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Something had to be done, things couldn't go on as they were. It was a risk but anything was better then being under the cringe making ministrations of Ms Grant and Sargent Benton. The Doctor didn't help either, forever asking about his health and offering to do massagers he had learnt on sigma five. Or worse still trying to get him to go in that blasted TARDIS so he could visit some healing master on Draklor Prime!

So he had taken two weeks sick leave. Carol Bell, the only person who could be trusted not to tell the Doctor where he was going, had helped him plan this get away! She was also the only person to have the number of the pager he carried in his pocket.

As soon as his senior staff had headed for the briefing room, where Major Carslaw was going to update everyone on the new computer system, they had put their plan into action.

He told Yates he would be along as soon as he had finished his call to Sir John and to start the meeting without him. He radioed Bell to check she was ready, then after giving them five minutes to get the meeting started headed to reception to sign out. That morning on the pretext of visiting the dentist Corporal Bell had collected the Brigadier's case from his flat. As her car drew up at the front entrance of UNIT HQ he climbed in and gave a sigh of relief. He hadn't even changed out of his uniform, there mustn't be the slightest indication that he was going to be taking a vacation! Not unless he wanted the Doctor and Miss Grant tagging along, and this vacation was about escaping from their ministrations!

Carol drove him quickly and efficiently to Victoria station then helped him board the train.

“You're sure you'll be alright getting off Sir?” Carol asked uncertainly.

He'd shot her an irritated look then, smiled seeing her genuine concern!

“I'll manage, Corporal! You have those sealed orders for Captain Yates?”

“Yes, sir!”

“And you know how to contact me if necessary?”

“Yes sir, both primary and back up contacts sir!”

“And thank you, Carol, for all your help!” he said smiling.

She nodded and smiled back. “You have a good holiday sir, and you have my home number when you want to contact me for updates!”

The Brigadier grinned, his adjutant knew him so well.

“I'm sure once he knows you've given him the slip the Doctor will be running a trace on all calls into HQ!” Carol added.

The Brigadier smiled. “I'm sure he will, and I'm sure he'll be like a bear with a sore head when he doesn't discover where I am!”

Carol saluted him as the train set off and the Brigadier raised a hand in acknowledgement.

He had enjoyed the journey, just relaxing, no one, giving him concerned looks if he winced with pain, no one bringing him cups of tea and asking him if he was alright, no one treating him like he was made of glass.

The train’s guard had noted his uniform and walking sticks as he checked the tickets.

“Been in the wars sir?” he enquired.

The Brigadier smiled resignedly.

“Zigged when I should have zagged!” he said ruefully.

The guard nodded. “That can be dangerous in your line of work sir!”

When the train arrived at Brighton the guard was there to help him with his case and even found a porter to take his bag to the taxi rank.

Alistair smiled and politely thanked the porter as he tipped him, but once again inside he was having to hide his irritation. He hated being treated like an invalid!

Carol was signing back into UNIT HQ when she was stopped by Captain Yates, “Err Corporal where's the Brigadier? Sargent Walters says he left with you in your car!”

Carol gave her superior officer a salute and a quick smile. “Yes, Sir, I was returning from the dentist when the Brigadier contacted me. He requested I collect him at the door with his car asap. I told him I would need to go to the garage to get the staff car, as I was in my own vehicle. But he said my car would do as he only wanted to go to the British Library, I believe he was meeting Sir John there!”

The Doctor, who had just come to ask the captain if he’d found the Brigadier yet, heard this exchange and frowned.

The captain was about to ask her something when the Doctor chipped in.

“Has something happened at the Library? Is it wise, the dratted man running off like that without us to investigate! Typical that's how he got hurt in the first place!”

Jo had joined them, she glanced at the Doctor astonished at his statement.

“He got hurt, because that stun thing you built malfunctioned and was firing everywhere! If the Brig hadn't rugby tackled me to the ground I don't think...”

“Yes, yes, Jo!” The Doctor cut her off, irritably.

