“I still don’t understand why this is so important, Harry. Where are we even going?”
Harry flexed his fingers on the steering wheel of the car and shook his head. “You’ll understand when we get there, I promise.”
Sarah Jane frowned. “Is it an alien invasion?”
“What?” Harry glanced over. He actually looked shocked, Sarah noticed with surprise. “No! No, of course not. It’s just... well, you’ll see when we get there, that’s all. It’s just something I have to do. And I thought... Well, I thought you’d enjoy it, too, that’s all.”
Sarah considered this response thoughtfully. “You’re not going to ask me to marry you again, are you? Because last time--”
“No, no. Not now, at any rate. Although if you’ve reconsidered...”
“All right, all right! I said I wasn’t going to ask. I just thought... better to leave the door open...”
“The door is shut, Harry. It’s shut, locked, and we’ve moved on from it, all right?” Sarah Jane liked to think that she said it in an affectionate way, but... well, perhaps there wasn’t exactly an affectionate way to tell a man that you damned well didn’t ever mean to marry him, no matter how many times he asked, no matter how lovely and charming and adorably pathetic he was, or even how good a lover he might happen to be. He could be the best man in the world - he might well be, at least if that world was planet Earth - but she still had no intention of marrying him.
“And I said I wasn’t asking,” Harry replied agreeably. “Anyway, we’re here.”
Sarah looked out the window.
“...A seafood restaurant. Harry--”
“It’s just supper, old thing. Not the end of the world. Daresay we’d handle that just fine as well,” he added with a little smile, “but this time it’s just supper. Come on. I’ve got reservations for seven o’clock sharp.”
Being that Harry and his typical adherence to punctuality had brought them there at five minutes to seven, their table was naturally not yet ready. At quarter past seven the hostess apologized very sweetly for their wait, picked up a pair of menus, and escorted them to a little table out on the veranda.
“Oh, I don’t think we’ll need those,” Harry piped up as the hostess got them settled. “Ah... Unless you do, Sarah?”
Sarah checked to ensure that Harry hadn’t suffered some sort of head trauma on the walk between the waiting area and their table. “Need what?”
“The menus,” he answered, as if that was the most obvious thing in the universe. As though a sensible person never needed menus upon sitting down in a posh seaside restaurant.
“I’d like them very much, thank you,” Sarah snapped, removing one of the apparently-offending brochures from the waitress’ waiting hands.
Harry blinked and looked away, suddenly deeply interested in his cutlery. “I see, then. Sorry, old girl.”
“Don’t. Call me that. Again.”
“Sorry, old... er... Sarah,” Harry finished. For this, at least, he deigned to look suitably contrite, Sarah noticed. “It’s just... well, I rather thought...”
“What, that you’d order for both of us? Honestly, I don’t know when you’re planning to enter this century, Harry, but I really wish you’d hurry up. So of us are busy getting ready for the next one, and you’re still... lagging behind with the Victorians, wondering why everyone’s wearing polyester scraps at the beach all of a sudden!”
Harry’s eyebrows twitched together, and he glanced out over the beach beside them, as though checking to see what exact scraps of polyester she might be referring to. “Now that’s just not fair... I rather like bathing suits. Especially yours, the one with the little blue polka-dots. You wore it to that party Mike Yates threw last year,” he continued, taking her staring for a sign that she didn’t remember.
“I know which bathing suit I wore, Harry.”
“Well, I just thought--”
Again, Harry blinked, then shook his head and took a sip of water. “I say, Sarah - I didn’t think you’d take this so badly. It’s just--”
“Supper. I know. But nothing is ever just supper with you, is it? It’s like... it’s like...”
“Expecting the Doctor to drop off somewhere ‘nice’ and for there to not be some sort of civil unrest or alien menace?” Harry suggested.
Sarah clenched her teeth. “Drink your water, Harry. And for your sake, you’d better hope the waiter stops by soon.”
Fortunately the waiter did seem to have Harry’s survival - or at least his own gratuity - in mind, and showed up at their table a few moments later.
“I’ll have the halibut,” Sarah informed him without looking up. “And martini.”
“The white wine tonight is particularly well-suited to--”
“A martini sounds smashing,” Harry interrupted. It wasn’t the waiter’s fault that he’d stepped into the middle of Sarah on one of her rampages, and Harry was rather of the opinion that allowing the poor fellow to continue in that vein might violate his Hippocratic Oath, or at least implicate him as an accessory to manslaughter. “I’ll have one as well - shaken, please.”
“And for your entree...?” the waiter suggested, as though he rather thought Harry might like just the martini, if perhaps the restaurant could provide him with a glass large enough to drown himself in.
“Ah.” Harry smiled. No, Sarah thought, it was worse than that - Harry smirked. “I’ll have the clams. In white wine and garlic sauce.”
The waiter looked at him a bit oddly - Sarah couldn’t exactly blame the man, as her companion looked so pleased with himself that he looked as though he was waiting to be asked for an encore - and then disappeared into the kitchen, no doubt to warn the chef they had a real pair of nutters on their hands that evening. Sarah waited until the man had gone, and then turned to Harry.
He nodded, grinning to himself.
“You’re having... the clams.”
