A QUIET INTERLUDE
The Fleur de Lys pub in Devesham was packed not just with locals, but with several of the UNIT soldiers and employees from the space defence station. The Kraal invasion had been thwarted, and everyone wanted the Doctor and Sarah to join in the celebration. In addition to the standard music, the happy cacophony of laughter, talking and clinking glasses echoed around the room.
As the Doctor examined the three darts in his hand, Harry Sullivan walked up and handed him a pint of ginger beer. 'Here you are, Doctor, ginger beer.'
'Thank you, Harry.' The Doctor took the pint from Harry and took a large drink. He sat the glass on the table next to him, then held the first dart up in his hand, lining up his shot to the board. He threw the first two darts in rapid succession, both of them landing right in the middle of the bulls eye.
'Well done! I say, you're quite good at this,' Harry remarked with a smile.
'I've had a few years of practice.'
Harry gave a knowing nod. 'Righto. Rumour has it Colonel Faraday was rather pleased that this whole Kraal business wasn't any messier than it was.' Harry took a swig of his scotch. 'Saves on the paperwork for the Brig, I suppose.'
'If that incompetent nincompoop is what passes for UNIT leadership when the Brigadier is away, I feel sorry for your miserable little planet.' He reached out to drink more of his ginger beer, waving his remaining dart around with his free hand. 'Why so many species decide that Earth is such an ideal place for an invasion is beyond me.'
Harry shrugged. 'Earth's a nice place, Doctor.'
'Tiny perspectives, tiny brains.' He looked at the dart in his hand and prepared to throw it.
'Oh, changing subjects, the Brigadier sent a message saying he wants a full debriefing as well as your advice about what to do with the androids when he arrives back from Geneva tomorrow.'
The Doctor's third throw missed the dartboard entirely. He coughed, 'Maybe I should reprogram my duplicate to give him the debriefing.'
Harry smirked. 'Still trying to ignore the Brigadier's paperwork?'
'Can't stay on one planet too long, the universe awaits.' The Doctor leaned in to whisper. 'We're very busy, Harry.'
'We?' Harry questioned.
'Sarah and I, of course.' The Doctor smiled his trademark Cheshire cat grin. 'Unless you plan on rejoining us?'
'Oh no, I shouldn't think so. Although I do appreciate the offer. Staying on one planet is good enough for me.' Harry glanced over to where Sarah chatted with Benton and a couple of the other soldiers. 'Are you so sure she's going to go with you?'
'What?' the Doctor asked, his eyes instantly locked on Sarah. 'Why wouldn't she?' He couldn't help but be a little jealous as he watched her having a good time. With other humans. He had to admit that he'd been selfish in keeping her with him, and he knew she enjoyed his company, but he'd not seen her interacting with her peers in quite some time. He suddenly felt like an outsider in the room.
'Last time I saw you two in Loch Ness, you promised to take her straight back to London. Obviously, that's been quite some time, but now that you've finally gotten her close to home, do you think she's likely to jump back in that TARDIS anytime soon?'
The Doctor gave Harry a pointed look. 'Harry Sullivan, you are an imbecile.'
Harry just shook his head and took another sip of his scotch.
The Doctor continued to mingle around with the rest of the crew, but his eyes constantly scanned the room for Sarah. He watched as she sipped on her drink, took turns letting some of the soldiers spin her around on the dance floor and seemed to be enjoying herself. A lot. There were times when her eyes would catch his and she'd smile. He returned her smile, his hearts warmed as he imagined that her smile was reserved only for him.
His attention diverted away from a conversation with Benton as he caught Sarah and Harry sitting together, whispering at a quiet corner table. His eyes widened as Harry slid keys across the table to Sarah, covered her hand with his, then leaned in and kissed her cheek. When Sarah smiled at Harry, the same smile the Doctor felt so possessive of earlier, the Doctor shoved his hands in his coat pockets to keep anyone from seeing his fists clench.
He made a beeline for the door and stepped outside into the twilight. Sarah caught his eye right before he stepped out the door, instantly recognising the storm brewing under the surface. 'Oh that doesn't look good.' She turned back to Harry and tucked the keys into her shirt pocket. 'I'd better go see what that's about. Thanks, Harry.'
Harry gave her hand another squeeze. 'Good luck, Old Girl.'
'Harry,' she glared.
'Sorry,' he held up his hands in defence and tried again. 'Sarah.'
Sarah nodded in reply and made her way out into the main part of the village. Even in the descending darkness, it didn't take her long to find the Doctor sitting on the stone in front of the monolith at the centre of town. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. His deep-set frown made it obvious, he was pouting.
She walked over to stand in front of him, her hands on her hips. 'What's wrong?'
He sat up, took off his hat and began to wring it in his hands. 'Nothing.'
She took a step closer, her legs touching his knees. She reached out and curled one hand around his scarf, her other hand instinctively playing with his hair. She whispered, 'Are you sure?'
Without a word, he dropped his hat on to the stone beside him, then caught her hips with his hands and stepped her to one side before guiding her to sit sideways across his legs. His hands stayed around her waist as she shifted the hand that had been in his hair to wrap around his shoulders.