Mike and Jo exchanged a knowing look. The Doctor was never one to admit he’d made a mistake. The fact that his mistake had nearly killed Jo and seriously injured the Brigadier didn't help.

“So why did Sir John want to see him?” the Doctor asked curtly.

Captain Yates had been about to ask the same question and gave the Time Lord a frustrated look.

“I’ve no idea Doctor! He just asked me to drop him off outside the main entrance! Then thanked me and told me to claim for my mileage. He said not to wait, as Sir John would drop him back at HQ!”

Carol smiled at them all, “If that is all Sir,” she said to Captain Yates, “I have this morning’s work to catch up on!”

Carol unlocked the door to the Brigadier’s outer office and the Doctor barged past her, heading into the Brigadier's private office!

Carol was about to object, when Jo squeezed her arm.

“Don’t waste your breath,” she said quietly “I’ll make sure he doesn't pry into anything he shouldn't!”

They both could hear the Doctor’s raised voice as he was using the Brigadier’s telephone.

“What do you mean you don't think Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is there, you could hardly miss him, he arrived within the last hour!”

The Doctor’s frown deepened as he listened.

“Describe him!” he spluttered. “Tall, black hair, wearing an Army officers uniform, carrying a stupid little stick under his arm, oh and he has a silly little mustache! What do you mean, no one like that..! Well, get Sir John Sudbury to the phone! Sir John isn't there either! Are you sure!” He listened again then slammed down the receiver.

Muttering about inefficient idiots he started flicking through the roller index on the Brigadier's desk.

“Doctor?” Jo asked.

The Doctor was dialling a number, as Jo was about to speak again he raised a finger to silence her.

“Could I speak to Sir John please, tell him it’s the Doctor!” he stopped and listened.

“Not in, does he have a meeting scheduled at the British Library by any chance? Oh, he, hasn't, he’s at his club! Right thank you!”

The Doctor dialled another number, one he knew well.

“Doctor, what are you doing?” Jo asked.

“Just checking ... Arrr Robert’s, its the Doctor! Yes quite well thank you for asking, is Sir John there? Having an early lunch you say!”

Jo saw the Doctor’s face relax from its worried frown.

“Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart isn't with him, is he by any chance?”

The frown returned at the reply he received.

“I need to speak to Sir John, yes, it is important!” the Doctor said irritably.

Jo was watching the Doctor worriedly when she heard Mike’s voice in the outer office.

As she got there Mike was looking at a sheet of paper.

“It was in the third folder on my desk Sir, with a note telling me to give you the letter as soon as I found it. The Brigadier must have put it there this morning before he left!” Carol was telling him.

Jo quickly read the letter Mike was holding and smiled, crafty old Brig, she thought.

She lent back into the Brigadier's office a smile on her face.

“Panic over Doctor, we know where the Brigadier is, well sort of!”

The Brigadier had changed out of his uniform into a comfortable pair of slacks and a shirt and blazer as soon as he had got to his room. He was looking forward to dinner, the hotel had a reputation for outstanding food. That was one of the reasons he had chosen to come here instead of visiting family in Scotland. All he really required to aid his recovery was rest, sea air and some really good meals.

He thought back to the last time he had stayed in a hotel in Brighton, it hadn't been the Metropolitan, he wished it could have been but he'd not had the funds. About to be shipped out to Libya he had had to buy new uniforms. The tailors bill for complete No.4, No 7 and Mess, uniforms had been eye watering. So he had only been able to afford a weekend in a small hotel just down from the pier. But Doris hadn't minded. At least it had been a step up from their first tryst, under the pier. He'd been rather shocked by her suggestion that first time, but, Doris had always been such a game girl! He smiled remembering that evening!

