Bait and Switch
“I swear, what do I have to do to get some food around here?” the Doctor moans, turning a white corner outside the Master and Rassilon’s impromptu meeting room.
He sighs; it’s the very same white corner he’s been turning for quite a while now. Back and forth. Waiting. He knows what they’re discussing- he also knows he wants no part of it. Not that he can’t hear exactly what the two men are exchanging jabs about behind the door. It’s just that…
Clink. Gloosh-slosh. Clink-link.
A frosty can rolls across his foot. It feels cold; condensation trickles in little wet cords of icy water that grip his naked foot and trail frosty ivy down to the dark stone floor. This corridor, he decides as he rubs his robe down over his bigger-since yesterday waist, bends to retrieve the can and turns the corner yet again, was decorated by a professional.
“Obviously, the author of this decor is a genius,” he says aloud as he walks, enjoying with fresh appreciation the coolness of the black black stones beneath his feet, “… black floor white walls, oh yes, the duality is quite nice. Although, a bipolar hummingbird seems nice, too... they usually are- until they eat your Chihuahua.”
Abruptly, tickling feathers erupt across his neck, as though the walls are giggling. Perhaps they are, he reasons, looking about the hallway for the billionth time.
Delightfully, there is an aberrant space- or rather lack thereof, a few footsteps down the way, on the right. It seems to be full of…
Ah. So that’s how it is.
“Why, my angel! You’re just what I’ve been looking for!” says the Doctor, rubbing his stomach and throwing up his hands as he makes a great show of assuming the position before the time-honoured dispenser of goodies. “And we’ve got to figure out where little Flamina’s TARDIS is, yes we do!” He rubs his small stomach again, scratching thick yet lanky fingers left and right over his shirt this time.
The boxy fat machine quivers, shivering her metal timbers in their moorings; an earthquake-ridden house.
Any moment now, the Doctor reasons, there will be a shower of rivets and shavings… he’s never had much luck with these things.
He waits, leaning against the wall with one foot out and the other crossed over his knee. His pale fingernails tap softly against the white surface, beating out the rhythm to another one of those songs he helped the Beatles write, Eleanor something.
One hand scuffles in the left-hand, endless pocket of his dark grey, pinstriped trousers (the shirt he’s wearing beneath his robe is pinstripey too; he wonders if that was wise), as if for change, and green eyes avert themselves, lest they draw attention.
As if summoned, a clink arrives against the little black bar along the bottom of the vending machine. Behind the glass, a chilled sausage tin chinks soothingly, back and forth. Back and forth.
The Doctor’s peridot gaze drifts down over the blue-papered tin for a moment- but there’s something he wants to do first. So he fits his hand against the side of the machine and rubs, a hormone-warmed touch against warm metal. Soon, his fingers feel the papery smooth crunch of a peeling label, so he cranes his neck.
The long, rectangular bluish sheet of fading plastic reads:
Littlerose Vending & Co, a SUBSIDIARY OF ROSS-ALET SUPPLY SERVICES.
“Ah, I see,” he murmurs, giving the machine’s wide side a last thick pat before returning to the glass window in front. “A double whammy- and apparently the Fates like roses!”
The hum from the mechanisms that keep the thing running begins to grow a bit louder. He listens.
He bends down carefully, one hand on the side of the box-shaped chassis, one hand poised near the black bar where the goodies come out. He sticks a hand in, retrieves the cool tin.
He remembers the first one; it’s still in his pocket, just where he put it. He rescues it as he straightens, worming his way back up again with the one hand and now an elbow, leaning the awkward majority of his weight on the vending machine’s thick black and white frame.
One little push and a bit of swaying back and forth, and he’s upright again. At the effort, air is pulled from his lungs and passed his teeth, despite himself. With the cold, cold can under his arm, he reaches out to touch the machine again, patting it for a third time.
“Now, that was nice of you, sweetheart,” he says, examining the can, which shows a hologram of an orange, and the tin, which also sports holographics, albeit of sausages in running shoes.
He turns the tin over and over in his fingers, wide eyes peeled on every glint of metal.
A thunk issues from the inner workings this time, followed by a crinkly thump, and soon he’s holding a clear packet of dried vegetable crisps in blue, red, green, orange and purple.
“Oooh, the salty ones, with the purple carrots!” he exclaims, scratching his nose as he looks on the vending machine with newfound respect. “You’re a peach, my pet. But listen, someone’s coming. Best be off. See you soon!”
He pats the machine again, then turns away and walks down the corridor with the crisp packet between his teeth. He turns a corner, and…
A swish of green robes slams into his chest, crunching his crisps.
“Oh! I’m sorry, sir!” says a slim olive hand as it crawls out from a pile of moldy old books, “Errand for Lord Pasmodius!”
Then the student, short white hair, green eyes and all, scurries down the hallway where the vending machine was.
As he turns, however, the Doctor sees no girl running down the long hall, and still more intriguing, no vending machine in the small nook. With a soft pat to the trouser pocket he –had- been keeping the Rose Ring in, he allows himself the tiniest of smiles.