Doctor Who: The Bright Asylum

To Seek a Bird's Nest


The first face to greet the Doctor is not yet carved from that grand and lingering vision of Monastery stone. Rather, Roda Palfour’s comely thin face is smooth as alabaster, and hairless as a child newly born. In youthful-seeming bird foot hands uncurled and swell-knuckled and unlined, he takes the pale slightly-reddened fingers of the Time Lord in his own and steals a breath from the aether at what he finds there, looking down with blue-chipped eyes of rainy, overcast sky.

“Brother, your hands tell me things.” Roda says evenly, chirping flat and pleasing words with what might be a human tongue, were it not jewel-black, and wet-glistening and sharp like the leaves of a peppery Crassulaceae.

The Doctor sighs, allowing some air to slip passed his lips and touch the monk’s elongate, stretched-bird face.

“It –has- been a long time, hasn’t it, Roda? Is he here?” he says, chewing on a bit of thick leaf he found full of water and growing in the chalcedony sea. A dribble of liquid squirts down his chin, and is noticed without mention.

Roda’s grave-set eyes sink further, then pop out and swirl around like a puppy at play. He shakes his bone-white bird-head, his lengthy muk-a-luk beak flowing like a long and tapered cornucopia from side to side. Then he looks up again, and those blue chips settle in the layers of pale green dust coating the Doctor’s face.

“Hrm, I didn’t think so. Well, my old friend, I shan’t be staying long- just a bit of rest and then I have to see a man about a body.”

“You must be tired. We will prepare a bed and food for you- but you should have come in the Flesh.” Roda murmurs, casting blue eyes across the green sea and its salty shore behind him.

The Doctor grins, blinks dusty eyes. Thinks and smiles and sighs for a moment or two. Shuffles his feet in the sea green dust. With a falsified yawn, he bows his rabbit head a little, but then it drifts back up again with a laugh on its lips.

“Ha, Roda, Roda, Roda. What gave us away?”

The bird-man smiles his long smile inside and outside of a toothless line, his features pulled slightly out of focus like a taffy denture.

“Your gait. You were stumbling, dear boy. Your choice of mechanism gave you to me, Oh Father of the Sand Before Her Wedding Day.”

The Doctor reaches down and shoves aside his long dust cloak, revealing the slim pronouncement of his pregnant belly.

Roda’s hands reach for the bulge, probing the air with gnarly digits, to press and curl and cup.

His smile dims a little, shortens a little, and the lines of his avian face draw in.

“Had you been able to arrive sooner, we might have glimpsed our Teacher’s face once more. As it is, please enter into the Monastery, and we will tend to you. Your friend with storm cloud eyes may come as well, I take it?”

Roda’s long arm unfolds like a space rigger’s rotary docking claw, so slowly. With it, the bird-man envelops the horizon in a curving line of sinew, the fingers of his long, long hand eventually growing outward and back, leaving one solid digit pointing sharp as a stick at Jack Harkness.

The Time Agent is standing half-shadowed behind one of the chocolate granite trees; he steps out into the light, barefoot, dusty. Just as dusty as the man he’s come to find, the sea having chewed and swallowed his shoes for his ignorance.

The Doctor turns once, just once, and sets eyes upon Jack Harkness’ eyes. There comes a quick silence, and then…

“You might still see that face, Roda Palfour,” the Time Lord says, covering himself again as he messes with a flash of gold near his finger and leans on Roda, while the smaller hands of another younger monk remove his black boots, undoing the laces carefully. “You might still indeed… in fact, I think… oh that hurts. Ow.”

His hands grasp at his stomach in the tall bird-man’s arms, dragging them both down in a mess of tan and taupe and greenish cloak.

Roda’s gasp breaks Jack out of it.

“Brothers and Sisters, get him inside! I don’t care what he’s done!” Roda calls, his face and voice etched with new lines like a burst balloon as he struggles under the Doctor’s weight, his eyes narrow and wide at once s he looks down at his charge of the minute.

But Jack will have nothing of this.

He cries out and runs full into the sudden blow of green, racing against the churning dust storm sauntering at the edges of his vision to reach the Time Lord before he can enter the Monastery, “Not so fast; this bastard’s not gaining any sanctuary here!”

“Just… try it, Jack…” the Time Lord croaks, closing his eyes a moment before finishing the thought, his new gaze opening on the leather strap around Jack’s wrist, “… the dust has got into your ride. Have to… use mine, if you can... override... autopilot. It’s set for Gallifrey. If not, we both…” He sags.

Blue eyes fire solar flares back the way they both have come.

“Well I have to, don’t I, Benjamin? Duty calls.” Jack smirks as he jerks Benjamin up by the arm.

“I’m going to override your autopilot, and then you’ll be done running for good.”

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