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A Matter of Timing

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“May I remind you, Miss Shaw, that you are still a serving member of UNIT? I don’t entirely care for your tone.”

“Don’t much care for yours, either! No wonder the Doctor cleared off.”

The insults were over for this round and now they waited, facing each other, their colleague absent again, but this time there was no crisis, no end of the world to worry about and nothing much else to do. It struck the Brigadier that maybe it was time to try something other than words.

He was unsure, in the end, whether he kissed her or she kissed him.

*

Sergeant Benton whistled to himself as he walked out to the Doctor’s lab in search of the Brigadier. He pulled up short to find the Doctor emerging, smudges on his face and rubbish over his usually elegant attire.

“Doctor?”

He put an arm round his shoulder. “Sergeant! Just the person. My TARDIS console seems to have got itself stuck in – well – in the rubbish tip and the Brigadier seems – ahem – busy at this precise moment -. You’ll help me rescue it won’t you?”

“Of course, Doctor, but I just need to have a word with the Brigadier. There’s an urgent message come through for him-”

He blocked his path. “You don’t want to go in there.”

“Yes, I do.”

The Doctor said, “Believe me, Sergeant, you really don’t want to see what’s in there.”

“You do look a bit shaken up,” he said and then frowned. “You’re not done anything to them, have you, Doctor? The Brigadier and Miss Shaw?”

It was not an easy achievement to manage an indignant glare while covered in garbage, but the Doctor could always rise to the occasion. “Of course not!”

“Then, if it’s a monster shouldn’t we do something?”

He stepped aside. “Oh, go on. But don’t blame me!”

*

Sergeant Benton entered cautiously, but all he found was the Brigadier and Miss Shaw watching him. “Oh. Er. There’s a message for you, sir.”

“Is there? What was it?”

He glanced back at the Doctor. “I’ve forgotten.”

“You’ve stopped that dreadful nonsense, have you?” said the Doctor, following him in. “Thank goodness for that.”

The Brigadier ignored him. “What do you mean, you’ve forgotten? You come in here to give me a message and say you’ve forgotten?”

“I’ll help the Doctor rescue his thingumyjig.”

The Doctor folded his arms and glared at the other two. “Only if the Brigadier gives us a hand. I’m not leaving him alone with Liz, if he’s going to behave like that.”

“Doctor, don’t be childish,” scolded Liz.

The Brigadier was still frowning. “What message?”

“Did you hear what he said?” Liz asked. “I was under the impression that we were all adults here.”

“Clearly,” muttered the Doctor.

Benton said, “I’ll go back and write it down this time. Sorry, sir!”

“Do you do this sort of thing every time I’m not around?”

The Brigadier glanced from Liz to the Doctor. “He’s not still complaining about that, is he?”

“Yes,” said Liz. “Absolutely. Every single time; the moment you turn your back. Honestly, Doctor!”

The Brigadier made a decision. “Miss Shaw, my office. Doctor, I’ll send Benton back down with some of the men to get your machine out of the rubbish tip.”

“You can’t order Liz around like that, you know.”

She patted his arm, finding some amusement in his reaction after all. “I’m afraid he can. After all, I am officially still a serving member of UNIT.”

“I shall have nightmares,” said the Doctor.

As if parallel universes weren’t bad enough. It was on the tip of his tongue to be petty and spoil everything by telling them exactly what had happened there.

He stopped himself and smiled at them instead. “If you must. Liz – I’ll want your help later to make some adjustments to the console. Brigadier, I trust you didn’t take anything I may have said earlier too personally -”

He said, “Of course. I may be a pompous, military idiot, but I don’t hold grudges.”

“No, you merely take liberties with my assistant.”

Liz glanced up at the Brigadier. “Your office, did you say?”

They both followed the Sergeant out and the Doctor sighed to himself, removing a strand of rubbish with distaste. “Humans,” he said. And he’d had such respect for Liz.

There must, he thought, be a universe in which Liz and the Brigadier didn’t do this sort of thing. Another trip or two and maybe he’d find it.