“We should go upstairs and find that painting Rassilon mentioned,” River Song murmurs, stepping back out of the mirrored box and tidying her hair as she shuts the door again and locks it, “…and Jack, I’m glad you aren’t angry anymore. I’m also grateful for the chance to speak with that Angel again. So, thank you, sweetheart, really.” She kisses him on the cheek, then pats his arse. “That was a perfect present. Do you know who sent it to you?”
Jack shakes his head and sighs as he opens the door at the top of the basement stairs. “There was a white card addressed to you and myself with two Greek letters on it, and honestly, I have no idea who that could be. But, see here? This door should open into the museum janitorial station. The guy I worked with used to come in here a lot to see his lover, this white fleshy jukebox… thing. And he was a plasmavore! Can you imagine?” he bubbles as they pop out the door into the janitorial area, a white half-hexagon lined with cameras and short, round, mopping robots full of cleaner nanites.
“Do you remember where you saw the picture?” River asks, shutting the basement door behind Borusa.
“Hurry up, I don’t work here anymore- the janitor bots are onto us!” Jack spits out as he turns to her, rushing them both out the second door and into the main museum entry.
“I remember it was on this… yeah, I’m sure that exhibit you liked was on this floor,” he adds, smiling at a passing white octopoid in a green striped guard uniform with a silver half-moon sling-baton on a thin belt.
River smirks, and grabs his bum again as the guard’s beady, wet black eye rounds on her, then slips around and avoids them in favor of a slender, long-haired man in green and gold and brown pale-patterned Chinese robes - those robes being the exact style of Mencius the poet, she wagers- behind them, his face turned away from them, and so too, the crowds.
Behind River, Borusa, short and blonde and little girlish, simply… allows herself to gape- she doesn’t have to fake anything, and she knows it. She never had time to visit the Museum on Gallifrey…
“Hey, Old Man!”
Suddenly a large yet delicate hand is taking hers, whisking her through the crowds.
She looks up, her diminutive face puffy and annoyed.
It is the long-haired man; his hands are smooth, and long. And squarish.
A gasp catches in her throat before her gaze even touches his face.
His long finger brushes her lips, asking her silence; there is gentleness there- not quite the gentleness of a man who would carry her for meters down a malfunctioning time bridge through the Citadel while she slept on his back, but all the same, it is a gentleness. Of a kind.
“So you know what I am, then? That I am no child?” Borusa breathes, collecting herself with a practiced huff.
The long-haired man smiles a warm smile from beneath his dark, concealing veil of brown hair, his grin the only point of reference she can put the voice to.
“... everyone is a child to me, sometimes- regardless, so many questions, and from you, a young-old little Time Lord! Let us make haste to watch your companions; they will shortly be caught up in something, and I do not want you trampled- stay here.” He points a sharp, squarish finger to the painting behind where Jack is now standing with River, and Borusa follows his direction.
Borusa’s art starved eyes cannot help but stare at the portrait panel.
The frame is of simple woven gold; the canvas, however…
A winged man, beautiful and naked and effeminate, stands easily on one hand, upside down with his feet up, one leg bent at the knee, the outstretched long toe touching a passing cloud. His hair floats downward from his body in a ribbon of revealing veil. From his upturned womb there issues half a handsomely thin woman obscured by her own long hair, its strands of golden, brown and white. The woman’s hair swirls around him like water, decorating his pregnancy and hiding his nethers. Her two upraised arms are entwined and apart, like a caduceus-tree, and the palm of each hand beareth a fruit, one pear for each hand- one fruit bright, one fruit dark.
“This panel is classic; it really catches that Art Nouveau style, don’t you think?” the long-haired man whispers jovially into her young ear, “…and I really should be going now! Say hello to The Ship for me- This version shan’t be seeing her just yet.”
Borusa tears her gaze away from the painting to look at the man’s face more closely, but…
“This painting is of that one, isn’t…it? And him as well? And that must mean…”
Of course, the man is gone.
She is far too short to see him from this far away. He must be a fast walker.
Or… she thinks of the draft from the tapestry over the hidden door to the Doctor’s old rooms.
If -he- is here, she thinks demurely, clutching her chest from shock, then it must be soon.
“River! Jack!” she calls, but the two are surrounded by a flurry of octopus guards.
Just then a whisper rides their ears; they turn, to see Borusa waving at them from the other side of the hall.
And just behind her, the line of a door melts onto focus, much like on the shuttle they used to travel here, and to the Cloud.
A hand brushes her shoulder, moving her gently to the right- she slides easily to the right, as if some voice she might obey has commanded it.
“There’s only one person I’ve ever seen who can order her like that…” River says softly, gripping Jack’s arm as the guards close on them in a mess of white tentacles and silver crescent batons.
“Rassilon!” Jack says, grinning at River while he ups his volume.
“My husband!” River says, equally as loud.
“And what’s all this then, eh? Julius? Quiqui? Betsy? I thought I told you I was in no fit state for this non... sense…” says a soft voice, as its strangely familiar owner, wearing Ming dynasty orange and purple with a kitsune-style sleeping mask over green, squinting eyes emerges from the door behind the painting. “Oh, I know them- they’re with me!”
“But sir! I thought you were resting! We wanted to stop these people from causing a scene!”
‘And you have, you have, but really now… look at me.” Long, squarish hands fly up and down in slow motion, making use of breathing room and hand signs to describe his bulging waist, concealed by a bluish belt tied at the side in a decorative knot, to accommodate his girth. He shivers, then looks around wildly once before collapsing against the doorframe.
“…idiot. Shouldn’t have… left the Zero Environment… too far along… for this kind of…reckless stupidity.” he chides himself, his voice thready as he touches his forehead and sighs. “Is anyone going to help me? I’m afraid I need a nap.”
An octopoid flutters up to him through the air, all thoughts of Jack and River gone as more staff members of various races and heights cut a swath through the lingering crowds.
“You!” someone calls unhappily from behind the door, presumably, Borusa reasons, shouting at Jack and River, “… get him back inside the Zero Environment! You two, with me!”
Then another pair of hands grabs them both and pulls them in, just as Borusa reaches round to the other side.
“This is rubbish,” she mutters finally after those few seconds of running, “…must do this more often.”
She pauses, as much to catch her breath as to catch her sense. She muses aloud.
“Wait, the painting was over on -that- side before! How did it get here so quickly, unless… so it -was- him that…”
Then a hand appears from behind the -curtain- of the door, to grab her, too. A familiar female hand, with two familiar gold rings on it.
And the pass-by is empty, now, until the crowds begin to fill the vacuum, as they ought.
The Mirrors, who were hanging on every word from a safe distance away at a snack stand, look on.
Perhaps they’ll hang around.