Jeff shifted in his chair and stared up at the water-stained ceiling. "This is the worst layover in the entire history of commercial aviation."
"Whatever. You were the one who insisted on coming along for some unknown reason. You don't even like Inspector Spacetime." Britta's hair looked like she had used glue as a leave-in conditioner and then blow-dried it on high heat. Jeff wished he could mock her for it, but he was pretty sure his looked worse.
"Unknown? You said you were going to London. Why would I not come along? Besides, I thought letting you guys travel without a chaperone to a foreign country was likely to end in some sort of international incident. I mean, Abed is the most trustworthy of the four of you--" Annie gave Jeff a hurt look at that, which he ignored "--and he's wearing a bowler hat."
"Hey, bowler hats are neat!" said Troy. Abed was lying sideways in a row of chairs with his head in Troy's lap and the hat over his face, but he still managed to execute a perfect double-chest-slap handshake with Troy, who added, "I still don't know what that means. Do you think the Inspector will explain it at the convention? I can't wait to meet him."
Britta aimed her sad 'wannabe therapist' smile at him. "Troy, sweetie, you do realize that he's a fictional character played by an actor, right?"
"Yeah, I know," Troy answered after a stricken pause. "I was just kidding."
"To get back to my complaining," Jeff said, "if I had known we'd be flying to London via Singapore, Moscow, and then, just when it seemed it couldn't get any worse, to wherever the hell we are now, I would have stayed home. I would rather go mechanical bull riding with the Dean than get on another airplane."
Abed took the hat off his face. "Fitton, Jeff. We're at Fitton Airfield. And you know I don't like that sort of exposition-heavy dialog. It's lazy." He sat up and swung his legs around so he was sitting more or less normally in his chair. Somehow he managed not to look jet-lagged at all. "Although it will help any newcomers to our situation quickly come up to speed."
"But... there aren't any newcomers," Annie said, looking around the nearly empty airport's single gate. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "There's that weird guy lurking by the water fountain, but he's been here the whole time."
"Hi, I'm Arthur," the man said, waving at them. "I'm not weird, I'm just waiting for Mum."
"Annie, you really need to learn how to whisper more quietly," Jeff told her. She shrugged and widened her eyes apologetically.
"I'm standing here in case I get thirsty. You know, so I don't have to walk as far. Because you never know when you'll want water, and if you're by the window or way over by the newsstand you're out of luck." Arthur made a thoughtful face. "Of course they do sell things other than water there, like root beer. But that's not water even though it's wet like water." His laugh had a tinge of hysteria to it. "I mean, root beer's not made of water, it's made of... roots and... beer."
"Do you think we should call someone?" Britta asked quietly. "I don't think he should be out alone. Maybe he escaped from a nearby mental hospital."
"Maybe this place is a mental hospital," retorted Jeff.
Arthur grinned and then turned to drink from the fountain. "See?" he said when he was done, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He glanced over towards the glass doors at the other end of the corridor and waved exuberantly. A few seconds later, two men in pilot's uniforms walked into the terminal. One was young and scrawny with a pale, anxious face, and the other was older, his hair peppered with grey.
"Arthur! There you are! Carolyn's been looking for you," the younger man said once they had made it down the corridor. "She's gone now, I told her I would give you a ride home when I found you."
"Hi Martin! Hi Douglas! I made some new friends! This is, um. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your names."
"That's because we haven't actually met," said Jeff, wanting nothing more than to be somewhere else. "Sharing the same physical space with someone doesn't make you friends."
Arthur made a face like a scolded puppy.
"Don't mind him," said Abed. "He's cranky because we've been travelling for thirty-six hours so far and he really needs a shower. I'm Abed," he added with a wave. "This is Troy. And that's Jeff, Britta, and Annie."
"Abed? But... no, you're Inspector Spacetime!" Arthur blurted out. "And the Constable!"
"No, we're in costume. They're fictional characters," Troy said patiently. Britta snorted and shook her head.
"Yeah, but you look just like them, so I thought maybe you were secretly actually them, and the show was just a cover. That's why I followed you in here. Although I was a bit confused to see you getting out of an aeroplane when you can travel anywhere in space or time using the DARSIT. But then I thought maybe you'd just regenerated, which would explain why you don't look like the blokes on the telly, and the DARSIT was being remodeled."