They had first met on a blind date. She was ten years younger then him just 19. At the end of that first evening they had shared a kiss and arranged to meet up again. Newly promoted to Major he had been flattered that the, bright, spirited, young woman wanted to be with him. Doris was hell bent on fun! For a serious young soldier, who had always been rather shy with women, he found her both thrilling and confusing. He'd thought her too young to be taking their friendship to a physical level, especially as he was due to be shipped out to Africa in the next few weeks. But Doris had other ideas! And on their last date before being shipped out he was rather taken aback when Doris had offered herself to him, and made refusal the last thing he was capable of!

Afterwards he had decided to ask her to marry him, but he knew his next posting was dangerous. He had explained about going to Africa for six months. Then explained that his job wasn't one that was easy for wives, who were left behind for months on end! Then had tentatively suggested that maybe they should get engaged!

He didn't know if he was hurt or relieved when she'd laughed at him!

“Oh, Alistair, you are sweet, but we don't have to marry just because we've made love! It's been fun, but I'm not the marrying type!”

She'd kissed him again and they had spent the rest of the evening on the pier and had parted amicably!

Their next meeting had been almost eight years later and once again in Brighton. He was there to meet a contact at the behest of Major General Hamilton. But the contact had failed to show, being delayed by 48 hours. On Hamilton being informed of that he was instructed to return home and go back to Brighton on the Monday. Alistair was tired and fed up, so had decided to take a walk down the front.

He had been sat on the pier for only a few minutes thinking about that last evening with Doris when three young women had walked by. He was still looking out to sea when one of the young women had walked back and sat down next to him, and in a familiar voice asked.

“Is this seat taken Major?”

He had looked around shocked, he wasn't in uniform and that voice, and there she was the woman he had been day dreaming about. All grown up and smiling at him.

She leaned in for a kiss! But stopped as he started to speak!

“Err, it's Colonel now he said, well Lieutenant Colonel!”

Doris laughed,

“Well, Lieutenant Colonel, is there a Mrs Lieutenant Colonel, or a future Mrs Lieutenant Colonel, who will object to two old friends kissing?” she asked huskily.

Alistair just shook his head and found himself kissing the young woman who his dreams often centred around.

After that kiss any thoughts of returning to London had gone out of his head, and they had spent the weekend in the Empire Hotel. At the end of the two days they had exchanged addresses and promised to write to each other. A promise he had meant to keep! But the demands on his time organising his command in Libya, then being brought back to the UK after the Yeti attacks in London had prevented him writing to Doris. And any letters she may have sent never caught up with him!

Besides Doris had said she wasn't the marrying kind, but she had bought him a watch. He never understood why. But he treasured it! Sometimes he wondered if he had asked her to marry him again, would she have accepted his proposal? But by the time he had sorted his life out again he heard that she had married someone else!

The meal had indeed been excellent, he was sitting enjoying a post dinner Brandy. The dining room was busy for a Monday evening.

Alistair’s little table was sort of tucked away near the exit to the cloakrooms. He smiled thinking about that. He suspected that solitary diners must look a bit depressing to the crowds of happy couples and family groups and were best kept hidden away. Suddenly he felt rather sad and lonely, just three years ago he would have been part of one such family group, Fiona, Kate and he.. But they had never come to Brighton together and he supposed that was another reason he had decided to spend his sick leave here. None of his memories of Brighton included Fiona or Kate!

He looked at his watch 20:00, time to check in with Carol Bell.

He picked up his sticks and headed for the pay phone outside the cloakroom.

“No sir no problems to report!” the young woman said. “Captain Yates was a little surprised by the orders, but Colonel Konrad in Geneva reassured him that he could call on him at any time for advice!”

Alistair smiled Kurt was a good man, he would be aware Alistair had left someone who could contact him.

“Did the Doctor ask where you had driven me to?”

“Yes sir, I stuck to the story, I told him you had asked me to drop you off at the British Library, as you were meeting Sir John there. And that Sir John was going to bring you back to HQ.”

“And he contacted Sir John?”

“Oh yes sir! Used the phone in your office!”

Alistair smiled, “Did he find the timetable for the London to Edinburgh trains, that I left in my desk draw?”

