The lunch hour has finally quieted down long enough to give Rose a moment to slump against the counter and take a breath when she notices the morose countenances of Sergeant Benton and Captain Yates. "Oi! What's wrong with the two of you? You look as if it's the end of the world."
"No," replies Yates mournfully, "just the end of the World Cup."
Both men throw a glare in Zoe's direction as she serves a punter. "Fancy her turning off the match just when it turns around in our favor, for one of her," Benton grits out the words in obvious disgust, "ruddy little pub quizzes."
Zoe ambles over to the trio and notes in cheery tone, "Oh, you're just upset because the Doctor won again." She taps her finger on the counter as she tells them, "You could win too if you'd simply study more before you came in here!"
Their expressions become utterly gobsmacked. "Nobody studies in order to enjoy a pub, Zoe!" declares Benton a trifle heatedly.
"Well, then they need to start if they want to win one of my quizzes!" she insists in a superior tone. Seeing their faces reflect their dire resignation, the young astrometricist takes pity on them and whispers conspiringly. "Oh, alright," she quickly looks around in search of ear wiggers, "but this is between us." All three lean in a bit closer as she whispers, "I think it would be very helpful if the two of you were to investigate the subject of theoretical physics." She suddenly straightens back up and sing-songs, "And that's all that I'm going to say on the matter," before miming zipping her lips and winking slyly at Rose who immediately doubles over in laughter.
"That's not funny, Rose!" grouses Benton as he places his empty tumbler in front of her.
Yates follows suit with his own glass. "I agree, you have a very twisted sense of humor." He stares down glumly at his glass as Rose replenishes it. "I would have put down more of a flutter on the match if I knew that we were going to win." He unexpectedly perks up and gazes at Rose excitedly. "I know! Rose, you could tell us when England wins the next cup!"
Benton immediately perks up. “Yeah, that’s right!” He nudges Yates conspiringly. “And if we put enough down when the time comes, we could well be on our way to an early retirement!”
Both men turn to Rose expectantly while she looks back at them with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that I can’t do that.”
Exasperated, Yates loudly questions, “Why not?” before lowering his voice so as not to call attention. “Is it something to do with your being a time traveler?”
Rose shakes her head in the negative. “What then? asks Benton eyeing her shrewdly. “It can’t be your sense of fair play? It’s just one World Cup! Rose, we’re not asking for a rundown of footie until the end of time.”
Rose sighs sadly. “It’s not that either.” They both stare at her in silence, patiently awaiting her answer. “We don’t win the World Cup again.”
“What?” asks Benton in shock. “You mean in this decade?”
“No,” she continues reluctantly, “I mean at all. I’m sorry, gents, but we haven’t won the World Cup since 1966, at least not in my time.”
The two men merely sit there gobsmacked as Zoe cheerily announces, “Well then, I guess it doesn’t matter that I turned off the television, it’s not like you’re really missing anything anyway!”
While Benton and Yates try to reign in their tempers, Rose has a sudden coughing fit that sounds suspiciously like an attempt to cover laughter. “Don’t you get it, lass?” Benton directs his question at Zoe. “This could be our last chance at England winning the cup!”
Zoe stares back at the Sergeant with a very serious expression. “From what I’m to understand from Rose, it sounds like it was.”
Totally oblivious to their glares, she returns to wiping down the bar top until she’s stopped by the young soldier who’s taken to keeping time at the pub to be near Zoe. Placing his hand over hers while she’s in mid-swipe, he leans forward and whispers, “Theoretical physics, eh? Any possible questions concerning time travel?”
Zoe hastily pulls her hand away and notes sternly, “That’s only considered when in conjunction with quantum mechanics or Einstein – Rosen bridges and you shouldn’t eavesdrop on people’s private conversations.”
He throws his hands up in mock surrender. Can I help it if I’m unable to draw myself away from your slightest word, your barest glance, your softest touch?” he asks as he reaches for her hand again.
“Then allow me to give you a helping hand,” proclaims a voice from behind him as his unknown assailant unceremoniously yanks him off his stool by the back of his collar and spins him around to shove him against the bar to face one very angry Jamie McCrimmon.
“Jamie, what are you doing?” screeches Zoe. “Stop it this instant!”
“It’s okay, doll, I can handle him,” he assures her without taking his eyes off the Scot.
Zoe quickly runs around the bar and tries to push the two men apart. “That is quite enough! You two are behaving like miscreants and I expect far better behavior in this day and age!”
“Some of us aren’t from this day and age,” grits Jamie, his gaze never wavering from the man before him.