"I like the way this dude thinks," said Troy, nodding.
"Isn't there an Inspector Spacetime convention this weekend?" asked the younger man. "Oh, and I'm Martin, by the way. Martin Crieff."
"You forgot Captain," said the other pilot, rather snidely. Jeff liked him instantly.
Martin grimaced. "Yes, thank you, Douglas. I don't think that's really necessary."
"I didn't realize you were a fan," Douglas said with a pointed look at Martin. Martin flushed pink.
"I grew up watching Inspector Spacetime," he said defensively. "It's classic British television."
"I agree," said Britta. "British television is so much better, because it's not controlled by profit-seeking corporations. Did you know that American television completely ignores the fact that the audience is--"
"Britta, no one cares," said Jeff. Troy and Annie nodded in agreement.
"We really don't."
"I- I care," Martin said shyly. Britta beamed at him.
"Thank you, Martin. I'm glad someone--"
"Okay," Jeff said, "I'm sure there will be plenty of pasty British men -- no offense -- for you to flirt with in your charmingly anti-capitalist way once we get to the convention, but for now--"
Britta looked appalled. "I wasn't flirting!"
"I wasn't either," added Martin a little too quickly. "Why would I flirt with her?" Britta glared at him.
"Anyway," Douglas cut in, "I wasn't suggesting you shouldn't be a fan. My daughter and I watch the show together. I like the Sergeant, myself."
"You would," muttered Martin.
"So how are you getting to London?" asked Arthur. "Because the convention is in London, you know, and Fitton isn't London. It's not even close. It's miles and miles and miles away."
"We're on the 2:05 flight to Gatwick on Air Frank," said Abed. Douglas and Martin winced.
"I thought it was Air France!" said Jeff at the same time that Troy said, "Why did two pilots just make that face about an airline we're supposed to fly?"
"It will be fine, I'm sure," Martin said. "It's just... they're not the most professional operation in the world."
"What do you mean? They're brilliant!" said Arthur. "Last week, Captain Murphy did that hilarious dance in the cafeteria with a banana in his--" Arthur looked shocked. "Oh, I get it! It was supposed to be a penis!"
Douglas shook his head. "It'll be fine. You probably won't take off until about half five, but most likely you'll get there in one piece." The thing with Douglas, Jeff decided, was that he always sounded sarcastic, so it was impossible to tell if he was trying to be funny, or was actually foretelling their doom.
"We could take them in Gertie," said Arthur. Martin made a face like he was considering it.
"Is Gertie a... woman?" Troy asked. He looked at Abed. "Maybe she's a giant woman who'll carry us to London on her back!"
"No, GERTI. Golf-Echo-Romeo-Tango-India," said Martin. "She's our aeroplane... well, our company's aeroplane. Well, Arthur's mother's company's aeroplane."
"Hey, one of the engines is mine!"
"I want them to take us to London!" said Annie suddenly, in a breathy voice. Jeff looked over at her and found her staring dreamily at Martin. She smiled, prompting Martin to look to either side of him and then behind him before returning the smile. He looked a little confused. "I like your accent," Annie said.
"That will be no problem," he said, standing up straighter. "I'll have to file a flight plan with ATC but I'm sure Carolyn won't mind. She lets us borrow GERTI sometimes, you know, when we need to. And I am the Captain, after all."
"One time we even flew a piano to Ottery St. Mary," added Arthur. "That was great, wasn't it guys?"
Douglas raised his eyebrows. "That's not the first adjective that comes to mind, no."
Abed stood up and Troy followed suit. "Okay then, let's go."
Martin and Arthur were both looking at Douglas, as though waiting for him to say something. Finally, Douglas sighed. "Fine, I'll go. It's not like I have anything better to do."
"Hooray!" said Arthur. He picked up two of the bags lying in the pile next to the chairs and started lugging them down the corridor.
Britta and Annie followed, with Martin and Troy on either side. Abed started after them, but then stopped, adjusted his bowler hat and looked back at Jeff and Douglas. "And the jaded sardonic leaders bringing up the rear. Yep. This is a good place to end the scene."