"Come on, slowcoaches!" Victoria called over her shoulder as she reached the
summit of the hill. "Or by the time you get here Jamie will have eaten all
the food."

"Now just a minute..." Jamie began.

Victoria giggled. "You know perfectly well I was joking." She looked
around and sighed with contentment. "Isn't it marvellous up here?"

"Not a patch on Scotland," Jamie said automatically.

"Well, you'll just have to put up with the lack of midges and sideways
rain... Hello, Gia. What kept you?"

"I'm not as young as you two," Gia said unconvincingly.

"Really! To hear you anyone would think you were a little old lady who had
to walk with a stick."

"She is walking with a stick," Jamie pointed out, nodding at Gia's hiking
stave. "But I don't think that's the problem. Too much playing with wires and
things and not enough exercise, I'd say."

"Guilty as charged." Gia took off her rucksack and lay down on the grass.
"The others shouldn't be long."

Sure enough, in a few moments, Zoe, Samantha and Isobel appeared.

"What kept you?" Jamie asked.

"We're city girls," Isobel said. She sat down and mopped her forehead. "All
this fresh air isn't good for us."

"What she said," Samantha added.

"I think it's too much of yon chocolate fountain," Jamie said. "It's good
you're not starving yourselves, but..." He looked her up and down. "Maybe
you've been overdoing things a wee bit."

"Jamie!" Victoria protested. "It's extremely impolite to say something like
that to a lady." She looked at Samantha, seemingly measuring her up against
her idea of a 'lady'. "Or any other person, for that matter."

"All right, all right." Jamie ostentatiously turned his back on Victoria
and put his arm round Zoe's shoulders. "So, how d'ye like the countryside?"

"It could be much better organised," Zoe said. "Those paths wind around all
the time. And someone should do something about all those puddles."

"Puddles are fun," Victoria protested. "When I was a little girl I used to
love splashing about in them."

Zoe grimaced. "I suppose you also liked getting scratched by brambles and
stung by nettles? Well, I don't."

"Well, aren't you the wee ray of sunshine?" Jamie squeezed Zoe's shoulder
affectionately in a manner that would have earned anyone else an Osoto Gari
Leg Throw, and looked around the gathering. "Are we getting anything to eat
today, or not?"

"Greedy gannet," Isobel said.

"Maybe we shouldn't let him have anything," said Gia. "Serve him right."

"That sounds like a plan," Zoe added. "Have you got that, Victoria? Don't
give him anything until he behaves better."

"That didn't work last time," Victoria said.

"Well, perhaps we weren't strict enough."

"Now look here..." Jamie began.

"Oh, are we being mean to the poor little piper boy?" Samantha took Jamie
by the arm and sat him down. "Don't worry, Auntie Sam will keep you safe from
those nasty girls. Now you just sit here and be a good boy."

Victoria choked back her laughter.

"Here you are, Auntie Sam," she said, handing out sandwiches. "These ones
for you, and these ones for Jamie, if he behaves nicely. Isobel, here are
yours-- can you pass these ones to Zoe? Gia, you'd better come over here where
I can reach you."

"Cucumber sandwiches," Gia said, looking in the bag she'd received. "Why am
I not surprised?"

"And what, pray, is wrong with cucumber sandwiches?"

"Oh, nothing. It's just they're exactly what I'd expect you to make."

Victoria put her nose in the air. "If you want spam fritters you know where
to get them."

"What's this?" Zoe asked, holding up a square of chocolate biscuit cake.

"Home-made tiffin."

"Really?" Zoe looked at the cake from all angles. "I didn't get the
impression that tiffin was anything like that."

Isobel gave an exaggerated sigh. "What did I tell you last time?"

"You said that 'Carry On Up The Khyber' is a work of fiction and I should
treat nothing in it as historically accurate."

"That's all you know," Jamie said darkly.

Isobel decided to change the subject. "Does anyone fancy tomato soup?" she
asked. "I've got a Thermos." She delved in her backpack, pulled out a flask
and some plastic cups, and filled one. "Don't worry, I didn't make it myself
-- it's tinned. What about you, Gia?"

"Yes, please," Gia said.

"Here you go, then. Anyone else?"

"Me," Samantha said.

"Right you are."

"Are you sure that's wise?" Zoe asked. "Sam can't be trusted with liquids.
She spills them."

