, hair in braided pigtails so it will be wavy tomorrow, and for all intents and purposes appears ready for bed. He's not fooled.

"Something not for your eyes," Tony answers, clicking the remote control.

"Adult entertainment, gotcha," comes her cheeky response, as the screen comfortably positions itself on PBS.

"No," he says, wearing a sardonic smile with just enough of a grimace to show that he'd rather she not know adult entertainment existed, "Just a movie that's rated R, only last time I checked, you were barely thirteen."

Sarah rolls her eyes, debates pointing out that R-rated movies sometimes come very close to porn, and then thinks better about her chances for renting The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the near future. "Please. Do you think anyone actually follows those guidelines? I hate to tell you this, Tony, but the MPAA is sadly outdated."

"Yeah, well, not in this house."

So much for his promise to respect her newfound maturity now that she was a teenager. She'd have to work on that later.

"So what are you watching now?"

"Apparently," he answers slowly, with a flip through the TV schedule, "I am watching a fan-tas -tic Jane Austen remake. Which would have been really great to have had in high school, before Mrs. Dietrich gave me detention for not being able to name the main character in Pride and Prejudice, despite my brilliant attempts to explain that I'd been so caught up in the story I just couldn't remember." He takes another sip of beer – because that's not anything at all like the movies he forbids, Sarah thinks with a barely-refrained roll of the eyes - and points the neck at her for emphasis as he thinks of something else. "Which, by the way, is not something I want you to emulate."

"I like school," Sarah points out. "Jane Austen's kind of boring, though." Still, she settles into the couch beside him, and he realizes his chances of going back to DVD are slim to nil. He doesn't really mind. After verifying (to her great exasperation) that tomorrow's homework is done, they lapse into silence and a foreign world of period costumes and language so formal it sounds stiff. The silence is comfortable, though, born of mutual entrancement. Somehow, they never get around to changing the channel.

Before too long Sarah glances over and complains that she's cold, to which he gallantly offers up the afghan. She grabs a corner and tucks it around her, managing to take most of the material in the process. "Hey!" he scolds. "I said you could share, not have it, blanket-hog."

"Freeze-baby."

"Ungrateful mooch," he tosses back lightly, and firmly recovers a more equal portion for himself. She sticks her tongue out, but the victory appears to be his.

Nestled into her cozy cocoon, lulled by the subdued action on screen, Sarah eventually leans her head on Tony's shoulder, and when he checks again she's asleep. He'll shake her awake in a minute, not least because he doesn't want to deal with her temper tomorrow when she wakes up stiff and crabby from sleeping out here.

But just for the moment, with the snow blowing outside, the heater rumbling in the corner and the TV's soft glow illuminating her face, he lets himself enjoy the feeling that this, finally, is home. No more uncertainty, nothing left up in the air. He might not be so bad at this parent/guardian thing after all.

She's worth it.


a/n: I feel like I shouldn't have to explain that the opinions about Austen presented in this story do not necessarily reflect my own, but...on the other hand, I know what site I'm on.