les habits du samedi
“… is that her, then?” says the Doctor softly, smoothing his long cerulean silk coat –the one with the peacock buttons- over a cream and sherry vest as he points a long digitis secundus at a girl with white hair who is standing by the window. He elbows the Master with a chaste half-nudge, driving his arm into the man’s side.
The Master smacks the Doctor on the back of the head, grabbing brown hair and tugging, just so.
“You know, if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were jealous, Doctor,” the Master-who-is-currently-Lord-President says flatly, uttering a low, entirely lewd growl in the woman’s general direction for the Doctor’s benefit.
“Jealous of you, Koschei? I’d sooner be jealous of a Drumaani Fishpig,” comes the Doctor’s reply, fast and easy and completely without a care. But his eyes rest on the girl, and do not look away. “Shall I go to her? Tell her what an egomaniacal rapscallion you are?” He raises a glass, and does not lower it.
The Master smirks and semi-consciously adjusts the Sash where it is slipping from his shoulder, yet again.
“It’s always been a bit fickle, the old thing. Although I have to say, it liked me more than him,” says the Doctor, patting the bawdy string of gold bars-of-station that form its length. “I rather think it looked better on me, too.”
He misses the Master’s sidelong glance, though, for his sunken green eyes are fastened on something across the room, a shimmering necklace around the albino woman’s neck that seems to flirt with the complicated dimensional physics of the grand hall, softly tugging at them from somewhere out of sight and skewing the walls, ever so slightly.
“Your girlfriend has an interesting toy in that torque, Kosch…” he murmurs, staring at the jewelry through his wine glass.
“That necklace she’s wearing, it’s rather… different.”
The Lord President seems annoyed, agitated suddenly as though something has caught at his shoulder, exactly, the Doctor notes with some dismay, in the direction of the Lady Flaminarixodaparcaftion.
“What necklace? I’m giving her this severed hand I found crawling around the Wastes as a present,” he mutters, “Are you drunk on ginger beer or something? I don’t remember letting these morons serve you any. Do let up on the drinking, would you? Funny thing, that hand… seems to have warmed up to me, but it doesn’t seem to like Flamina very much. Bloody picky thing… still she’s good with that bird of hers, and she loves grotesques as much as I do. Besides, it’s not like I can follow in its owner’s footsteps and cut it off twice if it doesn’t play a proper game of pinochle, eh?”
A hand, you say? Just a hand? Really, Koschei? How could you not know what…
“I wouldn’t. Get her something else less… grabsy.”
A laugh erupts from his throat, covering the hall and causing Flamina, in her gown of watery silk and pearls, to turn in their direction.
By accident, it would seem, the Doctor finds his view through the wineglass raised just enough to see the woman’s neck, now strangely free of the weird ornament.
So he slips the glass up farther, and sees… the edge, the bare, cold edge, of something squirming. Something bloated and wriggling and… full of dust.
Suddenly her eyes are full on him, blinking, boundless chunks of sapphire, glistening, searching, reaching into him, pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling away his…
Feeling a numbness in his fingers, the Doctor lets the glass slip from his grip and tumble down, shattering into pieces and spilling good striped wine all over the marble tiled floor.
Every head but hers turns to stare in his direction; a moment ago, before the revelation in the glass, he would have thought this strange. Now, he finds it abjectly terrifying.
Her soft laugh rings like bells throughout the hall, silver and titillating. It reminds somehow of Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.
Odd how duty seems to choose him, he thinks as he extricates himself from the partygoers and seeks a tentative comfort in the Lord-President’s lead-lined walls.
But as he touches the door handle, the door does not open onto the safe-room he orchestrated so long ago.
He is back in the parlouresque hall, holding his glass just so, about to catch a glimpse of…
Suddenly a white anomaly blurs his field of vision; feathers fly up, fly out, and claws scratch the glass from his hands.
Before others’ hands attempt without success to drag its owner away, one pearly eye catches the light. It gapes at him, pleading with his old-ness as if for release. As if it knows him.
Then the hands return, and climb over it, clambering over its great wings and its head and its one eye.
But in a final defiance it shrieks, lashing out.
A claw catches the Doctor on the neck, severing a vein. He gives no resistance.
Then he collapses.
Blood is everywhere around him, for the second time.