"Silver, you have some explaining to do."
Liz noticed that Silver ignored Steel’s glower and comment, focusing instead on not letting go of her hand. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Sapphire reach for Steel’s hand. A blast from behind sent all four of them to the floor to escape being caught in its destructive nimbus.
“I have to agree with your colleague,” Liz said, her voice slightly muffled as she cradled her head on both be-sweatered arms. “This is neither the TARDIS, nor any other place I recognize, although we were in the TARDIS a few moments ago. This is a motorway cafe. I mean, I think it is. Did you plan on bringing me here all along?”
“Well, since you’d followed me into the TARDIS — something of which I’m fairly certain the Doctor would disapprove — I don’t think I had anything to—”
“As if I was going to let you steal —”
“ —I was hardly about to steal it. I just borrowed it for my mission. I didn’t expect they’d stoop to actual weaponry — ”
The conversation came to a halt, as Sapphire leapt to her feet, her eyes shining cobalt. The sounds of attack stopped, although Liz could see their attackers plainly.
“That will last a minute at the most,” Sapphire said, hauling Steel up off the floor. “This place … places … whichever place it is ... plays havoc with my time sense. Miss Shaw, do you have any idea how we can avoid our hunters?”
Liz resisted the urge to roll her eyes; she figured she needed that energy to run. Running was undoubtedly in the offing. “No, not when our surroundings keep changing.”
Even as she spoke, the garage area to which they’d run to avoid the Transient Beings (the title seemed more apt for a religious tract than anything else, she thought distractedly) seemed to blur around her. She actually felt the change, an uncomfortable perception that every bone in her body was stretching. It wasn’t pain, not quite.
Just as it reached a point where she could accurately have called it painful, the discomfort was gone and her stretched bones snapped back to their usual reality. Around her, all traces of motorway cafe were gone, replaced by the roundel-studded white walls and featureless corridors of the Doctor’s TARDIS. (For a moment, Liz did think she could see the outlines of a window through which could be seen a sparkling and barren starfield. She shook her head and it disappeared.)
The venom in Steel’s one-word reaction to his surroundings was shocking. It was also confusing, until Silver stage whispered in her ear: “The Doctor’s home planet. Time Lords and Elements don’t get along very well. Steel in particular—"
“Steel in particular wants to know what’s going on,” that worthy snapped.
To Liz’s astonishment, Silver — affable, slyly genial Silver — snapped back. “I should think you’d have already figured that out, since you are as brilliant as you are bad-mannered.
“I found a way to get you out.”
Steel didn’t move a muscle, yet Liz was certain he had flinched.
“Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be bad-mannered in return,” Silver said, visibly and deliberately letting go of his momentary ire. “I’m just glad it worked.”
It was his turn to be astonished when Sapphire turned and pulled him close enough for a brief but very definite kiss on the forehead. “Thank you. Thank you on both our behalves.”
Silver actually blushed. Liz paused to appreciate an expression she was reasonably certain Silver rarely showed, before her mind connected several dots. “If I don’t miss my guess, Time Lord is a title to which the Doctor is entitled. I assume that means that the Doctor would not approve of you three being in his TARDIS. And we’re back in his TARDIS, no?”
Sapphire raised one exquisite eyebrow, apparently in agreement, while Silver nodded. Steel looked more disgruntled, something Liz hadn’t thought possible.
“Then I’d suggest we find the TARDIS’ door, and get back to my lab,” she said. Then she stopped. “If we get to the lab, can you guarantee that your Transient Beings won’t follow us there?”
“Have I ever guaranteed your safety, Elizabeth Shaw?”
That stopped Liz in her tracks. He was right; he had never pretended she would be safe around him. In that, Silver’s honesty was admirably close to the Doctor’s. She tried again. “Can you promise you’ll do all you can to protect us from your enemies?”
To her surprise, it was Steel who answered. “If your reality is open to us, then we can mount a defense. We’re rather good at doing that.” Then he looked at Silver, and Liz could see the palest version of a smile on his face. “Silver, you never cease to amaze me.
“This?” He looked left and right, taking in both lengths of the corridor in which the four of them now stood. “I agree with Sapphire.”
The woman in question laughed softly. Neither man seemed upset by the laughter, and Liz decided that Steel’s comment had just been accepted as an apology.
She coughed. “If none of you mind, I suggest we get the hell out of here. Once we shut the door, and you mount whatever defense you think will work against your opponents, I’d love to hear about exactly where we were — that cafe didn’t feel … right — why you two were there, and why Silver had to rescue you.
“I also desperately need a cup of tea. Or a shot of whisky. Or both.”
She kicked off her heels, and looked at her companions. She grinned, unexpectedly giddy.
“Run for your life!”