Things you learn because you're told it will "come in handy someday."

Latin.

The Brigadier put up with his mandatory schooling patiently—mostly because his generation would really prefer the sweet comfort of death rather than quarrel with the elders—the mindset of which held that 'corporal punishment' had gone down a tragic notch since the Second Boer War. You could still find a few old fossils that waxed nostalgic over the bygone days of anthills and honey.

Many were the days in which anthills and honey would have been a far sweeter fate than "Conversational Latin" followed by "Discourses in Latin," and finally, "How to Win an Argument against a Greek—in Latin." (That last one was always implied to be someone rather boring and low on young Alastair's list—like Aristotle. Never anyone interesting like Heraclitus)

But the Brigadier had never once doubted the deathless hours were wasted—partly because premonition was not a famous quality of his father's family, and also because one truthfully never DID know what might come in handy someday.

In his first 24 months of UNIT, the Doctor had demonstrated his wild, white head was capable of hiding the most broadly outrageously diverse bag of tricks: Every field of learning possible on Earth, and then some. It was doubtful any of this staggering knowledge would have ever been found, if he hadn't been forced into the company of UNIT. On the other hand, a suspicion was proved correct when he got along with the likes of Jo Grant and Sarah Smith far better than Liz. The Doctor was at heart a natural teacher, and his burning ache to teach others was a perpetual wound unable to heal itself with those who (alas) were capable of questioning his every move with intelligence and logic. Even Zoe, who had tendencies to this behavior, looked to the Doctor as a guide and that was something Liz would not do.

The Brig felt that unlike too many overly-educated brains, the Doctor's was not going to use his to get in the way…mostly…of a job. That made him unique. So he put up with the strange yet likeable alien's bluster and name-calling, and constant digs (almost made him nostalgic for military school and family reunions), and he listened to it all with a twinkle in his eye, imagining the Doctor as a small boy, forced into learning Latin.

The fact that the Doctor he first knew—this one—taught Winston Churchill Latin wasn't astonishing at all—it was the fact that Churchill let a shabby little scarecrow get within three yards of his proper person long enough to discourse (he had muttered something about Players).

It was all (as was so often) a matter of perspective, wasn't it?

Now, years and trillions of light-years—and rather too many galaxies away from home and UNIT and Geneva and Peru and his school, he was sitting amidst all-too-familiar circumstances.

Surrounded by pretentious aliens in glittering and awkward robes, being the only Earther in the room (well, there was the cat), listening to them talk, and what ho, there's the Doctor in the room as well.

What fun.

The Brigadier tried to pay some courtesy of attention to the buzzing flying thick and fast about them, but he could be forgiven for not doing a full job. For one thing, he was human and a lot of the words were striking him as amazingly puffed. That made his brain want to shut itself off in an attempt to protect the rest of his sanity. So he was spending rather more than usual amounts of his brain-matter telling said brain-matter to get a grip, man, and look alive, our life may depend on it!

His brain (which only grew more pessimistically acerbic with every year, just as a sycamore got less barky and more ironlike with each annual ring), had no respect for his orders, and told him in no uncertain terms that "life" was a poor argument indeed if it meant listening to much more of the thinly-clad hysteria dashing about the banquet room with all the dignity of naked freshmen during Fraternity Hazing Week.

The Brig told his brain the circumstances of their existence did not require their permission or approval, so it was time to man it up.

His brain told him to shut up, because if he'd been all that intelligent he wouldn't have had that torrid affair with Persephone in the first place.

The Brig decided enough was enough, and it was time to show his brain who was boss, anyway. With a cool detachment he leafed through his mental copy of SCHOOLBOY'S GUIDE TO LATIN, and opened the first salvo with the first, deathless sentence they had to learn.

"Cornelia est puella."

"Cornelia is a girl."

His brain fled, shrieking in wounded outrage at the underhanded tactics.

"That's what you get for messing with me," The Brig thought at his intellectual house—and was more than satisfied to see there was no answer. His brain was cowering in the corner, licking its wounds and fending off flashbacks to grim-faced nuns with metal-backed rulers.

