“... it can be quite useful if you work at it, Miss Beinert,” Aloysius X. Leng Pendergast said softly, shaking his reddened wrists as he tugged at the trick rope with a quick, gnashing swish of his pearly whites.
The length of woven twine fell from him instantly, and so he shrugged his muscles forward and back, in that nonchalant way of a very impressive, very intelligent man trying not to sound impressive whilst he flexed the subtle sinew of his tight runner’s frame.
Young Wil Beinert, despite her mere fourteen years, felt a laugh catch in her throat. She released it, and the sound bubbled out into exactly the bemused snort she’d presumed it to be, the movement nearly washing her face in her own red-gold curls.
“You two just can’t help it, can you?” she asked, feeling a certain enamor build in her toward this man and the man who had left them both, though she had never known either of them till a few short days ago.
“You preen without trying, and he does it without thinking. It’s adorable.”
Aloysius blinked. This he hadn’t expected, but his mind was on other things.
“Do forgive me, Miss Beinert, but I do hope you aren’t about to proclaim your undying love to me. I am afraid, in that particular department, I am already quite taken.”
The comment was intended as a bit of sarcasm, but what came out was completely honest and candid. Even after all the Doctor had done for his damaged psyche, he still found it difficult to open up. But somehow, with this girl it wasn’t so difficult. Wasn’t so... hard to react without caution. He parted his lips, choosing carefully now.
“That was merely my sad attempt at humour, Miss Beinert. I do apologize.”
That grin played on his face, and he pondered for the moment whether to keep it attached to his lips or let it slide off. He let it stay, languidly sipping on his glass of sun tea as he watched her across another table, this one in a reputable piazza-style eatery called Am Die Rheine. How long would the Doctor stay away? He would never leave the girl, not after they’d learned what they’d learned about her collection before ever leaving Cardiff.
“He still has the coins, Agent Pendergast,” Will said, poking at the generous portion of knackwurst and knudeln still on her plate, “... do you think it was him in that incident on the docks? The coins might be at the bottom of the bay by now, along with his... ”
A shudder ran through her, as though an early frost had formed along her spine, spitting ice chunks at her brain. So she forced herself to think of Puccini, his successes, his failures, those magickal whoops and swirls, whose grave incantations of note and time gave new life to old paper crisped by many hands. Math was like that, for her. And music was a most holy and beautiful math. She could see Truth in the way the music played through her head. Her thoughts were always full of math, of songs that lingered past the waking hours.
“Going somewhere, Miss Beinert?”
A slight hand brushed her shoulder, so gently it was like the bristle of feathers on a lone morning seagull. Aloysius was brighter than a seagull by far, she thought as a sudden flame of understanding lit her body, made her move from her chair and rise to her feet in a huff of renewed stamina. The agent stood as well, brushing off his suit before leaving a carefully folded paper bill on the petite little table and matching her stride as he caught her within two long steps of his well-shined black Italian shoes.
“Yes,” she called back to him, intent on her destination.
She wasn’t going to the docks, which he found uniquely fortuitous, considering the reports from certain of Torchwood’s operatives concerning that locale during the darker hours of morning and deep night. Apparently, whoever -they- were, they would soon begin stealing people in the day as well. That simply wouldn’t do. And the Doctor would have his head if something happened to the girl. Of course nothing would, but no one who knew his background in covert ops was around to share, even Proctor, his loyal chauffeur and backup, had been in the ground for three years now. Ah, back to the old days with dear Vincent, keeping secrets and sneaking about in Italian courtyards, trying to avoid the local law enforcement on a dangerous quest for private justice. As Vincent would have said, good times.
Good times, indeed, thought the agent as he easily matched Wil Beinert’s youthful stride up a flight of narrow steps which led into an alley. They were heading, he presumed, for a shortcut to the pier she had mentioned briefly in a conversation with a shopkeeper she knew from early childhood. Quick on her feet, and such an intellect! She simply had to meet his adopted daughter, Constance Greene. But Constance was in Bhutan, with the monks, thought to be the Green Tara, and she was busy raising his brother’s illicit child to be the next Lama. As if the monks could have gotten her to leave the baby after the odd seduction his brother had put her through. A little chuckle stole a minute portion of his air as they hurried through the streets. Oh yes. When this was over, he would have to tell her about this latest of his escapades. She was, after all, older even then he, and would appreciate his taking her into his confidence at long last after so many years of arms length interaction. She kept his secrets best of all, and he would keep hers, as he would keep Wil’s. As he had long since kept the Doctor’s. It would be folly to reveal all in its most exquisite detail, but he would give just enough to keep Constance entertained. The girl needed a friend as intelligent as she was, and he was simply no excuse for feminine support.
But one thing worried him. The Doctor had spoken of his precious Susan, right there in the street, in front of strangers. The Doctor, who was usually so very unwilling to share about his pain, had just sobbed in Wil’s arms in the dust. She had to be special indeed, for the man he looked up to most in the world, nay, in the whole of the cosmos, to just... break.
Either that, or a bigger mess was brewing than any of them knew, and only the Doctor could sort it. But he was gone, hiding from everyone for some terribly important reason. And Aloysius found, as he thought and ran and followed and thought and ran alongside the girl who was so very important to so many unseen plans, that he did not want to look where his thoughts were taking him.