"Late? Oh no, you're not late John. I'm the one that's late and who needs to apologize." The expression on Sarah's face was unmistakable. It was one of complete joy and love. Knowing now that she wasn't going to lose John meant everything to her. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "I have so much to tell you, I barely know where to begin."
Before she could, however, the room just exploded with activity. Harry and not one, but two nurses began examining John and calling out vital signs, with the Brigadier suddenly at his side asking about what had happened and what he knew about his kidnappers.
He tried to follow everyone, but there was just so much going on around him the he felt himself getting completely overwhelmed until he heard the Brig's voice boom, "All right, everyone just stop."
All eyes were on the Brigadier. "What do you need, Mister Tinker?" he finally said.
"A few minutes, please, alone with Sarah," he gratefully rasped.
"Right, then," the Brig said. "Everyone who's not engaged to Mister Tinker, clear off. We'll be back in a few minutes."
And then, as suddenly as it had started, the chaos was gone. Harry hung back in the corner, watching to make sure that he was all right.
John took a deep, painful breath. "As I was about to say, I have a lot to tell you, too," John said. Suddenly he frowned. "Oh no, I don't... my jacket, did I have my jacket with me?"
Sarah laughed. "As a matter of fact, they gave it to me along with your other personal effects. You seem to have a bad habit of showing up half dead on my doorstep with a ring in your pocket, Mister Tinker."
He looked disappointed. "You saw it, then. It was supposed to be a surprise."
"If you don't mind, John, I've had more than enough surprises lately. I'd much rather have things quiet and dull for a while."
"Well, you're going to have to endure one more, if you wouldn't mind handing it to me. I went through a lot of trouble to get this ring, and I'm going to make sure that you get it before anything else happens."
Harry handed Sarah John's jacket, but otherwise, he realized, he might as well not even be there. He'd had his reservations about John marrying Sarah, and even when he'd known that John's memory had been tampered with, it had been hard not to be angry at John's theoretical abandonment of her. But watching the two of them, it was obvious to anyone that they were genuinely in love, and he decided that the Brig was right; he'd give them a little bit of time before he came back to examine John. He quietly slipped out of the room, sure that they hadn't even noticed.
Sarah, meanwhile, handed the ring to John. "I'll make you a deal. You can surprise me as much as you like, but no more collapsing on my, well, ourfront porch, all right?"
"That's a deal," he said, looking at the ring one more time before looking back at her. He'd planned this moment out so carefully, but he supposed that none of that was truly important. "Now, I can't get down on one knee, so you'll have to just imagine that I have, all right?"
Sarah smiled adoringly at him. "I promise, in my mind right now John, you're not only on one knee, but I haven't see the ring yet and I have no idea what you're up to."
He smiled. "You're very kind." He looked around to make sure that nobody could hear them. "Now I know that the first time I did this it was a bit … er … well, it wasn't what I would have liked it to have been. So I wanted to tell you that I'm in love with you. No more looking for the past. I don't care who I was. I don't care if I was a King, or a Nobel laureate, or the most important man in the Universe. All I want to be is your husband. Now, I know that this ring," he said, turning the open box towards her, "I know it's not quite as big as the other one, but I think it's beautiful, and I paid for it myself, and it's just for you. Will you marry me?"
Sarah looked at the ring in his hand. She just hoped that she was worthy of all the love that John wanted to give to her. "I think it's a perfect ring and very beautiful John, but there are a few things that I'd like to say to you before I give you my answer. I hope you don't mind."
John looked stricken. "You're not going to say 'no', are you? I don't think I could take it."
She took a deep breath, realizing that she was about to take a very important step and that once she took it, her life and her future would change forever. "Before I say yes, and I will, I need to tell you that I spent a lot of time while you were missing thinking about my feelings for you. I want you to know that I've decided that I'm totally ready to put the past behind me too, John. The only future I want is with you. I'm just so sorry that it took losing you for me to realize how much I love you. I've been an idiot. I've been too busy pining away and for so long for what I thought I lost, that I was blinded to how wonderful what I had right next to me all the time was.
"With all my heart, I love you John. You're not only perfect for me, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy. So yes, John, I will marry you, any time, any way you want to get married. I'm yours and no one else's, if you'll have me as your wife."
"Oh, I'll have you as my wife, future Mrs. Tinker." He took the ring out of the box and used every bit of strength he had to put it on her finger, then relaxed back into the pillows, exhausted. "I'll have you as my wife as soon as you can get a justice of the peace up here. If you want to wait, I understand, but I don't want to lose one more second."
"I don't want to wait either. We'll get married now and we can have another wedding in that little church as soon as you're well enough. Just let me make a few phone calls. I can get the Brig to marry us and I'll tell Auntie to hurry here as soon as she can."
And then she was gone, off to make some phone calls. A moment later, the Brigadier and Harry entered.
"Mister Tinker," the Brigadier said. "I'm so sorry, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to ask you several questions regarding your kidnapping. The first one being, do you have any idea of why you were kidnapped?"
John thought back to what he'd experienced since his disappearance and felt his heart start to race. At first he shook his head, but he knew that wasn't true.
Harry noticed John's heart monitor begin to rise rapidly. "Brigadier, I don't think Mister Tinker is ready to deal with this yet. His heart rate just rose to a dangerous level."
"All right, Mister Tinker," the Brigadier said, trying to be reassuring. "Don't worry about it now. We'll deal with it later."
John was relieved, but felt he couldn't let it go. "No, it's … Brigadier, they … I don't know why, but they thought …" He couldn't bring himself to say it. He couldn't bring himself to even think about it. Of course, the whole thing was ludicrous. Of course he wasn't the Doctor. Except … what if he was?
Monitors screeched, and the Brig didn't need Harry to tell him about John's heart rate. He put his hand on John's shoulder. "Steady on, it's alright, you needn't talk about it now, Mister Tinker. When you've recovered a bit more, then we'll talk about it. I will promise you though, that whoever did this will have to answer for it."
All John could think about was UNIT going after people who had become gargantuan monsters in his mind.
Harry took the Brigadier by the arm. "That's it," he said. "Out. Now." And with that he ushered a very surprised Brig from the room, then returned to the bed. "John," he said steadily, "you know I'm your friend."
John nodded, trying to remain calm.
"I'm also your doctor, and I'm giving you an order. Whatever you're thinking about, stop it right now and just focus on your bride. Because if you don't calm down right now I will have to give you a sedative, and then you can't get married until it wears off." He smiled. "Now think about Sarah Jane. Just her, and that's all."
John tried to push the images out of his head. "I'm getting married," he said. "I'm getting married." He said it again and again, closing his eyes and picturing Sarah Jane in the most beautiful wedding gown he could imagine. "I can't do this now, I'm getting married."
"That's right," Harry said. "You're getting married."
John felt his pulse - and the uncontrollable shaking - begin to slow. "I'm getting married. And you're going to be my best man, right Harry?" He looked up at him hopefully.
"Of course I am, old chap. I gave you my word I would, didn't I? Now you rest up and you'll be a married man before you know it."
John nodded again, just repeating, "I'm getting married," over and over again.
But when Harry left the room, he thought about what he'd seen, and he wasn't nearly as cheerful as he would have liked to have been.