After several minutes of relaxed silence between them, Sarah dared whisper. 'Comfortable?'
He responded only with a deep sigh.
She leaned down and tilted her head so that his eyes were locked with hers. 'Tell me.'
His blue eyes pierced her, looking through to her very soul. 'Are you happy, Sarah?'
'What?' She sat up straight, the question surprising her. She thought for a moment. 'Yes, I suppose I am.' She moved her hand from his shoulder to rest against the back of his head. 'I'm sitting here safe and secure with my best friend, what's not to be happy about?' She felt one of his hands shift from her waist to her lower back. She turned the question back on him, her voice low and hesitant. 'Are you happy, Doctor?'
'In this exact moment in time?' With the hand that wasn't at her back, he reached up with the back of his index finger and ghosted a line along the edge of her face. Resettling his hand along her hip, he closed his eyes and took another deep breath before whispering. 'Immeasurably.'
She looked up at the stars beginning to appear across the darkened sky. 'There's something to be said for a peaceful night and a quiet starscape.' Sarah felt the Doctor tracing a line along her spine with his fingers. Feeling her whole body relax, she shifted to move her arm inside his coat and around his waist before settling her head down on his shoulder.
The Doctor took Sarah's hand that was still wrapped in a section of his scarf and laced his fingers through hers. Even though he focused on their hands, out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sarah's peaceful smile. He looked up at the stars, then turned to rest his cheek against the top of her head. In the distance, he could still hear the music and noise from the pub, but it was easy enough to tune out and just focus on the stillness that wrapped itself around them. In that moment, they were the only creatures in the universe and nothing else mattered.
Sarah lost track of how long they sat there in silence. She hated to break the moment, but the adrenaline of the day was wearing off and she suddenly felt as if she couldn't hold her eyes open another minute. 'Harry arranged for rooms for us here tonight. Unless you fancy a 45 minute trek back to the TARDIS in the middle of the night, possibly getting lost in the woods.'
'I have a superb sense of direction, even at night.' He shifted slightly and moved his hand from her back to wrap around her waist, holding her close.
'I know you do,' she whispered before yawning. Neither one of them were inclined to move, so Sarah tucked her head into the Doctor's neck and closed her eyes, enjoying the intimacy of his cool fingers entwined with hers and his other arm snugly around her. These rare stolen moments were among the most precious to her.
The Doctor knew the precise moment when Sarah fell asleep in his arms, but he had no desire to move. It wasn't until an hour later when she shivered that he realised that her short sleeves afforded her little protection against the crisp night air that enveloped them. 'Sarah,' he whispered near her ear, rousing her. 'I should get you tucked up into bed.'
'I'm comfortable,' she mumbled.
'You're also cold.' He slipped his arms under her and stood up, cradling her close to him before reluctantly putting her down and shoving his hands in his pockets. There was a distance in his voice as he said, 'Now, where are these rooms Harry arranged for?'
The tone of his words caused Sarah to shake the sleep from her brain and take a step back, the gap between her and the Doctor now palpable. 'UNIT rents the upstairs of the pub and they had a couple of spare rooms.' She reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out the keys Harry had given her.
'Come on,' he stepped out in front of her and started heading back to the pub, not even glancing back to see if she was behind him.
Sarah looked back at the spot where mere moments ago they'd been sitting. She shook her head, unsure she would ever get used to the rapid mood shifts of her alien friend. With a sad sigh, she picked up the Doctor's hat from the stone and dropped it on her own head, then turned and followed the Doctor back towards the Fleur de Lys.
The Doctor took the key from Sarah and opened up the door of one of the rooms. He gestured for her to go in. 'Here we are, Sarah. Rest up.' He started to walk away, but Sarah caught him by the arm.
'Doctor, wait.' She held up the second key. 'You weren't planning on staying, were you?'
He sighed as if speaking to a child. 'You know I don't need sleep like you do. I should be working on the TARDIS.' He shoved his hands back in his pockets and kicked at his scarf. 'You wanted to stay here.'
Realisation dawned. 'You're going to leave me.' She felt her whole body tense.
He turned away from her, his words barely audible. 'You're home, Sarah.'
Sarah reached around and grabbed his coat lapels, pulling him into the room with her before using her foot to close the door behind them. She didn't know where their conversation would lead, but she didn't want to have it in a hallway where they could be interrupted or overheard. 'Look, I'm used to your Time Lord moodiness, but tonight takes the cake. You're going to stay right here until you tell me what's going on in that oversized brain of yours.'
He refused to meet her gaze. 'I don't know what you mean.'
Putting her hands on her hips, she fixed him with a withering glare. 'Liar. You seemed happy enough in the pub earlier when we were relaxing with our friends, then you stormed out in what appeared to be a fit of pique. I find you pouting by the monolith, two seconds later you get all touchy feely, now you're treating me like I'm poisonous and were going to leave me here without a word.' She leaned in close to him, looking up and making him lock gazes with her. 'Explain.'
'I'm a Time Lord, you're a human.'
'I know that. Next.'