In other words, it was keeping quiet.

Ah, bliss.

"There you are." The old soldier scowled as he helped the Doctor back down to the floor—sparing a glare to the other Time Lords, who didn't know if they should talk to him, or the Doctor, or say something about the slowly-cooling corpse on the floor. "Sit down so I can take a look at that."

"Who's the Doctor around here?" The little Time Lord huffed. It was exactly the question the Brigadier wanted to ask of the others in the room, but he had long given up on any common sense here. With every passing moment, every half-baked theory he had about the Doctor's race was bearing unpleasantly affirmative proofs.

"Bloody hell, man. It's just a head wound." He plopped him down at the nearest joke of a reclining couch and stole the nearest water goblet to press in his hands. "Small sips, slowly, while I take another look. We might as well make ourselves useful whilst they chat amongst themselves about what to do or what not to do, or what should we do…well, you know." He tutted over the leaking gash. "The usual routine."

"Glmphmph."

"Right." The Brigadier sighed and held up a selection of fingers. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Eleven in binary."

"Still wrong." The Brigadier waggled the overlooked appendage. "For shame, you missed our crowning achievement there, Doctor. Things haven't been the same since we came up with the Opposable Model."

"You humans haven't had a crowning achievement since you got out of the egg-laying stage." The Doctor sniffed.

"I'm only arguing with you because that's a matter for the women. Experts, you know. We men stick to other matters." The Brig sighed and pulled out the little sleeve-model stitch Kit. Again. "How long have you had that crack on the head, anyway?"

"What crack on the head?"

"The crack on the head that's under the latest crack on the head—the latest being the one you got right after meeting up with Rassilon."

"Rassilon who?"

The Brigadier sighed again, and caught on to the panoply of expressions in the room. It would seem that "bemused to horrify" was the facial fashion accessory for the season.

"Don't mind him." He assured Dusty Voice. "Rather a bad knock on the head after Rassilon kicked us out of the Death Zone."

"You…were just in the Death Zone?" Someone squeaked.

"Er…well…no, not as humans reckon time…" Oh, blast. He fobbed it all off with a shrug. Force of habit, that. "We were dropped in the Death Zone, but Rassilon got us out when we solved his Game…and we wound up back on Earth at the moment when we were saying good-bye again, and then bang, we're back in the TARDIS headed here only there's some sort of turbulence and when whoever it was controlling the TARDIS braked it, he," The Brig ignored the vapours at this little story, and pointed at the silvery grey mop below his chin, "Went flying like a Frisbee into the opposite wall." An awful thought came to him and he looked down. "Do you have frisbees on Gallifrey? Pluto Platters? Flying pie pans from Yale?"

"I have no idea. I'd have to ask that moron Braxatiel. He collects art."

"It's not art, Doctor, its science. You have no idea how much the army boffins are willing to pay for a gross of frisbees. Just the thing for wind tunnel experiments."

(overheard in the background):

"Should we let the human touch him?"

"He seems to know what he's doing."

"When was the last time you looked at Earth in the TSV?"

The party-crashing cat suddenly scarpered from behind a dark corner, took a closer look at the goings-on, and ran back. The Brig gave it a mental salute.

"Let's serve the last courses. No need to be uncivilised."

If this was truly an uncivilised moment, they'd use their head and serve dessert first. The Brigadier knew this as not just nostalgia for working with the Welsh; it was also common sense. Dessert had the proportionately highest level of sugars and carbohydrates—which one needed when activating the fight or flight reflex and it looked like they would be about to do just that very soon.

"There. You're in luck, Doctor. Only one stitch. Take you back to the TARDIS for a few scans, right?"

"Right." The Doctor agreed blankly.

The Brigadier tapped him on the shoulder. "Best drink your water. It may be your last taste of the tepidarium until you return."

"If we return." Was the annoyed correction. "The longer I'm with this lot, the less rational the missions get."

