Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

Dirty Faces

“Rassilon, long time no sea salt!” cries the Doctor as he clutches the side of the bed and throws back the covers, slipping out of the bright white soft sheet and blanket in only a dressing gown and pyjama bottoms, which are also white.

Rassilon, First Lord President of Gallifrey, runs a hand through his obsidian hair and manages, somehow, not to goggle his eyes at the idiot descendant who is indeed a trifle too happily engaged in the business of making a fool of him. Him! No one made a fool of Rassilon. Not Her, and certainly not his two brothers in arms on that fateful day he’d done for both of them and grabbed the prize of Power for himself.

“I’ll do for you, Doctor,” the ancient Gallifreyan spits under his breath, absently rubbing his hand up and down across the Great Key he’s hung around his neck, like a mindless trinket. A dangled finding.

Of course they both know what the Key really is. And they both know they know it.

Then, the Doctor smiles. His green eyes ice over, the gaze they hold becoming suddenly the very picture of a frosty morning on Ansypporus 6, a planet of granite trees and jewel-stone oceans whose waters were not water at all, but wave after wave of moving, writhing piles of polished chalcedonies of just that shade and hue, brought to life by the sudden winds that oftentimes caressed the planet’s surface.

How appropriate, thinks Rassilon, that the eyes of the descendant should contain the same worlds as the Other himself.

“You failed before. By the way, have you read the Unabridged History of Gallifrey?” asks the Doctor as he too, rubs something large and important, albeit tangible and through his dressing gown, his stomach perhaps, the slight, slight grimace building on his face calculated to bear a curious lack of nonchalance as his thoughts turn to the bookcase across the room. “I’d rather like to point out a passage to you, but see, well…” the Doctor pats his midsection a little too lightly, rather like a child who’d eaten too many sweets, letting the inevitable scene play out just so far in the impossibly old Gallifreyan’s vulturistic, circling, steel-trap mind.

“I take it you’re not feeling well? A pity…” says Rassilon, and he sweeps over to the bookcase in question, his quick blue eyes scanning the shelves for the required volume. Gods but everything is white in this place. It is becoming quite an irritant to the vision.

The Doctor shrugs his bony body back against the white wall, trying to find just the right spot for his spine, like a squirmy little boy. He says, “You know, Rassilon, how is it that whenever you and I meet, you always feel the need to be a prude? And here I am, still a slim whistler at five months pregnant, and at your mercy. Oh for shame!” He scratches his floppy rabbit hair, grins with a mouth full of teeth reminiscent of his fourth body, then adds, with a twitchy little tic to his lips that makes him almost seem to snarl, “Have you found it yet? I really feel the need to show you that passage. It might prove useful.” He wiggles his fingers once for effect as he watches the Lord President search the bottom shelves. “Did I ever say? You have a rather large bum. …don’t think I ever did, actually.” A pause. That singular curl of lip. A sniff. Then, “Well there it is.”

Rassilon could feel the heat rising on his face, a haze of crimson burn on cheeks and chin and everywhere. He’d always been one to blush red when he was in a rage, and this body was no exception. Was the Doctor looking? Let the bastard look. Let him taunt while he could. He is annoying. A mere insect. Yes. Let the little worm crawl with anticipation as he… just then his fingers, tracing the edge of the tall bookstand’s bottom ledge, find the thick requested volume. He pulls it out, feeling a tinge of wet surprise after centuries of dry, parched knowing. What was the Lord Doctor, the insect, planning? Or more importantly, why did he feel the need to gloat? And is he truly gloating, or is it another act? Infuriating gnat. Well, no matter. They both know one of them has to die. It was the way of things.

“What passage, Doctor?” said Rassilon, as he flutters meat-clad phalanges over the dusty old sepulcher claiming to be a book and straightens.

The Time Lord on the bed, his back against the wall still, just watches the other man moving. Watches him stiffening, like a bag strung up in a tree, hit by a sudden gust. Or a stick.

Then Rassilon spins. The book flies out of his outstretched hand, slicing an arc toward the Doctor’s bed.

The Doctor covers his hand, the one with the ring, turning the band with a brush of his palm. It shifts himto the left, his muscles quivering as he practically vibrates in the proper direction, that was, ever so slightly, to the left. Without looking down, he dabs at the thin slice of blood that had erupted across his side just as the book had smacked past him and into the still shiny but no longer quite so white space behind his skinny, white-draped silhouette. Remembering all, the Doctor’s eidetic, inhuman senses soak themselves in the impact of the book, memorizing the dent the old and looking-like-it-ought-to-have-been-rotten thing has made in the polyglass structure of the wall, cataloguing the hairline scratch the pages have cut into his skin. In his mind, he holds the older-seeming man’s burning cold gaze like a glass sculpture for the longest time as a matter of course, as regular for the first and mere few seconds of any impromptu staring match. And, the innocent smile he gives Rassilon is new-fallen snow, on a planet neither one of them has ever seen.

Why, then, does it remind them both of the absence of light?

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