And I Not Troilus, And You Not Cressida
The Old Man looks up from his dark desk, and from the great work of translating Marnal’s Diatribe on the Naming of Constellations. His tree branch fingers slide across the black cover, obscuring the stars that shine from its hard darkness.
“You’re late. For a very important date. What did you do with that librarian?” Pasmo’s voice is crisp, leathery. Even. It’s an effort of ages, tempered by regret buried so deep beneath purpose no eye can bespeak it.
“Funny- that’s the kind of misty receive I’d expect from Old Blue Eyes down in the Nemean Lion’s den,” says the Doctor, with a soft sigh that might have been sorrow, if he hadn’t been smiling. “Regardless of the Fates’ intent, that shimmer dulls your girlish complexion. I’d get rid of it and save up my frequent flyers for a nice olive tone instead.”
A hint of trauma, at last. Ancient blue stones stare out from merely old grey slate, and meet green ice at the usual point on the Doctor’s face. The man’s gaze is colder than he’s ever seen it. Were it a fraction more chill, a touch more frozen, even he, Rassilon, who claimed the name and face of Old Pasmodius, would have shivered. Could easily have trembled. And he, who had never been a superstitious man, would be the most superstitious of all.
“And whey from a stone means peace for all.” Pasmo murmurs, grinning from one side of his lips as he savours the taste of contest flooding his mouth. “My Lord Doctor, I remember that line- you used it in your first year dissertation against genetic modulation. At the time, I thought it was trite, as I recall.”
There then occurs above the Doctor’s chin an odd, thin smirk of those child’s lips, pointed at the ends just so and in the middle, to defame any conquering heroes.
When the Doctor speaks again, this time, Pasmo remembers something cold. “Now that’s so very funny, really, being as that I don’t recall you being there. I remember Pasmo' being there though, clear as a bell and twice as senile. He must be dropping gingko like an acid freak, to be so sharp as you.”
“That tone of yours… is a weakness -he- never showed. Now go away.”
“And what would that weakness be, exactly? Doubt as to the Absence of Malice? I seem to have heard something floating about the Citadel regarding how you disappeared for a few days… right about the time the Citadel’s cell blocks were compromised. “ The Doctor looks down, eyes suddenly flitting and hooded as he fiddles with the red line of his suspender. “There must have been time travel involved, wouldn’t you say? I would check myself, but there are circumstances...”
He? Can’t? A plump, sweet-nectared blossom of intrigue in the endless sand of existence. With an inward wonder flailing for release, dear old Pasmo plucks the flower. “Such as what, insolent boy?”
“Such as four beats where two ought to be, and a feminine grudge the size of Braxiatel’s TARDIS…” the Doctor muses as he crosses Pasmo’s study to lean like a dirty transient on the old man’s shelf, “...could the reason for your regret have something to do with a daughter, perhaps? I can easily imagine how you must see that unfortunate girl, Flamina, remembering your face when…”
One hand clutching a fistful of fabric out of sight beneath the big, warm lines of his desk, Pasmo considers the Doctor, his gaze much like a snake charmer recently availed of too many of his rupees at the open air market.
But the Doctor just smiles once and departs, calling back over his shoulder, “Well you know what they say… be careful which flowers you eat in the desert – don’t eat the ones that rustle or you might wake up in a box with a swollen tongue. Or a stab wound, depending on your so-called relations.”
My my my my my. And what to make of this?