As he pulls the TARDIS doors together, closing her to the outside world, his nostrils flare, his olfactory nerves suddenly thick with the scent of full roses heavy with hip and swaying in a soft breeze. A rich, fruity flavour lades the air; his body feels as though a weight has dropped upon it. Breath comes at a premium to his several lungs, and his feet feel suckled by the black, oozing peat of an unseen bog. Taking strength from the hard old wood, the feel of striated grains and whorls and knots painted so blue beneath his fingers, he listens.
“Lord Other,” says a new voice. Feminine… tinged in scented oil and soaked in the perfume of promises. Soft outside, sharp inside. Like a mouse. Or a cybermat, depending on your fetishes.
He refuses to reply to this. He will not. She is trying to get a rise, surely. But maybe he will speak to her if she asks the right Question. His body does not answer.
A laugh, like the tinkle of tiny bells. No. He will not give in. He hasn’t imagined the title or the roses.
“Pasmodius sent me, Doctor- I have a book for you. He said you requested it.”
An olive hand holds out a thick volume. The pages are flimsy with age and appear rotten, rising higher between the dry brown leather bindings than an entire hand held palm up. Big book. Slightly stinky- perhaps some mould has got in…
“Of course I did,” he muses, as he takes the book, flipping to a page. He launches then, into quiet recitation. It is a passage he knows quite well. “When the rose dies, one makes perfume,” he reads, running a thumb down the once-oiled vellum, “… and there are always roses somewhere, usually grey ones. The kind with full, fruited blossoms- best for tilting at windmills… or the clearing of nostrils if one wishes to avoid the smell of burning flesh and ash.”
“Doctor? Are you all right?” There is that olive hand again, settling on his shoulder like a shroud. He’s had enough of those.
How dare she pretend to it. How dare her!
The Doctor turns. He looks into the deep amber-brown eyes with hints of forest, reflecting on comely flesh worn like clay slip on a dumpy statue that’s trying too hard to look pretty and just… smiles. The set of his teeth does not invite welcome, and he does not let… damn him. He desires to know, even after all of this. Is she smiling?
“What do you call yourself, child? Haven’t seen you before.”
The thing called woman, infernal creature, grins as she answers, “Nemontiarla. I’m a drab little Dromiean,” like a child caught out for stealing butter mints.
Well, he thinks sullenly, butter mints are perfection- as a rule, she’s no right to them.
He sticks a hand in the pocket of his trousers, because his tweed jacket is still on the console room floor. A white bag comes out in his hand, smelling of the book by now. On purpose, maybe. He doesn’t know anymore.
“Care for a purple jelly baby, you mouldy old witch?” he grits through a tiger’s grinning teeth. Ah, Hitchemus.
Oh if only he could. In one fast movement, he grabs her hand instead, pulling her against the TARDIS doors. “Now we can both talk shop without the neighbors being nosy. We wouldn’t want to let on, would we? Someone might sense you.” His smile is a sneer- he leans in close. “You’re arrogant. You’ve stretched yourself thin.”
The librarian pauses in her assessment, green-gold-brown eyes taking in the slumped, almost hunched stance of the man standing before her. “Fair enough,” she says, and begins to recount her day outside the stacks.
“That book- it’s something old Pasmo asked me to find- a First Edition Histories of Gallifrey, Unabridged. Can you guess where I found it?”
Oh please. Really now.
“Somewhere in the vicinity of His Lordship Rassilon? I heard he re-enacted Aristophanes’ Speech from Plato’s Symposium in the main passage. Something about a tower of books falling on his venerable head?”
“I was carrying too many, and took an opportunity. You know, to relieve myself of some small burden, and him of some of his. Leastwise, the rendition was something of a mockery, coming from that mouth. Your version was much better.”
“Don’t change the subject. I wasn’t talking about myself. We must blame the inevitable course of his actions. In any case, try asking for help. So you’re not a god after all. Just a college girl with aspirations.”
“Ah, what is it your little monkeys say? Pot, kettle?”
Her laugh rises in her throat at the sight of him.
Damn it. Why does he even bother anymore?
“Enter my TARDIS the usual way and help the Master with his fishing pole. Say you were chased into a storage cupboard by a Kumlien’s Gull named Lucy Saxon. That ought to get his attention. But then again…” he laughs too, for a moment- but his eyes are frozen celery, lysed by ice crystals and no good for eating.
He knocks four times, then presses the silver mask and the golden ring he’s just taken off into her fingers. Walking away, he adds, “… you know how thick he can be. Be sure and tell him it’s not really a mask, perhaps mention how handy a disguise can be when you’re out on a fishing trip, intent on avoiding your wife.”