Narrowing his eyes, his nose wrinkling in confusion, he seems to sniff at the air around him before returning his full attention to the young Scot. “I’ll remember that McCrimmon.”
When the tension refuses to lessen, Rose shoots a pleading glance at Benton and Yates. “Do you mind? She tilts her head to indicate the other two men. “Please?”
Mike rubs the bridge of his nose and sighs wearily. “Why does everyone always come to us to solve their problems?”
Benton slides off his barstool and straightens his posture into a more intimidating height before flashing a smug grin. “Perhaps they can’t help but turn to the strong, silent type?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what it is,” agrees Rose readily. “So how about shutting it and breaking those two up?”
Mildly affronted, the two soldiers ignore her rebuke and head over to avert a potential fight. “Alright, lads, break it up! We don’t want any trouble here,” Benton insists as he steps between the two men.
Ignoring Jamie, Mike decides to focus on the Captain. “Come on, soldier, back to headquarters! You were transferred here to give us a hand but you can be transferred out just as easily.
“Fine,” relents the American soldier, “I didn’t come in here to cause trouble.”
“I know what you came in here for and you’re not having her!” growls Jamie while Benton holds him back.
“Good luck keeping me away,” he returns coldly.
“It’s not luck I need,” threatens Jamie as he breaks Benton’s hold and raises his fists.
“Jamie! That’s enough, lad, now stand down!” barks Benton as he shoves him back a few paces and pins him down with a warning glance.
“Captain,” warns Mike in a low tone that suggests his request will not be repeated a third time. He breathes a sigh of relief when the only action the young man takes is to pick up his hat and overcoat from a barstool and throw one last glare at Jamie before stalking out of the pub.
Unfortunately for Jamie, Zoe is not about to afford him the same silent treatment. “What on Earth is the matter with you? He wasn’t attempting anything improper; we were having an intellectual conversation!”
“Yeah, I know what he had in mind for you, Zoe, and it had nothing to do with being intellectual,” seethes Jamie. “Honestly woman, for being an intellectual, how can you be so daft as to not see what’s right in front of you?”
“The only thing in front of me is an impulsive, ignorant imbecile!” She stamps her foot in sheer frustration. “Oh! Why do you have to be so physical?”
“I don’t know,” purrs a voice behind them, “I don’t see anything wrong with being physical.”
Everyone’s attention turns to the ginger woman in her mid-twenties who was eyeing Jamie up and down like the cool drink that she entered the pub for. Zoe’s mouth tightens as she watches Jamie’s anger fade only to be replaced with an obvious appreciation of the woman’s appearance, if his lascivious smile was anything to go by.
Jamie’s chest puffs up as he declares, “Well, physical happens to be what I do best, you can ask anyone.”
“I can see that,” she murmurs with apparent interest before holding out her hand for an introduction. “Hello, my name is Christine Sharp. And you are?”
“Unavailable,” mutters Zoe, too softly for anyone but a sympathetic Rose to hear. Rose hastily requests Zoe’s help behind the bar in hopes of avoiding a scene, as one near brawl at the pub tonight is enough. “Of course, Rose,” answers a bit wistfully as she looks on at Jamie and the woman. “I’m obviously not needed here.”
Stepping aside to let her pass, Yates and Benton continue to observe the couple. Benton gives the woman a quick once-over. “Some men have all the luck, eh, Sir?”
“Yes, but Jamie’s going to have more than his share of bad luck if he keeps this behavior up in front of Zoe,” opines Mike.
Benton’s eyes widen in consideration. “Do you think that this could be what finally opens their eyes to how they feel about each other?”
Rose interrupts them with a tap on Yates’ shoulder before he can reply. “Excuse me, ladies, but I have to interrupt your chin wag as I’ve just received a message from the Brigadier. He has requested that you bring back his and the Doctor’s lunch.”
“We can manage that fine, thank you, Rose,” acknowledges Yates, “and please be sure to bring us another round. We can afford it since neither of us will be leaving a tip!”
Benton laughs when Rose pulls a face before heading into the kitchen to make lunch. She offers a comforting squeeze on Zoe’s shoulder as she tells her, “You’ve got the bar, love.”
Zoe nods automatically in response while she keeps her gaze trained on Jamie and his new lady admirer as they sit down at the bar to have a chat. “I don’t believe that I’ve seen you in here before,” notes Christine curiously. “Have you worked here very long?”
“No, I’m new in town, just passing through, really,” shares Jamie cheerily. “I’ve been traveling with some friends, we’re just here for a few months and then we’ll be moving onto the next adventure.”
