Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

Gymnopédie II

“I may have mentioned the design to a prominent tailor, but I honestly don’t see how you can stand to wear that thing, even if it is extremely comfortable… and sexist.”

River Song takes the Doctor’s hand in hers and pats his knuckles gently. “You’d think you were pregnant, the way you carry on, my love.” Her fingers lace in his as they walk down the blue-grey path to the square of purple park grass.

His fingers clench suddenly away from her, and he’s bending, his hand a tight claw against his stomach.

Vision, for the Doctor, becomes a narrow focus, a single pinpoint of brightness at the end of a dark, square tunnel. Billions of tunnels. He’s in a maze, running. And suddenly the maze is full of light.

River helps him to one of the benches, the nearest one. It has a stone drink holder on the side.

“My god, Theta- are you all right?” Now her fingers brush his face, but he’s not listening. His forehead is hot, and her own hand is on her stomach now, checking for temperature differences she might have missed.

“Not you, Melody,” he manages, gagging against what he knows is coming. He hates himself for it. “It’s a friend of mine. Please go and get us a nice basket of fried Pnyy and veg chips, the ones… with the…” He grabs her hand, squeezing a little too tightly; she feels a joint pop. “Sorry, my love… you can’t meet this one yet. He might shoot you, because he doesn’t love you yet, and that won’t make it very fun for me!”

She ruffles his hair. It sprawls wetly down over his forehead, and a chuckle escapes her. He looks like a drowned rabbit.

“I see the cart you’re talking about; I’ll go. And hide my face. I’ll keep my back turned, chat up the vendor- will that be good enough, Sweetheart?”

Her hands are on his cheeks now, plastered there as if she’s holding them on. And now he’s shivering. One moment she is there, the next, she is turning… in a haze of filmy blue wrap and jeans, and a soft corset top of smoky burgundy so dark it’s nearly black. Her hair is up, a delicious, glistening sticky bun of golden curls stuck to the back of her head. She’s dripping bits of cinnamon and honey.

Absently, he hopes she’s warm enough. For the baby.

But it’s a sunny day.

Hot.

The light is bearing down on him.

Beads of sweat.

A drop.

It’s clinging to the tip of a lock of his hair, cast between his temples like a lopsided bindi.

The round bottom of the droplet beckons, like another universe. Inside the jewel-shape, he can see Eternity.

His eyes squirm in their sockets, resetting. Adjusting. His irises squeeze atoms together till they’re half a soul wide, displaying the world in miniscope. Like windows.

Disassociate now, floating awkwardly like a child learning how to swim in the same awkward moment, over and over, awkwardly, awkwardly, he attends the little droplet at the end of his forelock.

It speaks Creation’s name to him with blind lips his hindbrain only vaguely remembers kissing.

A shadow falls, full of little points. Full of stars.

Then the droplet leaves him, edging along the tip of that particularly rabbit-hearted lock of his own brownish hair to cascade neatly away onto the pavers of the park walk. Inside, he’s flapping and flailing in space.

“It’s you.”

“Yeah. Need a hand?”

The star-shadow touches him- he can feel strong fingers grip his shoulder through his crisp white shirt. Another hand loosens his tie.

“Yeah, I remember that shade of green. Peckish, with a dash of pimento. Happened a lot when I was pregnant. And I never caught your name at my stag do, handsome boy,” says the shadow, rubbing circles into his back.

“I never gave it. Hello, Captain. My Captain. My wife will enjoy the story I think, but now is not the time. She’s here, somewhere, getting us some tasty fish. The bass from Pnyy is delectable, this time of year.”

His touch skirts across the Rose Ring on his finger, giving the golden metal an absent polish. He clicks the Rose, and things begin to feel better. He still can’t quite remember stealing it, all those years ago. From the Museum.

The shadow is flesh now. His Jack. His Jack. He sighs and sits up slowly, his celery peridots taking their time in focusing on a group of Pyrovillaean kids playing on the water slide. They’re cute, the way they keep betting each other who can get themselves wet first and put out the flame on their little root-vegetable heads.

“I’m feeling better, thanks. It’s Benjamin, by the way. Benjamin Pond. Emily, that’s my wife, must be having a good time at the chip vendor- It’s nearly dark now, and there’re no kids left. She’s been gone thirty minutes. Course, I did ask her to chat him up… maybe get us a discount. She’s quite resourceful. Can’t do without her.”

“She sounds quite the catch. It’s a nice ring. Does she have one too?”

“She does. But this ring is part of a set. My friend has the other one, sort of a private joke.”

Jack’s hands curl around his shoulders, draping hard pecs against his bony spine over the short bench. Arms encircle him, enshrouding his body in billions of stars. “It’s good to have friends, Benjamin Pond. You remind me of one of mine, who died. Do you… I mean… it’s just that you make me think of him so much. Can I?”

“Yes, Jack. Comfort is my business, and I’m the best moonlighter Elegant Egotist has, with the best barriers. What was his name? I’ll try to accommodate.”

Jack Harkness sighs, and just leans over the bench, easing his weight against Benjamin’s back. Feeling the warmth.

“No name. Just the Doctor. He hates… hated it when I called him Doc. Or he pretended to.”

“Very well then, Jack. And it’s just between us, your special rate. So Doc it is.”


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