“Well, another adventure, another planet,” Ian said as he and Barbara headed into the living quarters of the TARDIS. “It’s strange how normal it feels to me now.”
“Don’t tell me it’s becoming a routine, Ian,” Barbara replied as they both collapsed onto the sofa. It was always a relief after a dangerous trip to rest for a while on the Doctor’s best furniture.
“Not a routine exactly, but you have to admit we’re becoming quite the professional adventurers, Barbara, a long way from the unwilling ones eh?” He nudged her playfully.
“I’ve certainly done things I never expected and all the places we’ve seen- Marinus, the Sense-sphere, ancient Rome-”
“-And now a mission on Vortis under my belt…if I had one.”
With a heavy sigh, Barbara made her way to the alcove where the small food machine stood. She typed in a sequence of numbers that she seemed to know by heart and then waited. “I’m even getting used to eating out of packets.”
There was a sudden bleep and she picked up two silver square packets from the tray. She handed one to Ian. “Here, a well-deserved treat.”
“What is it?”
“Marmite toast flavour. I remember on Earth, whenever I got home after a night out or a parents evening, I craved a cup of tea and a slice of marmite toast.”
Ian frowned. “Afraid I can’t bear the stuff, Barbara. Smells horrid too.”
“Well I’m sorry but if you don’t like marmite then I’m afraid we can’t be friends.” She giggled and took a bite out of the gooey cube.
Ian laughed and bit into his own. “Ah well, I can’t have that. I’ll have to force it down.” He took another bite and grimaced before letting out a smirk. “Anyway, surely you’re not comparing the pupils at Coal Hill School to the likes of the Daleks or Voords?”
She bit her lip. “The year three’s maybe.”
Laughter overcame them and they fell back upon the sofa again, leaning against one another, relaxed and content, settled in and no longer the same people they were when they first sat there all that time ago. Then they had sat upright, scared and unsure, a million worries racing through their minds. Now there were still worries but it wasn’t quite the same fear.
“I don’t know, Ian. Sometimes I feel I’m in a dream world and at any moment I’ll wake up.”
She let out a yelp as Ian pinched her on the arm.
“No, you’re very much awake. All you’ve achieved is very real, Barbara. And I must say, you quite saved all of us back there on Vortis. Can you imagine having done that so well when we landed on Skaro?”
“No, I can’t. And what about you leading those Optera into the light? You looked like a nursery teacher on a day trip with your class.”
He laughed. “It must have been quite the image. It’s certainly not something I considered when I went into teaching science.”
“They latched onto you like you were a mother hen.” She began to laugh loudly, hitting Ian playfully and highly amused at his expense.
“Very funny, very funny.”
“At least you know you’ll make a fine parent.”
“Ah yes, alien insects, human children, it’s all the same.”
“I’m not sure we’ll even get home to have children anyway.”
There was a sudden awkward silence and Ian placed his hand on top of hers and she didn’t move away. He wasn’t sure if she had meant she would like to have children separately or together but either way he always enjoyed any human conversation with his closest friend. Oh, how their relationship had evolved. How much it had to evolve still.
“You’d be an excellent mother, Barbara, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen. Who knows what our future holds? Who knows what our past holds either?”
Their eyes met for a moment and Barbara saw a twinkle in Ian’s blue eyes. They were so inviting and so warm and she saw a future for herself with him, not that she could tell him. She wasn’t ready for anything like that, certainly not on an alien ship but there was something there and it was something hard to control. As they leaned in toward each other, there was a sudden bang and a crash, the door flinging open and they were greeted with the excitable presence of Vicki.
“Are you ready to see where we’ve landed?” she said, her voice enthused and high-pitched. She was always ready for another adventure. She looked the teachers up and down and then giggled as they stood up and neatened themselves.
“Am I…interrupting something?”
“Of course not.” Barbara folded her arms. “Looks like no rest for the wicked.”
“Well come on then, oh, and by the way don’t trip over the ducks.”
“We won’t,” Ian said and then grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute…ducks?”
“Yes, there’s a load of them following the Doctor around the console.”
“How on earth did they get in?” Barbara said, glaring at Vicki, knowing full well she had something, if not everything, to do with it.
“I’m not saying a word until I have a lawyer present.” And with that the young girl was gone.
“New crisis,” Ian said with a smile, “though one with ducks makes a nice change, much cuddlier.”
“Unless they’re not normal ducks! Perhaps we better go and check on those two.”
Arriving in the console room, they found the Doctor hunched over, waddling around the room with a row of ducklings following him in single file. They were quacking noisily and he was flapping his arms in either instruction or irritation- it was hard to tell the difference.
“Oh, how infuriating,” he said. “Duck off, meddlesome feathery things!”
Ian and Barbara laughed as they continued to watch the scene. Barbara pulled Ian aside.
“Ian, thank you for being here.”
“I haven’t much choice.”
“You know what I mean. Through all the chaos, whether it’s historical villains or Daleks or fluffy ducks, I don’t know if I could do this without you.”
“Oh yes you could. You can do anything.”
“I’ll rephrase it then. I wouldn’t want to do it without you.” Her hand found his. “I rely on you for your friendship and love.”
Ian gulped. Had Barbara just used the word love? She probably meant it in platonic terms but whatever it was, it meant an enormous amount to him. She trusted him. She needed him. And he needed her too. “I feel the same. And we need two of us to look after these other not so reliable two.”