He could almost see Carol's grin.

“Yes, sir, I caught him looking in the draw, claimed he was looking for a pencil. But I saw him slip the timetable into his pocket!”

Alistair grinned.

“Oh, he's been ringing around hotels in Edinburgh most of the Afternoon! I expect when I get in in the morning he will have gone through your address book. I brought your best bottle of Scotch home with me sir. I just left the Highland Mist for the Doctor!”

Alistair barked a laugh!

“Thank you Carol, I'll check in with you in a couple of days. Make sure the Doctor sees the Aberdeen post card when it arrives. It should be with you on Thursday!”

“Of course sir!”

“Good night and thank you again, Carol!”

He always kept a few post cards, they were left overs from his time with Fiona. If ever he needed a cover story, he would put a brief note on one of the postcards and dispatch it to the appropriate friend, who would drop it into the post! He imagined that Duffer, up in Aberdeen, would think that he had a girl on the staff he was trying to pull a fast one on. He laughed again at the thought of what Duffer would think if he knew he was trying to misdirect an Alien!

He returned to his room.

Sitting on the bed he picked up the bedside phone, time to see if his main reason for choosing Brighton as his destination was going to bear fruit. He dialled a number he hadn't used in years.

The phone on the other end rang six times an Alistair was about to replace the receiver. Then a female voice answered.

“Pycombe 691172”

Suddenly he wasn't sure what he was going to say, in fact he almost put the phone down until he heard the worried tone in her voice.

“Who is this?”

“Err, is that Doris?“

There was a stunned pause then a reply.

“Alistair, is that you?” she asked the surprise evident in her voice.

“Yes, I just thought I’d...” he didn't know what to say, in fact he was half expecting her to slam the phone down.

“How wonderful to hear from you. How are you keeping?”

He felt elated at the joy evident in her voice. He glanced over towards the mirror on the wall opposite and saw the image of a gaunt looking man who needed a walking stick to walk from one end of the room to the other!

“In one piece!” he said jokingly.

“And you?” he asked.

“Oh fine, busy working on my next book!”

“The thing is Doris, I’ve got a couple of weeks leave and I was wondering, if you’ve got the time, if we could meet up! I noticed there's a Truffaunt’s season on here, Triez sur le Painiste is the main feature on Wednesday!”

He knew Doris loved French films and Truffaunt’s films in particular.

“Are you in Brighton?” she asked.

He felt rather embarrassed at admitting he was, he hoped she didn't think he was....

“Yes!” he admitted as he realised the pause was going on too long.

“I saw they were having a classic French film festival, last time I was there, but we decided not to go!”

Alistair’s heart sank at the, we, of course Doris would have someone, she wasn't just sitting at home waiting for some fickle soldier to call whenever he was at a loose end.

“But, Rita, doesn't enjoy reading the subtitles!” he heard her say.

Rita, her sister. Relief flooded through him.

“So, can I treat you to lunch on Wednesday and we could take in the film afterwards?”

There was a long pause, that again was causing Alistair to worry.

“How about, you buy me lunch tomorrow and we take in the whole season?”

Alistair’s heart leapt.

“Can our room have a sea view this time, Alistair?” she whispered.

“It will have! I’m staying at the Metropolitan!”

“See you in the morning,” she said huskily “I’m so glad you rang!”

He sat on the bed feeling both elated and stunned. He hadn't expected this amazing outcome.

He rang down to reception to change his booking! Luckily at this time of the year hotels on the Brighton sea front were never full.

He was waiting in the lobby rather nervously. Maybe he should have warned Doris about his condition.

Through the double doors he saw another taxi pull up, and this time his heart leapt as he saw the beautiful, blond, petite, lady, who had broken his heart several, times get out.

The porter took her case as she came in through the doors.

Alistair was stood waiting, he had given up one of his walking sticks, but he saw the shocked look on her face as she saw him. She quickly suppressed her shock and moved forward to embrace him.

