Looking down at the card in his hand, Ian Chesterton smiled at the sentimental words written for his Valentine’s Day message. Gazing fondly at the backdrop of the day— 2020 Paris— he chuckled to himself. What a place to take a holiday. Barbara wanted to meet him in the most romantic restaurant, what a treat! He reached into the breast pocket of his smart 21st century style suit and pulled out a credit card.
“Hope the Doctor won’t miss this. Looks like a pricey place,” he said to himself, looking in the restaurant window. He sighed giddily as he saw Barbara already sitting at one of the tables, glancing at something in her hand, possibly the menu.
She looked beautiful, in a fine modern dress but so very elegant with a flower in her hair and just a hint of lipstick.
Inside the restaurant, Barbara looked down at the card in her hand— not a menu as Ian had assumed— but her own Valentine’s Day message, a few short funny words from Ian, funny but romantic, just like her friend. She hadn’t known that their relationship had reached the Valentine’s card stage or whether it was a card for friendship but as she sat there, sipping her wine, she felt the butterflies in her stomach. Ian was just a friend, wasn’t he?
As she looked up, she saw him standing outside the window, pointing at her in pantomimic fashion, acting as though he had no idea she’d be there. His gestures became more exaggerated, before Barbara pointed for him to come inside, aware the other diners were beginning to stare at the spectacle.
Finally entering the restaurant, Ian stopped at Barbara’s table and did a double-take. “Barbara? Barbara Wright? Fancy seeing you here! Of all the bistros in all the world, you had to walk into mine.”
Barbara tried not to smirk. “Oh, do sit down, Ian, you’re making the place look untidy.” She quickly hid her valentine’s card inside her handbag.
“Nice in here, isn’t it?” Ian said as he placed the serviette upon his lap. He picked up a spoon and checked his reflection.
As he looked upon her, Barbara felt her cheeks flush and she quickly grabbed the menu to hide her face, her eyes scanning the names of the dishes instead. She could speak only a little French so some words were not known to her but she read them nonetheless.
“I was going to compliment you in French, but it’s a bit rusty” Ian began. “You look tres belle and all that. Though I can’t quite tell because the menu seems to have consumed your face.”
Barbara smiled and brought the menu down to the table. “I was thinking of having Poisson Provencale. What do you think?”
“Sounds a bit fishy.”
As soon as the waiter appeared, they ordered their meals and sat awkwardly, conversing in small talk until their food arrived and they said thank you for the service.
“Delicious,” Barbara said after swallowing the first bite of the meal.
Ian was nodding in agreement and had to remember that this was a romantic dinner. He had to stop eating so fast and engage in conversation. He waited until he had swallowed a mouthful and wiped his mouth with the serviette before talking. “So, I’m surprised the Doctor and Vicki didn’t want to join us. They love a bit of grub.”
“Important errand to run he said,” Barbara replied.
“Hmm. I’m not so sure.”
“Those two are as bad as each other, you may be right.”
Ian scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. “I was very flattered to get your card and the invite, Barbara. I really want to offer my gratitude.”
Barbara nearly spat out her mouthful of wine. “I beg your pardon? You sent me a card and did the booking. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Pulling out the card from his pocket, Ian placed it onto the table. “But you left it for me in my room, told me to meet you here at 8’o’clock.”
She reached into her handbag and placed her own card onto the tablecloth next to his. The cards were almost identical except the words inside were different, but it was definitely their handwriting.
“I didn’t write that,” Barbara said. “I’m sorry if that upsets you. It was a wonderful idea and I’m having a marvellous time but those are not my words.”
“They’re not mine either but definitely looks like my handwriting.”
“We’ve been tricked again and I think I know who by.” Barbara folded her arms.
“How are we going to get back at them, that’s the question.” Ian scratched his chin and then slapped his thigh excitedly. “Are you feeling peckish still, Barbara?”
“Yes, a little bit, why?”
“I’ve got the Doctor’s credit card. We’re going to enjoy this little fix-up.” First Ian attempted French but when his words came out all wrong, he gave up and the waiter allowed him to use English. “Waiter, champagne, your finest and most expensive bottle. And a menu for the desserts please! My lady and I are dining in style.”
Barbara caught sight of a flower-seller and pointed. “Oh Ian, how lovely those red roses are.”