She leans in closer and rests her head on the back of her hand. “That sounds so exciting!” She moves in a bit more until their knees are touching and places her hand on his knee in an intimate gesture. “It must really get your blood pumping.”
Zoe watches the pair with incredulity and disgust. Oh, his blood’s definitely pumping alright, none of it to his brain.
“Zoe,” requests Jamie without taking his eyes off Christine, “can you pour a drink for my new friend, here?” When Christine reaches for her purse, he hastily assures her, “Your money’s no good here, love. It’s on the house.”
That’s obviously not all that’s on offer here, fumes Zoe silently. Rose is right about men. Why buy the bovine when you can procure the opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein for free?
Zoe drops down the pint in front of the woman, just sort of slamming it, before moving away to wash the glasses that have been collected and smiles to herself when she hears Christine complain, “You call this a pint? It’s practically empty!”
That’s right, just like your head, Zoe notes with a wide grin that goes unnoticed by the others. Ha ha ha!
Christine sets down her pint in distaste. “Oh well, no matter,” as she turns back to Jamie, “you’re a much better find than what I came in for anyway.” She slides off the stool and sidles up alongside him, lightly resting her hand on his shoulder before slowly trailing her fingers down his arm. “What do you say we find a quiet place to go chat? Somewhere with a little less traffic, a little less noise…a little less clothes?” She captures his gaze and toys with the end of his scarf as she waits for his answer.
Jamie’s eyes widen before his gaze shies away and falls onto her rather expansive bosom. “I…I don’t believe that less clothes is exactly what you need at the moment.”
The breaking of glass following a painful cry immediately draws everyone’s attention over to Zoe while Rose rushes out of the kitchen with a towel in one hand and two sacks of freshly cooked fish and chips in the other. Setting the sacks on the bar top, Rose heads straight over to Zoe to inspect her wound. She examines it quickly before pressing down on it to staunch the bleeding and winces along with Zoe when she has to press down firmly on the cut. “No worries, love, it’s more of a flesh wound than anything.”
“Here, let me see that,” orders Jamie as he suddenly appears behind the surprised women. He had moved so fast upon realizing Zoe was injured that neither of them had seen him come around the bar. “Aw, it’s only a wee scratch, you’ll be fine. Rose, you watch the bar and we’ll be right back once I patch Zoe up.
“Wait a minute!” blurts Christine disbelievingly. “What about our going off to find a quiet little place to chat?” she questions meaningfully.
“I have more important things to take care of right now,” dismisses Jamie before taking up Zoe’s hand again to reexamine it. “Come on, lass, a bit of liniment and a strip of bandage and you’ll be good as new,” his voice trailing away as he leads Zoe upstairs.
Wearing an overly saccharine smile, Rose places one of the sacks in front of Christine. Here, love, I made you some fish and chips to go, seeing as it’s the only thing that you’ll be taking away from here tonight.”
Christine narrows her eyes at her. “Well, aren’t you the overprotective little friend?” Her expression becomes as unpleasant as her tone. “Just like the big, bad dog that chases away the prowlers who encroach on their property.”
Rose’s smile instantly disappears and she gazes back icily at her. “Actually, I’m more the Big, Bad Wolf but at least you agree with me about trespassing where you don’t belong.” Rose mocks gasps as she holds her hand over her heart. “See? I went to school too!” She nudges the sack towards her. “Now, why don’t you go and find that traffic that you were looking for? That way, I won’t have to throw you in it.”
Nostrils flaring, she continues to stare Rose down until the young Londoner moves to make her way around the front of the bar. She hastily picks up her purse and bolts for the front door while calling out, “This isn’t finished!”
“You know where to find me!” Rose returns easily with a hint of warning. Both Benton and Yates chuckling away at the end of the bar remind her of their presence. “Can I help you, gentleman?”
Mike holds up his hands in surrender while Benton merely shakes his head in amusement and offers, “Encroach, eh? The Doctor would be so proud.”
“That’s not how I’d describe him if his lunch gets cold.” She drops the largest sack with the Doctor and Brigadier’s order in front of the men. “Go on then, off with you!”
“Yes, Maam’!” replies Yates with a salute. “We know not to mess with you!”
“Too right,” murmurs Rose more to herself than the departing men as she aims a soft smile upstairs. Noticing the sack that Christine left behind, she reaches over and opens it and inhales the fragrant aroma before dipping in and pulling out a steaming chip. “Mmmm,” she gushes in ecstasy. “And thank you, Miss High and Mighty, for taking your leave,” she pops another chip in her mouth, “that means more for me.”
