"Here you go," Samantha said, distributing drinks. "Singapore Sling for
Isobel. Are you sure you're well enough for that?"
"Liz says I've made a complete recovery," Isobel said smugly. "So I can
get as drunk as I like."
"Water for you, Doctor, and I made sure it wasn't Spring of Drowned
anything. Who wanted the fruit juice with the funny name?"
"The isotonic summer fruit beverage?" Zoe asked. "That would be Gia. She's
"I bet it's never been near a real summer fruit in its life. Weird muck.
Why would anyone want a drink like that?"
"You're drinking that Babycham stuff," Jamie pointed out. "And that's not
a proper drink, either. It's just squashed rotten pears."
"I'll take it out to her," Victoria said.
"Thanks." Samantha handed her the glass, her mind on other things. "And as
for you, Jamie McCrimmon, if you think Babycham isn't a proper drink you try
it and I'll match you glass for glass and we'll see who ends up under the
Victoria left the incipient argument and quietly walked out to the front
of the Round, where the Proprietor had placed a few picnic tables so that
patrons could enjoy the sun (when applicable) and the splendid view of the
car park (always). At the moment, the sun was certainly not applicable, and
the only person sitting at any of the tables was Gia.
"I've brought you your drink," Victoria said, sitting on the bench beside
Victoria waited a decent interval, taking the occasional sip from her own
"Gia," she eventually said. "What's wrong?"
"Don't be silly. It's something to do with that department store. You've
been funny ever since."
Gia sighed. "It's that obvious?"
"I can tell. Whatever it is, I think it would do you good to talk about
it. I promise I won't laugh at you."
"Well. I thought sorting out that shop would be an adventure, and it would
be fun. Respectively, it was; and it wasn't."
"No. Adventures usually aren't. At least, that's my view. Jamie and the
others seem to handle them better."
"Then I killed one of those checkout attendants, whoever or whatever they
were. I know I didn't mean to, and it was in self-defence, but that doesn't
mean it didn't happen."
Victoria nodded understandingly.
"I haven't killed before. At least not face to face. And seeing her face
fall down the Uncanny Valley right in front of me... I can still hear her
"You'll get over it in time," Victoria said gently.
"So all the books say. The thing is, I've always been able to control my
emotions. And suddenly I couldn't. It's probably because of that that I made
a complete mess of the business with Jamie."
"You mean, when you didn't shoot him? I don't think any of us could have
done that, even if we'd known it wouldn't kill him -- and you didn't know
"I didn't do anything. Victoria, I froze. I could have tried to disarm
him, or make a run for it, or throw something at him, and I just stood
there. He got me, and nearly got you as well. Up to now, I've always been
able to deal with whatever situation I was in. And then I came up against
this, and failed utterly."
Victoria put her hand on Gia's arm. "These things happen. We just have to
pick up the pieces afterwards. Anyway, it's happened to all of the rest of
us at one time or another. If you do decide to tell everyone how you feel,
they'll understand. Don't stay out here by yourself and brood."
"I was wondering whether it's still a good idea for me to hang around with
you," Gia said. "I don't want to be the unreliable woman who keeps getting
everyone else into trouble."
"Don't be silly." Victoria couldn't resist smiling at the thought. "That's
my job and I'm not going to let you take it." She rose to her feet. "Now,
come in with everyone. Even if you have to listen yet again to Samantha
telling us all about her and Zoe climbing about in the lift shaft."
Gia, too, got to her feet.
"I must admit," she said, "You lot do have one good reason to keep me
"I'm the only one who can canonically drive a car." She gave a reluctant
half-smile. "Designated driver. That's about all I'm fit for."
"You're still talking nonsense," Victoria said. "But as long as you come
in with us now, I shan't complain."
Arm in arm, they walked back into the Round.
- "Doctor Who" characters (and the Eliott sisters) belong to the BBC.
- ArnCo, and the predatory shop, derive from Terry Pratchett.
- This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion.
- The Society for the Prevention of Chain Stores was invented by Vicky Jewitt.
- Julia the Saleslady, Francois and Charlotte were created by BKWillis.