Romana gave Leela one last look-over. The sight of her dressed just like a time lord official was rather odd, and Leela seemed to find it just as strange as she itched at her long robes. Her eyes wandered around the room like she was looking for some way to escape. Romana wondered if maybe she should have brought someone else. She didn’t like making Leela uncomfortable; but then again, Leela was the person who made her feel safe and sure of herself.
”Right," Romana said. “I think it's about time.”
Finally, Leela looked at Romana, her frown deepening. “Are you sure you want me in this meeting, Romana? If it is so important—”
"It's not that important. Yes, we have a long-standing trade agreement with Ortiminus III, but I don't much care for Ambassador Prolan himself," Romana said, lowering her voice and casting a cautious glance towards the Ambassador’s office.
Leela spoke quietly in response. “You said that you dread these meetings with him; why, then do you continue having them?"
Romana sighed. "When you're President, Leela, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to. But that’s why I'm glad you're here. At least I don’t have to be alone with him."
A door slid open behind Romana and she turned as a smiling humanoid with four arms and purple skin stepped into the room, flawlessly lowering himself into a bow. “Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, President of the High Council of the Time Lords, Keeper of the Wisdom of—”
“‘President' will do just fine, thank you."
The secretary's smile grew a little wider and a little more strained. “Of course, Madame President. The Ambassador will see you and your...associate now.”
Romana didn't miss the pause or the fact that the secretary eyed Leela with disdain. Strange; she hadn’t known that these people had anything against humans. She glanced over at Leela, but her expression was a cool mask.
"Take no notice," Romana said under her breath as the secretary turned his back to open the door.
“I do not,” Leela said. "It is no different than how I have been treated on Gallifrey. I am always prepared for this, Romana.”
Romana briefly considered all the times Leela had been belittled and ridiculed and was saddened for a moment. Here was Leela, dressed in time lord livery and making herself entirely uncomfortable, enduring this ridicule for her sake.
She'd have to do something really nice for her after this.
The secretary cleared his throat, bringing Romana back to the present. She straightened up and walked through the door with Leela by her side. The secretary closed the door behind them and remained in the other room, leaving Romana and Leela with the man sitting behind a desk that was far too big and ornate to be anything but ostentatious.
Ambassador Prolan stood with a grin that Romana didn’t particularly care for. He swept into a bow that was somehow even lower than his secretary’s and held out his hand. “Madame President, how lovely to see you again. It’s been far too long.”
Romana steeled herself and placed her hand in his, allowing Prolan to delicately kiss the back of her hand. “Yes, quite,” Romana muttered, pulling her hand away as quickly as she could.
Prolan straightened, his smile disappearing as he lay eyes on Leela. He took a good, long sniff, no doubt trying to identify her species, and tried to regain his smile as he met Romana’s eyes again.
“This must be your pet savage that I've heard about. It may wait outside in my secretary’s care—”
"No, she may not," Romana said firmly.
Prolan laughed, a high-pitched sound that set Romana’s teeth on edge. “It's not as if it will understand anything we're talking about, my lady.”
Romana pressed her lips together as several choice replies came to mind, none of them particularly diplomatic. Luckily, Leela spoke first.
"She understands much more than you think, Ambassador.”
"Leela stays with me."
Anger flickered across Prolan’s face for the briefest moment before his expression settled on neutral. He gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk. “Please have a seat, my lady.”
The muscles in his jaw tensed as Leela sat beside Romana, but Prolan said nothing as he took his seat behind his desk. As the talks began, Prolan seemed to forget Leela’s presence entirely. He tried to negotiate the price of the goods he sold to Gallifrey, as he always did, and Romana had to put her foot down and insist that they were already paying him almost twice the standard price for his metal. In the middle of one of Prolan’s arguments, Leela interrupted.
“You have been trade partners with Gallifrey for centuries!” she exclaimed. “They have offered you a fair price and even protection for your people; why then do try to take advantage of them like this?”
The ambassador pointedly didn't look at Leela. ”Madame President, I respectfully ask that this thing be removed from my office.”
Leela stood abruptly. "I am not a thing." She clenched her hands into fists. “Meet my eyes, if you are not a coward."
Slowly, Prolan’s gaze shifted to Leela. He stood from his chair and gripped the edge of his desk. Romana jumped to her feet with consoling words on her lips.
But then Prolan spoke.
"I will meet your eyes, savage, only to tell you that you should know your place.”
Anger rose deep inside of Romana, bubbling like a boiling cauldron as the Ambassador continued.
