It was strange for the three of them to be in the same room without an argument erupting. Maybe it just went to show how superficial their disagreements really were: habits easily fallen in to day after day and arguments argued for the sake of appearances.
And here they were, her, the Doctor and the Brigadier, seated in his office and each nursing mugs half full of brandy. Liz had offered her beakers for the purpose, but for some reason they'd been wary - as they should, considering the alien substances that found their way through her equipment.
The Doctor had been behaving oddly around them since their return from the drill project Inferno. Nothing outwardly obvious, but Liz had caught him staring at her at odd moments, and studying her and the Brigadier when they spoke together. Frankly it unnerved her a bit.
"What happened," she asked abruptly, breaking the comfortable silence.
"I entered a parallel universe."
"Did you meet our counterparts?" said the Brigadier.
"What were we like?" asked Liz.
The Doctor's eyes travelled from one to the other, seemingly reluctant to disclose his knowledge. "I met you both," he said eventually. "You were both there." And then he looked away, taking a sip of his brandy and looking out of the window.
Liz and the Brigadier exchanged glances, and then Liz shook her head imperceptibly. "I'm glad to be away from that place," she admitted, holding the eye contact. "It was the worst of the scientific world."
"I hardly believe that," he responded humourously. "They were pompous bores, but we've come across worse in the name of science."
Liz simply laughed and raised her mug towards him. "Here's to mad scientists without any earth-shattering plans for world domination."
"You mean that's not your aim?"
"No, I'm just looking to tame a few feral military officers." She raised an eyebrow, daring him to reply, but he simply gulped a mouthful of brandy with an amused smirk.
There was a muffled snort from the Doctor. "I'm not sure which of you is worse," he said, placing his still-full mug on the table beside him. "Now, I really must be off. Coming, Liz?"
"Um... No, Doctor, I'll stay for a while."
"Very well. I'll see you tomorrow."
She looked at the floor and waited for him to leave.
The Brigadier closed the door on the Doctor's retreating back and turned back in to the room. "Was there something in particular, Liz?"
"There was, as a matter of fact." Setting the mug down, she leaned against the edge of his desk. "I've been here long enough, Alistair."
There was a profound silence before he replied. "I had rather hoped you'd stay a bit longer," he hedged.
"I've had enough."
Again, another pause. "Well, in that case, I'd agree with you. You certainly belong somewhere where your talents can be made proper use of."
She wasn't used to straight up compliments from him, but somehow she was touched instead of irritated. "Everyone will get along fine without me," she insisted.
"Of course they will."
Still she couldn't work herself into any state of annoyance. Why wasn't she reacting in the established way? Where was the shield of her sarcasm when she needed it? In the end she resorted to stating the facts. "I'm going now."
"You're not coming back, are you?"
"I don't think so."
He nodded. "I thought as much. And...will I see you again?"
"I doubt it, Alistair."
She could feel his eyes on her, studying her, and it reminded her of the way the Doctor had been watching her all week. She shivered involuntarily and stood up.
"It's been an honour, Alistair," she said smoothly, making for the door.
"Liz." His voice was slightly more forceful. "You can't just leave."
"Actually, I can."
And then he was standing in front of her, his eyes intense. "No. You can't."
She sighed. "I was foolish to think it would be this easy."
"I'm not trying to make this any harder for you. But if we're never going to see each other again, I haven't got much to lose in at least attempting to explain-"
"No. No, please, don't explain it. Just..."
He took a step closer to her and suddenly she could feel the heat of his body close to hers.
It was entirely wrong. Every part of her rational mind screamed that his hands shouldn't be touching her back beneath her clothes and that his lips shouldn't be so close that she could feel his breath on her cheek. And yet her own hands made their way up his chest and round his neck until her fingers ran through his hair and she pulled him towards her.
She was pressed between the wall and his body, desperately pushing herself as close as she could against him, taking comfort in his warmth and strength.
She could feel how close he was to losing control. It was obvious in the way he was kissing her, so hard and so intensely that she barely had a chance to think, and in the way his fingers dug harshly in to the skin of her back. There was something of the tragic romances she so despised playing itself out in his office, the two of them, taking what comfort they could in the fact that their madness was entirely mutual.
For a few moments she let herself be lost in him, pushing the rational responses away and concentrating solely on the feel of his lips on hers, not caring that sense would inevitably prevail and one of them would pull away. In the few minutes that she let herself succumb she was every hated damsel in distress, every love-struck woman that she had ever read about, all rolled into one.
It should have bothered her that she didn't mind.
And then sanity returned, slowly. His hands slipped gently out from under her clothing to rest at her waist, and she eased away from him to stand, not quite touching, a hairsbreadth away from contact with his body.
"You know we can't," she whispered finally. "We can't."
"You have to go, Liz."
And normally she would have argued just for the sake of initiating conflict, but this time she understood what he meant.
"I have to go," she repeated, "and this has to go with me."
He didn't argue, but neither did he agree, and it was obvious that this was one choice he was leaving to her. "Send me your resignation, Liz," he said.
Slowly, she pulled away from him and walked toward the door.
She knew him well enough to know that meant he wished her luck.