Sarah Jane thought for a moment, putting together the oddly grim expression Harry’d had on the drive up with his... almost salaciously self-satisfied demeanor now. “Would this... perhaps, just perhaps, have something to do with a certain oversized genetic experiment that, if I recall the story correctly, tried to break your leg back on Skaro?”
“It didn’t just try to break my leg, Sarah - that thing was out to eat me!”
“So now you’re going to eat its Earth-bound cousins, is that it? I don’t see how that’s going to do anything.”
“It’ll do wonders for my mind,” Harry assured her.
Sarah looked at him for a long moment. “You’re serious. I can’t believe this. You’re seriously ordering the clam dinner... just because some otherworldly clam tried to eat your leg.”
“It would have sucked me in whole if the Doctor hadn’t stopped it,” Harry protested. “It gave it a jolly good try!”
“Couldn’t you just... buy a tin at the supermarket?” Sarah glanced around at the other patrons on the veranda, most of whom looked like the sort who had gardeners and staff and called each other by silly nicknames. She struggled not to laugh, hoping none of them had heard their conversation. “The prices at this place are appalling - it’s a lot of expense just for a bit of revenge, don’t you think?”
“Eating them out of a tin, or even cooking them at home... it wouldn’t have felt as much like a victory, I don’t think. Anyway, I had a bit of extra... well, hazard pay, if you must ask.” Harry rubbed the side of his head, self-consciously ruffling the spot where his hair still hadn’t quite grown back after the incident in Scotland. “And I thought this would be good for us.”
Sarah shook her head. Unbelievable, this man. “Well, why me, then? I didn’t nearly get eaten.”
“I just thought... well, it seemed like the thing to do, that’s all. We’ve saved the world, nearly been killed by Daleks and Sontarans and all that, and... I’d never taken you out for a proper dinner. I thought it was high time.”
“And you thought it might up your chances the next time you propose, too, I’m betting.”
“Ah, now - I didn’t bring it up this time, did I?” Harry waggled his finger at her, and then paused to thank the waiter as he brought over two martinis. “You brought it up all on your own, this time, old girl. That’s twice tonight. So don’t try to blame me if I someday give it another go.” He took a sip of the martini, pursed his lips thoughtfully, and then nodded. “Anyway, I swear it didn’t enter my mind. I just thought you’d enjoy this place, that’s all. No sense going to all the trouble on my own, I’d look like some sort of pathetic hanger-on, sitting out here by myself. And good food demands good company.”
“Well, I’m honored to be here for your... victory... over the domineering bivalve, then.” Sarah raised her glass, at which Harry grinned and saluted her in return.
They chatted over nothings and inconsequentials through bread and salad, watched the sun set over the water, and were on their second set of martinis when the entrees arrived. Harry regarded his bowl with an almost demonic glee.
“All right, you little devils,” he addressed the butter-drenched gastropods, “take a good look at me.”
“They haven’t got eyes, Harry,” Sarah reminded him, trying not to giggle. “That’s scallops. Clams are... well, they’re all stomach, really.”
“Don’t I know it.” Harry gave her a dire look, and continued his oration. “Take a good look,” he repeated, “because you... are going to take a message to whatever afterlife awaits ill-mannered seafood, and tell your big, scary, Skaro... er... Skaro-nese cousins exactly what Harry Sullivan thought of them trying to turn him into an appetizer.”
“I’m sure you weren’t just an appetizer, Harry. You’re a good-sized man, I’m sure you’d at least be a comfortable supper.”
“Don’t laugh, Sarah; they probably wanted you for dessert.”
Sarah laughed, and shook her head. Harry, ignoring her, picked up one of the clams between his thumb and forefinger. “So... just you remember that,” he told it, and then picked up his fork, stabbed out the gob of meat inside the shell, and popped it whole into his mouth. “So there,” he added, after washing the thing down with a gulp of martini.
“Do we get the whole speech for each one, or do you figure they were all listening?” Sarah asked sweetly.
Dinner went remarkably well, for all that Harry still felt the need to pause their meal every so often to vent his feelings at his assembled foodstuffs. He stopped at the dessert, Sarah was glad to note, and enjoyed the chocolate mousse they shared in silence, albeit with the expression of the proverbial cat with yellow feathers decorating his lips. In whatever case, he seemed pleased with himself, and after spending the whole evening laughing at him, Sarah Jane felt well enough disposed toward him that she gave up any pretense of annoyance and just enjoyed herself.
After dinner, they walked up the beach a bit while their heads settled from the martinis. Harry draped his coat over Sarah’s shoulders, and strolled along with all the confidence in the world until they couldn’t hear the clatter of the restaurant in the distance, only the rush of the waves.
“I wasn’t going to ask you to marry me.”
Sarah sighed. “What is it, then?”
“It’s just... I wondered... er...”
“What, Harry?” She turned to look at him. He was... staring into the darkness oversea with a decidedly odd, fixed expression across his face. As if he was trying very hard not to react to something, and only succeeding by impressive force of will.
“I just wondered if you’d mind terribly driving the car on the way home.”
Sarah stared at him. He’d never asked that before, never, and certainly not when they were out on what could potentially be qualified as a date. What on earth... oh...
“You’ve got stomach-ache from the clams, haven’t you, Harry?”
Harry nodded, guilty as charged.
“So much for revenge against the evil mollusc.”