"Oh, turn the record over," Samantha said. "OK, I spilt one little drink
on your sailor thing. It washed out all right, so what's the problem?"

"It just so happened that Dark General Secite and his Quirky Miniboss Squad
chose to invade our cosmos on the day my outfit was in the wash," Zoe said.
"I ended up having to fight the forces of evil in a grubby raincoat. I'm sure
it was me that Quirky Miniboss Caanite was laughing at."

In answer, she received only snorts and giggles.

"Oh, you're all just as bad," she said, and started on her sandwiches.

"I've got a question," Victoria said. "I'm not sure who's the right person
to answer it, but: why did Isobel keep making those remarks about Gia and

There was a prolonged, uneasy silence.

"I made a pass at him," Gia said. "At the party. That's what Isobel saw."

"Oh," Victoria said quietly.

"I don't regret it. Sorry if that upsets you, but I don't."

"Well." Victoria sipped at her drink. "If it does upset me, that isn't your
fault. You deserve some fun now and again, just like the rest of us. I suppose
it's only to be expected."

"You didn't ask her if Jamie said yes or no," Samantha pointed out.

"That's none of my business."

"And you're not bothered at all?"

"If I was in the habit of getting bothered whenever Jamie flirted with
other women, I'd be after you with the frying pan every day of the week."

"Yeah, I suppose so. 'Cos it's no secret I'd snog him senseless, first
chance I got."

"Assuming you didn't bump into a good-looking standard lamp first," Isobel
said. "But, Victoria, what would you do if things actually did get serious
with Jamie and one of us? What if he had to choose between you and Sam?"

"Jamie's Choice," Gia said. "There's an idea."

Victoria paused, apparently considering Isobel's question. "I believe the
proper etiquette these days is to suggest a threesome," she said, in her usual
prim tones.

Samantha, who'd been unlucky enough to have a mouthful of soup at the time,
spluttered and nearly choked. The cup fell from her hand.

"You *what*?" she said, in a small voice.

"That's a 'no', then?"

The two looked at each other for a few seconds, until Victoria's carefully
composed air of polite boredom dissolved into giggles.

"If only you could have seen your face," she laughed.

"You evil woman." Samantha joined in the laughter. "You really had me going
there." She glanced over at Jamie. "Hey, are you all right?"

Jamie was holding a handkerchief to his face. "Nosebleed," he said simply.

"Then you shouldn't be thinking such impure thoughts," Victoria said,
still struggling to keep a straight face. "Sam, don't tell me you've got a
nosebleed too?"

"Not a chance," Samantha said. "That's tomato soup." She dabbed at herself
with her own handkerchief, to little avail. "Gone all down my jacket, too.
I bet you waited till my mouth was full on purpose."

"There you are," Zoe said. "I told you giving her soup wasn't a good idea."

"As a moral to our recent adventure, I think that's somewhat deficient,"
Victoria said. She lay back in the grass, and looked up at the sky. "What
else have we learned?"

"How about: Don't try to develop your emotional side. You'll wake up the
next morning in a strange bed and a lot of trouble."

"Sounds about right," Samantha said. "Or what about 'If blowing things up
doesn't solve your problem, blow some more things up'?"

"'The best laid plans of mice and men cannae stand up to a bunch of lassies
in silly outfits,'" Jamie suggested.

"'Silly outfits'?" Isobel repeated. "That's it. Sandwich-confiscating time."

"Too late." Jamie grinned at her. "I've eaten mine already."

"I thought you were unusually quiet. Well, I'll find some other way to
get you. No-one calls my outfit silly and gets away with it. There's a moral
for you. Anything to add to that, Gia?"

"Sorry, I can't come up with nonsense like the rest of you," Gia said. "At
least, not when I'm sober."

Victoria laughed. "I'll put you down for 'in vino veritas', then."

"And what about you?" Jamie asked. "You like stories with morals. What's
your moral for this one?"

"You know what I think about adventures. But I suppose they do give one a
greater appreciation of life. I'm enjoying today all the more, because of
knowing what we went through together."

"You're weird," Samantha said. "Not that I'd want you any different."

"I'll drink to that," Gia said. She solemnly raised her cup of tomato soup.
"Here's to adventure."


"Doctor Who" characters belong to the BBC.
This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion.
"Sailor Who" is the invention of B. K. Willis.<

The End

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