Arriving at the Brigadiers’ door, the two men promptly knock and wait for an invitation to enter. The door flies open without warning before the last knock fades and reveals the Doctor bearing a very impatient scowl as he snatches the sack out of Mike’s hands. “It’s barely warm! I hope you’re not expecting a tip.” Spinning on his heels, he stalks over to the Brigadier’s desk and begins distributing the food.
When Benton and Yates look as they’re about to retort, the Brigadier quickly leans forward from the reclining position in his chair and gives them an understanding gaze but a stern tone. “Thank you, gentlemen, that will be all.” A curt nod from both soldiers and a grumbled, “Yes, Sir,” is his only reply before they leave. Once the door is shut, he turns to the Doctor and casually notes, “You know, you could have been nicer to them.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he mutters distractedly as he sits down to eat. “It might have encouraged them to bring the food sooner.”
The Brigadier shakes his head, he should have known better. “Yes, Doctor,” he remarks with flat sarcasm, “my point exactly.”
The Doctor gives him a quelling gaze. “Alright, alright, I did notice that they were bothered but they’ve been irritable with me since they lost that bet last month.” His grin is full of glee. “You remember, I made them dress up like Yetis and run through the Underground.” He laughs out loud. “That reminds me of the time that we were so blitzed that we wrapped tinfoil all over bodies and called ourselves Cybermen. Our academy always could throw a fancy dress party!” His tone becomes disgruntled. “I still can’t believe we lost to those…oh what were they called? Oh, yes, Daleks! Hmmph!” He picks up a pencil and taps the tip of the pencil against the desk. “I mean, I know that our costumes weren’t state of the art but still, losing to a lot of rubbish bins with plungers sticking out of them? Oh well, coming in second is as good as any I suppose.” He smiles fondly at his old friend with a familiar twinkle in his eye. “Don’t you agree, Brigadier?”
“John,” states the Brigadier wearily, “can we please keep on topic? What is your problem with Yates and Benton?”
A scowl flashes across his face. “I’m still upset with them for not watching out for Rose as they promised me. That Potts fellow is a menace and I don’t like the way that he keeps sniffing after her.”
“I see,” comments the Brigadier with a smirk and a nod of his head. “So now we’re getting to the root of the problem. You’re jealous, Doctor.”
“Don’t be absurd, Alistair. Rose is a very dear friend and you know how protective I am of my friends.”
“Yes, I know.” He leans back and watches the Doctor with a curious expression. “Out of curiosity, John, has there ever been a woman that you cared for more than as a friend?”
He takes a bite out of his fish and chews thoughtfully and swallows before giving his answer. “There was a woman, once, long ago,” his voice softens considerably and a small smile appears on his face. “Her name was Cameca, she was from one of those Latin countries like Mexico or Peru.”
Never having known the Doctor to be so open about his past life, the Brigadier leans forward in great interest. “Did you love her?”
“I thought I did but it simply wasn’t meant to be,” he admits with a tinge of sadness as he wipes his mouth with the napkin. “There was too much of a traveler in me back then, I could never stay in one place for too long.”
“And what about now, if the right woman came along?”
“The right woman, eh?” He seems to stare off at the unforeseen possibilities, perhaps even timelines, as he considers this for a moment. “Yes…yes, I believe that if the right woman came along then I could promise her my forever.” He speedily snaps out of his self-induced trance and affirms, “But she’d have to be the right woman.” He arches his eyebrows and gives a pointed look. “And she’d really have to be something to keep me in one place.”
The Brigadier offers a rueful smile. “Yes, staying never has been one of your strong points, has it? Speaking of which, have you decided if you’re staying here or not? Your contract will be up soon and I need to let the top brass know your decision.”
“I haven’t decided yet,” he declares while clasping his hands and shooting him an appraising look. “Besides, it also depends on you. After all, you’ve never been able to stand my antics for too long.”
He concedes this fact with a soft chuckle. “That aside, you’re always welcome here, John. I mean that, antics or no.”
“Thank you, Alistair, that means the world to me.” He rises and begins gathering the remnants of their lunch to take over to the trash bin.
And apparently a world to us as well and possibly a universe, muses the Brigadier. He wears a sad sort of smile as he watches the Doctor move around the room refilling their mugs with tea. I’m going to miss you, old friend, when the time comes for a parting of the ways. I’ve truly come to rely on your wisdom, advice and friendship. His mouth widens into a mischievous grin. So until then, I’ll merely have to comfort myself with a bit of false memories and shared ones from your companions. “Doctor, do you recall that pantomime that we went to a few years ago? The one with the bloke playing Gulliver, and I believe that Rapunzel, a unicorn, the Minotaur and Medusa were also in attendance?
To Be Continued…