“You are nothing. Your inferior species is meant for nothing but brute force or pretty adornments. But in the end, your pathetically short life means nothing.”
Romana swallowed as rage spiked within her. Her nails bit into her palms as she clenched her fists.
“So," Prolan finished, “do you have anything else to say, savage?”
Romana glanced over at Leela. Her cheeks were red with indignation, her eyes dangerous. But she was looking right at Romana, and in a moment her expression slackened. With a grace to rival any time lord, Leela sat back down and stared straight at Prolan. “No. I have nothing to say to the likes of you.”
Romana stood frozen, shocked for a moment. Then it hit her that Leela was restraining herself for her sake.
Prolan smirked at Leela. “Just as I said. Nothing.”
And that was the final straw.
Romana planted her feet. “She may not have anything to say, but I do.”
And instead of using incriminating words that would have fallen on deaf ears, this time, Romana took action.
Or, as Ace would have said, she let her fist do the talking.
It collided with the Ambassador’s cheek hard, so hard that the shock travelled up Romana’s arm and Prolan keeled over backwards and fell in a heap with his chair.
“Romana!” Leela was instantly on her feet, mouth open in shock.
Romana shook out her hand, glaring at Prolan lying helpless on the ground and feeling just the tiniest bit pleased. “The deal's off, Ambassador. I'm afraid you'll have to find someone else to trade with from now on.”
Prolan groaned as he sat up, a bright green bruise already forming on his purple cheek. “But you can’t simply—"
“Yes, I can. We'll be going now.” She turned and opened the door. The secretary jumped as Romana strode past him quickly.
“He’ll be fine,” she said over her shoulder.
The secretary's face crumpled with worry and he rushed into the office. Romana didn’t even slow her pace and it took a few seconds for Leela to catch up with her.
“Romana,” she said, her tone full of shock. “Why did you do that? The trade agreement! You said—”
“You're much more important than that, Leela. Besides, you were right. I should have stopped doing business with him a long time ago.” She flexed her fingers and smiled over at Leela. “And I actually rather enjoyed that.”
Leela grinned and burst into laughter. "Did you see his face as he fell over?"
Romana chuckled, recalling the rush of events. “He probably never thought he'd be punched by the High President of Gallifrey."
They laughed all the way to the TARDIS, where Leela immediately threw off her robes and smoothed out her much more fitting tunic and trousers. Even Romana felt relief at the sight of Leela looking so much more like herself.
"Don't ever change, Leela,” she said as she started setting the coordinates, wondering if anyone would try to stop them from leaving.
“Nor you, Romana.”
And though her hand hurt a little and she knew she'd have to smooth things over with the government of Ortiminus III, Romana knew without a doubt that it had been completely worth it.
“Madame President!” Narvin was, of course, waiting just outside of Romana’s TARDIS as she and Leela arrived back on Gallifrey. "I've just received word that the Ambassador’s been attacked." He settled a hard look on Leela "If you expect us to trust you on diplomatic missions—”
"It wasn't her, Narvin," Romana said.
Narvin’s frown deepened. “Then who? They told me that it was you, my lady, but of course they were just trying to…”
Romana looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Oh…oh, no. No, you didn’t—”
Leela laughed, long and hard. "You should have been there, Narvin! I have never seen Romana so angry!”
Narvin’s mouth dropped open. For several seconds, he didn’t do anything but stare.
“Well,” Romana said, “it seems I can check off two firsts today: assaulting a political official and rendering Narvin speechless.”
Leela doubled over in laughter as Narvin sputtered, still unable to speak.
“But-but, my lady—”
Romana couldn’t help but join in with Leela’s contagious laughter as she replied, “I’m sorry, Narvin, but he really is a horrid man. No one likes him, anyway. In fact, I imagine I’ll get some thanks for taking him down a peg or two.”
“It doesn’t matter who likes him; our trade agreement with Ortiminus III—”
“Has been terminated. I trust you to handle the details, Narvin, and I want it made abundantly clear that I will never be seeing Ambassador Prolan ever again after the insults he directed towards Gallifrey’s people.”
“Oh really? And how exactly did he insult us?”
“He insulted Leela. She lives on Gallifrey, doesn’t she?”
Narvin’s gaze flickered to Leela and his expression softened. “Well…I suppose there are ways I can smooth this over.”
“Thank you, Narvin.”
Narvin sighed, shaking his head. “Just please don’t make this a regular occurrence.”
Romana glanced over at Leela and chuckled. “I can’t make any promises.”