Waiting does not sit well with Romana.
"You are worried about him."
"It's a very important mission."
"You are worried about him."
"He's not the most trustworthy man on Gallifrey. With so much at stake, I should be worried."
"That is not what I meant," says Leela, "and you know it."
"I should be the one on Gallifrey, not him," says Romana, pacing fretfully up and down in the massive dining room of the Braxiatel Collection. "I should be out there, helping to save my people, instead of...waiting!"
"You are not President any longer, Romana. Your special codes will not work, and your eyes will not open doors. He can do these things."
It's an entirely reasonable point. It wouldn't sting if it wasn't. "In other words, I'm completely useless," snaps Romana. "Thank you so much for reminding me."
"You will have your part to play later."
"I may not ever get the chance. Not when it means depending on Narvin."
"Narvin will do as he must," says Leela, calmly.
"Of all the Time Lords to play the hero..."
"He is not so bad as I once believed. Not so bad as you like to pretend. You do not truly dislike him yourself, now."
"It's not a matter of liking and disliking," Romana begins, but, seeing Leela's smile, she interrupts herself with, "and I do dislike him."
"And that is why you are worried about him? Because you lack so for men to dislike?"
"I am not worried about him!" Romana refuses to admit, even in her own mind, that 'screeching' is the proper verb for her previous utterance. She was merely stating a simple fact. Emphatically.
"Then it will not trouble you to sit down and eat something," says Leela. "Braxiatel spent so long carrying in dishes, this table must be nearly crushed beneath them. I think he was hurt when you said you would not eat."
"I don't have time to worry about Brax's sulking." Romana wonders, absently, how many times she would need to pace over this polished floor to wear a track in it. She suspects she's already put a significant dent in the requisite sum.
"You have nothing to do but wait, for now. You must eat while you can. You cannot know when you will have another chance."
"I don't expect us to go hungry on the Collection, Leela."
"You do not know how long we will stay here."
"I know we can't leave without Narvin, and we won't go hungry while he's around. He probably carries about six years worth of rations in his pockets. The man is absurdly practical."
"It is one of the things you like about him." Leela steps out in Romana's path, in time for Romana to watch her grin.
"You're impossible today," says Romana. She doesn't bother scowling, as Leela wouldn't be able to see it anyway.
"Your life has been very hard, these past months," says Leela, with surprising softness, grasping Romana by the shoulders to stop her attempt to resume her pacing. "You have lost many things. Will you not let yourself gain something, this once?"
"What makes you think I'm interested in...in the sort of 'gain' you're talking about?"
"Have you ever known my instincts to be wrong before?" asks Leela. "I know you. I know him. And I know that if in my tribe I had seen two warriors sparring day in and day out, and yet standing back to back in the face of a true enemy, and tending each other's wounds once the battle was done, I would brush off my finest cloak, and polish my best beads, to be ready to celebrate a bonding."
"You know that he has not easily gained my regard. He can be..." Leela makes a hand gesture—simple, and yet perfectly expressing exactly how Narvin can be. "It takes time to see him for what he is. And he is no great warrior, that is true. But it takes more courage for a coward to fight than for a brave man. And he does fight, Romana—for you."
"What's brought on this sudden bout of partisanship?" Romana asks, ignoring the way her cheeks are growing hotter all the time.
"He sighs very much, when you are near," says Leela, mock-seriously. "It is very annoying."
Romana laughs. "He does no such thing!"
"You would not know," says Leela. "You never listen to him."
"Of course I don't. With Narvin, not-listening is the only sensible defense mechanism."
"Perhaps you should try it, for a change."
Romana bites her lip. "I'll...consider it."
"He will be back at any moment. Will you not go to meet him?" When Romana hesitates, Leela rolls her eyes, and adds, "I am not suggesting that you throw yourself at his feet. You need not say anything at all. But you might think of telling him that you are glad to see him safe."
Romana gives Leela a sidelong glance. "It's a good thing you've kept this talent in reserve until now, Leela."
"Bending me to your every whim. I hate to think what the conservatives of Gallifrey would have said about a human harboring that kind of influence over the President."
"You never do anything that you do not wish to do," says Leela, "but blame me if it pleases you."
"I don't choose to dignify that remark with a response," says Romana, already heading for the door.
"That is because you cannot find words to argue with the truth!" Leela calls, as Romana disappears into the hall.
The room housing Brax's discount timescoop, newly repaired, is three storeys above the banquet hall. Romana takes the stairs, to save herself that much more pacing; Narvin oughtn't to be back for at least ten more microspans. She's shocked, then, when she hardly has time to dismiss K-9 from his post as timescoop monitor before Narvin's abrupt materialization on the other side of the room. Almost the instant he appears, his legs crumple underneath him, his robes puffing out around him as he sits down hard on the flagstone floor.
"As always, the very model of grace," Romana observes crossing the room towards him.
"You know, I've always appreciated what a supportive leader you are, Romana," says Narvin, from somewhere in the tangle of his robes. "It's no wonder you had such a secure and stable Presidency."
She's just knelt beside him when he manages to lever himself more or less upright. "That was uncalled-for," she says, sounding more hurt than she'd realized she was.
They're sitting quite near, close enough for her to watch his eyes change as he looks at her. "I'm sorry," he says, nearly as surprised by the words as she is to hear them, "but perhaps you'll admit that insulting a man for coming back wounded after successfully completing a mission you sent him on isn't the most called-for response either."
"Wounded?" she asks, her eyebrows raising. "What happened?"
"Only my ankle."
"Sprained, I think."
"You twisted your ankle," she says, biting her lip.
"Is there something you'd like to say?"
"Nothing," she says, innocently.
"Nothing," he repeats, suspicious.
"Adding 'swooning maiden' to the repertoire, are we?"
"You see, this is precisely the kind of..."
"Narvin," Romana interrupts, with a sideways smile, "I'm glad you made it back in one piece."
He blinks. She notes, with not inconsiderable satisfaction, that he doesn't quite seem to be breathing. "That's...nice to hear," he manages.
She raises a mocking eyebrow. "I hope so."
They sit in silence for another moment, and then she smiles once more, quickly, tucking it away again as soon as she can. "Come on, then," she says, standing, and holding out her hands to him. For a moment, she isn't sure whether he'll take them, but he does, allowing her to pull him up.
"Where are we going?"
"I'm taking you to a nine-course banquet," she says, slipping an arm around his waist, supporting him. "Unless you'd rather stay here?"
"Lead on," he says, and she can feel his sidelong glance, "Madam President."
He leans on her all the way down the hall, and she can't say she minds it a bit.