This takes place just at the end of Masque of Mandragora. As always, I own nothing, but it's fun to play in the Sandbox. I'm hoping to make this a series of one-shots that take place in Classic Who. What happened between the adventures?

AFTER THE MASQUE

Sarah looked back towards Guiliano and waved. 'Poor Guiliano, he looks so wistful.' She glanced at the Doctor as he got ready to unlock the TARDIS door. 'Will he have any more trouble from Mandragora?'

'No, he won't, but the Earth will. The constellation will be in position to try again, oh, in about 500 years.'

Sarah did the quick math. '500 years. That takes us to,' she paused as she realised, 'just about the end of the 20th century.'

The Doctor smiled. 'That's right. Now that WAS an interesting century.'

Sarah laughed as the Doctor pulled her up and into the TARDIS. 'What do you mean, was?'

'C'mon.' The Doctor shut the door quickly behind Sarah and walked over to the console, inputting coordinates and dematerialising. He reached up and wrapped his hands tightly around the gold bar surrounding the top of the console, letting his head drop.

Sarah walked up to him and gently put a hand on his arm. 'Doctor?' she said softly. When he didn't respond, she put her other arm around his back. 'Doctor?' she asked more urgently.

Slowly, he raised his head and looked at her. 'It all worked out this time, Sarah, but it was rather close.' He paused for a minute, his voice going to an even lower pitch. 'Especially for you.' He turned his entire body towards her and put a hand on each of her upper arms. His eyes locked on her. 'Heironymous and the brotherhood did a number on you, between your almost sacrifice and hypnotic suggestion.'

'Yes, but it all worked out, in the end.' Sarah smiled up at him, trying to gauge what was running through is mind.

'What if the next time it doesn't?'

'What do you mean?'

'Sarah, people have learned to use you as a weapon. Scorby and Chase with the Krynoid pods, and now Heironymous. Who's next? I can't bear to see you hurt.'

Sarah tilted her head slightly. 'What are you saying? Do you not want me travelling with you anymore?' she asked nervously.

He released her and stepped back as if she were on fire. His eyes blazed with something she couldn't recognise. 'What? Where did you get that idea?' he questioned heatedly.

Sarah started to say something, but couldn't get past the look in his eyes. She took her own step back and watched as he turned quickly and practically stomped out of the console room. She ran her hand through her hair, trying to calm her frayed nerves and walked towards the interior door. Looking each way down the corridor, she didn't see the Doctor in either direction.

Part of her wasn't sure if she wanted to find him or not. The look in his eyes was something she wouldn't soon forget. It was times like that she was reminded that he wasn't human. She worked her way towards the library, thinking he may have gone there, but sticking her head in tentatively, she realised the room was still empty. She surmised to herself that the TARDIS was large enough, if the Doctor didn't want to be found, she'd never find him, no matter how hard she looked.

She pulled a large book off one of the many shelves and settled down on the sofa, tucking her legs beneath her. Opening the book, she put it in her lap, then folded her arm up on the side of the sofa and rested her chin on her arm. As she read, her eyelids got heavier and heavier and after a few moments, she was sound asleep.

~!~!~!~

The Doctor just needed some time to think. Time to go through the swirling torrent of emotions that went through him after the last couple harrowing adventures. He wandered the hallways aimlessly, cataloging each emotion, deciding how to deal with it, then filing it away for future reference. He didn't like that Sarah was being used as a weapon. She'd often been in danger before, but lately, it seemed like their enemies were searching her out to use her. That bothered him more than just seeing her in trouble. That was harder to fight against.

He pondered whether it was just that he was more sensitive to them using her, or whether it was the deeper feelings that thinking about Sarah generated. He's always cared about his companions, but with Sarah… He quickly stifled that line of thinking, figuring it wouldn't gain him anything except frustration.

The Doctor was almost sure that Sarah would've caught up with him by now. He looked behind him to see if she was perhaps following him from just a distance, but she was nowhere to be seen. He reached up and put a hand on the wall of the TARDIS and closed his eyes.

After a moment, he opened his eyes and walked determinedly towards the library. Opening the door, he walked in and immediately smiled as he saw Sarah asleep curled up on the sofa.

~!~!~!~

Sarah didn't remember falling asleep, but as she awakened, she knew she hadn't fallen asleep in a bed. Without moving, she realised that she was lying on her side and her head was using an arm for a pillow, except that it wasn't her arm. She could also feel a hand resting lightly on her waist.

'Good morning,' the velvet tone whispered just behind her ear.

She looked around, but without moving. 'Where are we?' Sarah whispered.

The Doctor answered softly, 'One of the spare rooms near the library. You were sleeping so soundly I didn't want to take you all the way back to your room for fear you'd wake up, but knew you'd be stiff if you stayed curled up the way you were on that sofa. You had a rough couple of days while we were in Italy, so I wanted to make sure you got your rest.'

Even though she was fully dressed, Sarah pulled the blanket up around her closely and rolled over to face the Doctor. She immediately noticed that she was under the covers, but that he was lying on top of them. As she looked at him, he reached up and pushed a stray hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear, giving her an easy smile, although it didn't quite reach his eyes. After several minutes of silence, Sarah finally spoke. 'Where did you go earlier?'

'I had to think, Sarah.'

She nodded slowly. 'I thought as much.' She reached out and touched his face tentatively. 'Are you all right?'

'As much as I could be, knowing that my best friend has been used as a weapon, and hating every moment that I couldn't protect her from that.'

'She hated it as well, and hated herself for letting it happen and not being able to stop it.'

'Oh, no, Sarah, please don't do that. There's nothing you could've done any differently.'

'And neither could you.' She took a deep breath. 'So, where does that leave us? I asked you a question before you left the console room.'

The Doctor reached up and rested his hand on Sarah's cheek. 'I don't want you to leave, my Sarah Jane.' His voice dipped even to an even lower tone, if that was possible. 'If I had my preference, you wouldn't ever leave.'

Sarah smiled, a bit in awe of not just what he'd just said, but the tone itself. 'Surely you would get tired of me in forever.'

'Somehow I don't think so, Sarah. You've managed to somehow endear yourself to me in a way that none of my other companions ever have. I want to protect you and keep you safe, and if keeping you with me is the way to do that,' he grinned as he continued, 'then I'm willing to make the sacrifice.'

She smacked him on the arm playfully and laughed. 'That's very big of you.' Deciding to venture in possibly unknown territory, she looked straight into his eyes. 'So, where do we go from here?'

The Doctor sat up so suddenly that Sarah found it physically jolting. 'A vacation, I promised you a vacation. We really do need a break and Relaxation Station certainly wasn't it.' He jumped off the bed and headed towards the door. Just as he was getting ready to walk out the door, he turned back and looked at her. 'Are you coming, Sarah?' He gave her one of his 1,000-watt smiles.

She rolled her eyes as got out of bed and pulled on her boots. 'Aliens,' she muttered under her breath. She turned back to him and smiled as she joined him by the door, 'Nothing could stop me, Doctor.'

~!~!~!~