“Then a whole bunch you shall have, all on the card please, garcon. And a little tip for yourself for your excellent service.”
An hour later after a four-course meal and lots and lots of champagne, Ian and Barbara stumbled arm in arm out of the restaurant, giggling.
“Oh Ian, buying a bottle of champers for everyone in there. We’re awfully naughty.”
“Serves the old devil right.”
“I can barely walk in a straight line. I haven’t had this much to drink for a long time.” She laughed, taking off her high heels and attempting to walk across the street.
“Let me carry you madame.”
She swatted him. “I’ll be fine. I just have to….” She squinted as she looked across the street. “Ian, is that…is that the Doctor and Vicki outside of that café?”
“You’re right, it is them! An errand to run. They’re having dinner, same as we are.”
Marching together across the way, they arrived at the table of their friends, casting a looming shadow over them.
“Enjoying your meal?” Barbara said, folding her arms.
The Doctor dabbed his mouth with the tablecloth and chuckled. “Most divine cuisine, my dear, most divine. I am most refreshed.”
“It’s marvellous,” Vicki said with a mouthful of food. Some green goop was dribbling down her chin.
“You set us up!” Ian said. “We thought we’d been invited by each other, but it was just you two wasn’t it?”
“You had a good time, didn’t you?” Vicki said.
“That’s besides the point, young lady.” Barbara was speaking in her school mistress voice. “Lying and cheating is not acceptable.”
Ian prodded the Doctor. “And just how did you two forge our handwriting and style?”
“As you said, my boy, forgery. Your writing is predictable.”
“I did Barbara’s!” Vicki said proudly.
“Oh wonderful, great isn’t it, Barbara? They’re forgers now,” Ian moaned.
“She’s coming along a treat too,” the Doctor said, tickling Vicki under the chin. “It’s good to add a few strings to your bow.”
“I’ll add a few strings to you in a minute, Doctor, around your neck!” Ian said.
“But you, as the child says, had a good time, did you not?” the Doctor smiled. There was a twinkle in his eye.
“It was wonderful,” Barbara admitted.
“Then no harm done hmm? Learn to enjoy the surprises when they happen.”
Vicki placed her hands on her chin and smiled smugly. “Yes, you’re not getting any younger, are you?”
There was a brief pause before Ian nudged Barbara. “At least we haven’t got snail juice running down our faces eh?”
“Enjoying that are you, Vicki?” Barbara added with a smirk.
“Shows what you know about French. It’s called Escargot as a matter of fact.”
“Roughly translated as…snail,” Ian informed her.
“Snails?!” Vicki spat out her mouthful. “This could be Cyril or Curtis. I had land snails as pets when I was little.” Her face turned a shade of green. “Doctor, do something, a stomach pump, something!”
Ian and Barbara laughed as the Doctor reached across and pulled Vicki’s plate to his own placemat. “Waste not, want not, hmmm? Delicious.”
“That’ll teach you,” Barbara said to Vicki as the girl swayed from side to side. “Now I suggest you make your way back to the hotel with the Doctor and get some rest. We’ll join you presently.”
“Where are you going, my dear?” the Doctor said.
“Just for a little evening walk. It is Valentine’s Day after all.”
Still carrying her shoes and walking with only her tights for protection against the hard ground, Ian told her whenever there was something to avoid on the pavement. The walk was very slowly sobering them up but they had no idea where they now were or the way back to the hotel. But for that moment, neither of them cared. They were in one of the most romantic cities in the world and they were together. The Doctor and Vicki may have tricked them but the result had been a good one.
Noticing Barbara shivering under a thin shawl, Ian placed his blazer around her shoulders.
“Thank you, Ian. Do you mind if we sit and look at the fountain?”
He nodded and they sat together by the water’s edge, placing their fingers in the delicate blue water.
“This is a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day,” Ian remarked. He couldn’t quite look at her when he said it. “To be quite honest, I’m glad those two sent those cards. I really should have sent one myself.”
She placed her hand on top of his. “I really should’ve too. It’s not right to keep these things bottled up. You mean so much to me, Ian.”
“And you to me.”
“We’ll always have Paris,” Ian said with a smirk.
She swatted him. “And here’s looking at you kid.”