“Oh love, it so wonderful to see you!”

They shared a kiss, a kiss that said everything they both wanted to say. It reassured them both that this meeting had been the right thing to do!

Alistair tipped the porter and Doris’s bag was taken up to their room.

As they sat back down the waiter brought them coffee.

“I see your job hasn't got any safer!” she said sadly.

“That’s soldiering for you!” he said resignedly.

“I know!” she said in a low voice.

He paused thinking of George, his friend and Doris’s late husband who had died several years previously in Northern Ireland.

“How serious...”

He smiled “Nothing too bad, recovering pretty well really! I should be fit for duty by the end of the month!”

The expression that crossed her face seem to be conflicted, relief he wasn't seriously hurt, yet worried that he would be going back to duty and possibly into danger again so soon.

“I saw you on TV at that peace conference thing!” she said trying to change the subject.

He smiled as he took her hand. “Yes, those sorts of things are worse then herding cats!” he said giving an exasperated sigh.

Doris gripped his hand and smiled at him lovingly, “I’ve missed you, Alistair!”

“I’ve missed you too, missed you so much Doris! But the job hasn't changed and neither have I!” he said quietly!

She sat closer to him on the settee.

“I can live with that! Just so long as you promise to always take care!”

He placed his arm around her and held her close.

It had been a frustrating week for the Doctor, no Alien incursions, no mad scientist trying to overthrow world governments, no Master trying his usual trickery. Basically nothing that would get the Brigadier rushing back to unit. His own enquiries into the Brigadier's whereabouts had drawn a blank, the man had just vanished off the face of the Earth and no one seemed bothered.

Any ‘accidents‘ in the lab being dealt with by Mike in an increasingly frustrated manner.

“Look Doctor, blowing up the lab isn't going to bring the Brigadier back from his sick leave! All it’s going to do is result in Geneva appointing a temporary C.O. who will probably decide to lock you up after taking away your sonic screwdriver!” Mike told him in exasperation .

The Doctor scowled.

“Mike’s right Doctor, why can't you just wait patiently for the Brigadier to return?” Jo asked.

“I just want to know where he is and that he’s alright! I know he’s not with Liz, because she’s in America and the Brigadier hasn't left the country!“

“How do you know that?” Jo asked.

“His passport is in the safe in his office!”

“Oh Doctor, you shouldn't be prying in the Brigadier's safe!“

“Well, Lethbridge-Stewart, shouldn't be allowed just to vanish!” he said slamming down the TARDIS circuits he’d been holding. Then remembering himself and picking them up and worriedly checking them out.

“Well, you best stop worrying and repair those circuit boards you just damaged!”

He scowled at her and headed back into the TARDIS.

Another frustrating week had passed before the Doctor saw Carol Bell driving through the main gate in the Brigadier's staff car.

As the lab doors opened Jo went forward to greet the C.O. Joyfully.

“Brigadier, lovely to see you, did you have a good holiday?”

“Thank you Miss Grant, most enjoyable!”

“It’s done you good, you look so much better!” Jo said happily. “I see you don't need your walking sticks now!”

“Not indoors, anyway!” he said smiling back at her.

“Been anywhere nice?” Jo asked.

“Just visiting old haunts and old friends!” he said smiling down at her.

They exchanged smiles, both knowing he wasn't going to let on where he’d been.

“So Doctor, what have you been up to in my absence?” the Brigadier asked.

The Doctor gazed up from the circuit he was repairing and gave the Brigadier a surprised look.

“Have you been away?” he asked as if ignorant of the fact.

“Yes, for a fortnight!”

“Oh, I hadn't noticed, I thought it had been quite around here, a lot less shouting!”

The Brigadier glanced around the lab noting the three separate areas of damage.

“Oh well, good to know the place can function without me being here! I don't have to feel guilty when I want to take a few days off!”

The Brigadier turned and walked out of the lab with the Doctor glaring after him! And Jo grinning at the Doctor!