❝ A Civil Disturbance: Of Entrances And Egos. ❞
I own neither the Minister, nor his boys. I'm merely borrowing them.

--

"Good evening, Bernard,"

Clasping a folded copy of The Times to his ribcage, Sir Humphrey entered the Minister's antechamber with his customary grace, nodding briefly at the Private Secretary. His greeting, however, fell upon deaf ears; Bernard was still seated behind his desk, hunkered down over a leather-bound folder - the Minister's diary, most probably - with a pen clasped loosely in his right hand, completely unaware of the Under Secretary's presence. With a sharp, pointed cough, however, Humphrey announced himself for the second time, and pursed his lips as Bernard visibly attempted to collect himself.

"Oh - ah - good evening, Sir Humphrey," he pushed himself up onto his feet in a belated gesture of respect, closing the diary and slipping the pen into the inner pocket of his jacket, "I do apologize, I was just, ah--"

"Quite," Humphrey interjected, brushing away whatever excuse he would have been treated to with a vague shake of his head, "Is the Minister free?"

"I'm afraid he's with press officer," Bernard, noting Humphrey's inquisitive glance towards the face of his watch, pressed on with the half-hashed explanation he himself had been given, "Something to do with tomorrow's tabloids, I believe. They've been at it since a half past three,"

"I see," Humphrey sighed, all too familiar with Hacker's fascination with publicity, "Well, I've a meeting with Sir Frank and the Minister's ego does not hold up as a reputable excuse," he turned towards the door, consulting his watch for a second time. As he raised his eyes, preparing to make his exit, he caught an unfathomable expression cross Bernard's face and paused, not through concern but more through sheer exasperation, "What is it, Bernard?"

The Private Secretary regained his look of neutrality quickly, countering the question with a flippant, almost-innocent inquiry of his own, "What's what, Sir Humphrey?"

"Don't play the fool, Bernard. You're distracted, and it's most unbecoming. What's happened?" Humphrey nodded in the direction of Hacker's office, "Has he been exercising his right to free will again?"

"Oh, no," a chuckle, only forced in part, tinted his denial, "Not quite as serious as that, sir. No, I ran into Sir Frank earlier, that's all. In the elevator, you see,"

"Ah," Humphrey allowed himself a thin-lipped smile, smug in his own understanding of the situation, "Say no more. While I've nothing against Frank, per se, impromptu meetings with anybody from the Treasury do tend to confound the uninitiated,"

"Well, yes, but--"

"But nothing, Bernard," Humphrey opened the door, turning back to bid goodbye to the Private Secretary, "Just put it from your mind. Be sure to tell the Minister I called in, won't you?"

"Of course, Sir Humphrey," he nodded, folding himself back into the chair as soon as the Under Secretary closed the door behind him. Instinctively, he ran a hand through his hair, then pulled out the pen once more, repeating the affirmation in a mutter, if only for his own benefit.

"Of course."