"This doesn't seem too irrational." The Brigadier mused thoughtfully as he watched the corpse's neat removal. "Going to go see what killed the poor fellow sounds humanitarian to me."

"It means going back to the Death Zone."

"Yes...yes you did mention that."

"This interrupts your Timestream, Brigadier." The Doctor was now holding his head in his hands. He barely looked up as he grabbed something off the dessert-platter at random and stuffed it in his mouth. "They'll have to get you copied into the Matrix and everything."

"Is it like getting American vaccines? Because those are ruddy awful. Had a round of those before we went on a snake-hunting expedition in the Amazon and next thing you knew, all the lads were running five miles into the jungle without needing to stop and take a breath. You can't do that with 45-pounds of gear on your back unless something nefarious is in the brew."

"Probably."

"Right. Just everyone remember I only have one heart and two lungs."

"Did you find the snake?"

"Well, no, not technically..."

"How can you not be technical? You either found it or you didn't."

"It found us first." He shuddered, miming a snake that was easily longer than the room, and wide enough to swallow a giraffe. "The good news is, we found out what happened to all the other 'vanished' members of UNIT."

"Oh, my word. I'm glad you made it out."

"Of course I made it out. I picked my men carefully-unlike some hidebound old idiots I might not mention."

"Best of the best?"

"Welll...best for that situation." The Brig cleared his throat. "Irish."

"Irish?"

"Irish. Everyone was Irish."

"Er... You took a platoon of Irish with you on a giant snake-hunting expedition?"

"Have you seen the Irish react to a common blindworm?" The Brig wanted to know. "They don't get along with snakes at all, Doctor. Just the thing when you're in a visually-obscured jungle. Paranoia is all well and good when you're up against a supreme predator, but when you're up against anything slithery, there's nothing like a band of white-faced Ophidiophobic Irishmen to shoot first and ask questions later." The Brig smiled at fond memories. "I made sure they all had grenade launchers. There wasn't enough left of the thing for a DNA sample-another bonus. Last thing we needed was godawful clones crawling about."

You...took..."

"It didn't get within twenty feet of our campsite." The Brig was still smiling. "I made sure my first wife's relatives were in the group, too." The smile was stuck tight. "Came in handy when that drashig wound up in the Thames..."

What was that?

The human scowled slightly. His eyes narrowed as he watched the little cat stalk under the ornate chairs and suddenly pounce.

It emerged, flushed with triumph, and trotted with obnoxious feline pride past everyone, the corpse of its prize swaying arhythmically in its jaws. The Brigadier caught the flash of coloration that made him think of his mother's checkerlilies, only there were long, gossamer wings at the back, and…and…

And…

The Brigadier suddenly looked down. Yes, suspicion confirmed.

"Doctor." He hissed.

The Doctor cringed. "I'm not deaf, Brigadier!" He hissed back.

The Brigadier had barely spoken—well, he hoped so. "Doctor, that final round of dessert they just gave us."

"Yes?" The Doctor was nervously watching the wrap-up for the final bit of the evening, his fingers twisting in his palms.

The Brigadier wordlessly pushed the remaining one-half of the nutrisphere under his nose.

Ah, well, at least it shocked the little fellow out of whatever funk his brains were in.

The Doctor sucked in his breath in a looong gasp, almost cross-eyed as he gawked at the evidence. "I told you not to eat the round ones!" He clapped his hands to the sides of his face in agitation.

"You also told me not to refuse anything the CIA gave me because they might exile me to—"

"All right! All right!"

The Doctor, as usual when wearing this particular model of reflexes, impulse and reaction, moved swiftly. He grabbed the old soldier, spun him to 45-degrees, and propelled him with startling force out the room, through the doorway, down the hall and straight to the TARDIS.

"So sorry! Coming through! Medical issue! See you later! Oh, hello, Koobnopripilitashtikthelian! Can't stay! Must dash! Time and Tide, you know!"

"What's a Tide?" The bewildered Time Lord asked in their wake.