He reached out and rubbed his hands along her upper arms. 'This is Earth, Sarah. Your home.'
She tilted her head to the side. 'Do you not want me to go with you? Is this your way of saying goodbye? Is that what everything outside was about?' She bit her bottom lip, hoping the slight pain would distract the nerves that were building up into a nasty knot in her stomach.
'No,' he whispered, moving his hands up to cup her cheeks. 'Never that.'
Sarah released the breath she'd been holding. 'Then what? Why were you going to leave?'
His deep voice resonated through her as he continued. 'I thought you'd tired of our travels, that you wanted to remain here.' He struggled for the right words. 'And that thought upsets me.' His voice dropped off as he mouthed, 'More than I ever thought possible.'
She could see the pain reflected in his eyes as his thumbs traced along her cheekbones. She reached out and put both hands on his chest. 'Oh Doctor.'
Hopefulness filled him. 'You don't want to stay?'
Tears filled Sarah's eyes but didn't fall as she shook her head. His words and gentle touch wrapped themselves around her heart. They stood there in silence, eyes locked. He moved to wrap his arms around her, pulling her to him. Sarah slipped her arms through the inside of his coat to settle around his waist and put her head on his chest, turning so the sound of his double heartbeat could echo in her ears, reassuring her. 'No matter where in the universe, like this, with you. This is home.'
The Doctor leaned down and kissed the top of her hair. 'My Sarah Jane.'
She pulled back before leaning up and giving him a feather light kiss on the cheek, her face lingering next to his. 'Always.'
He pondered for the longest moment before coming to a decision. He turned his head towards her, his lips meeting hers only for the briefest of seconds, before waiting to gauge her reaction. At her accepting smile, he captured her lips again, deepening the kiss as he held her close.
Sarah rested her head against the Doctor's bare chest, eyes closed, listening to his hearts beating beneath her ear. He traced an absent pattern along her back, enjoying the feel of her unique human warmth against him.
'What did I do to make you think I'd gotten tired of being with you?' her voice was soft, not sure she wanted the true answer.
'Nothing something you did. Something Harry said.' The Doctor paused. 'And you seemed to be enjoying yourself downstairs.'
'Harry doesn't speak for me. Wait.' She focused on him as she propped herself up on an elbow. 'Were you jealous?'
He met her gaze, but didn't answer her question. 'I saw you and Harry talking.'
'He's our friend. They're all our friends. It's good to just catch up, but it doesn't mean anything.' She settled back down into his arms. 'Every so often, I like a quiet evening where something from another planet isn't trying to kill me.'
He shifted his entire body towards her, using his index finger to lift her chin up to kiss her. His voice dropped to an even deeper tone as he hooked a leg around her pulling her flush with him. 'What about something from another planet devouring you?'
She cupped his cheek with her hand and smiled, noticing his blue eyes darken. 'In this instance, I can learn to live with it.'
'This is all that matters,' he whispered.
Early the next morning, the Doctor and Sarah snuck away before anyone else stirred and started making their way into the woods where the TARDIS waited for them.
'We're sneaking out before the Brig gets back?' Sarah asked.
'He wants to debrief me.' He slipped his fingers through Sarah's. 'There are very few people I let do that.'
They shared a conspiratorial laugh before lapsing into companionable silence for the majority of their walk. The Doctor stepped ahead of her, pulling off a piece of fern from a plant they passed. He took off his hat and worked at sticking the fern in it.
'How could we ever have been fooled?' she asked.
'How do you mean?'
She took a piece of fern in her hand and ran it along the bushes as they walked by. 'Well, this really is Earth.'
He smiled, his voice low. 'Are you sure?' He didn't see the face she made behind his back as he continued on.
Walking up to the TARDIS door, he unlocked it and gestured for her to go in. 'After you.'
She shook her head, even though there was no seriousness in her words. 'I'm going home, and I'm going by taxi.'
The Doctor's expression was that of a lost little boy. 'Aww.' He pointed at her, knowing she was just trying to get a rise out of him. 'I'll make you an offer. I'll take you home.' His Cheshire cat smile warmed her.
She grinned, 'How can I refuse?'
He laughed and adjusted his hat before pushing open the TARDIS door and ushered Sarah inside. Following her in, he made his way straight to the console as she stood opposite him. He threw the dematerialisation switch, putting them in the vortex before reaching up and taking off hat, still complete with fern, and dropping it on the top of the time rotor. 'That was a quick trip home,' he said with a smug grin.
'And you got it right first try,' she laughed.
He began inputting destination coordinates, then stopped. 'I think we need a holiday.' He glanced up at her. 'Last night gave me a taste of how nice a quiet break would be.'
She crossed the room to stand next to him, slipping her arm through his. 'Do you have someplace in mind?'
He looked straight ahead, not facing her. 'Lots of places and no place at all.'
He could hear the smile in her voice as she replied, 'Sounds good to me.'
He turned and looked in her eyes before wordlessly gathering her in his arms and bringing her close. He made her a promise he would eventually have to fulfil, but he had no intention of it being any time soon. Going by the look on her face, she had no desire for it to be soon either.