The Doctor sat contently, his chin resting in his hands as the opera continued his eyes bleary as he looked on in amazement. There was no greater pleasure in the entire galaxy than the first rendition of a would-be famous orchestral and operatic masterpiece, Wagner’s Ring cycle being one of the premier events. He sat back in his chair and adjusted the collar of his awkward fitting shirt, the dress code of Venice in the late 19th Century not entirely to his tastes.
'Professor, I’m bored when is this finished?' Ace moaned, rubbing at her sides as the tightness of her corset became altogether too much of a nuisance.
'Ssshhh' Came a disgruntled cry form somewhere behind. Ace turned around in her chair and scowled at the blank faces.
'Shh yourselves' She said loudly, her voice combating the violins.
'Ace!' The Doctor commanded through gritted teeth, grabbing her arm and giving it a sharp tug. The young woman sat back in her chair and rolled her eyes.
'Blooming cheek.' The Doctor leaned forward and stared at the events of the opera.
'You should be more appreciative Ace,' He said, his eyes unstinting from the stage and his hands beginning to move in time with the music, a silent conductor of the higher arts. 'We’re witnessing one of history’s finest moments,' Ace folded her arms across her chest and shrugged her shoulders.
'Sounded better at the proms if you ask me.' She mumbled. The Doctor continued his mesmeronic trance with the music, the screeching vocals, crashing drums and harmonic orchestra all culminating in a wonderful crescendo, The Doctor holding every note with a boyish charm, his mouth hanging open, as if his lives depended on his utmost attention.
The music came to a crashing end and the whole of La Fenice erupted in applause. All of the patrons, except Ace, stood to their feet and volleyed their approval and chants of encore and bravo. The curtains came down and then raised again, highlighting the cast as showers of red roses and other assorted flowers graced the stage, the adulation unending for what had been a pinnacle performance.
The Doctor clapped his hands together endlessly, stretching on his feet to get a much better view of the stage, his face and eyes wide with joy. He clapped and clapped and clapped, the only expression he was capable of telling the cast, and Wagner, of his appreciation. One final bow of the cast and the house lanterns came up, illuminating the grandiose interior of Italy’s finest opera houses.
A loud murmur from the crowd then descended above their heads as the reviews and ranting of the audience filled the great hall, a terrible replacement for the musical odyssey that had just unfolded.
The row of seats began to slowly empty as The Doctor stood still, staring at the curtained stage and holding his hands. Ace unfolded her arms and pulled herself up from the worn red chair.
'About time, we ready Professor?' She said but The Doctor ignored her, his head still swimming in the eternal music.
'Professor,' She said again. 'Doctor!' She threw a light punch towards his shoulder and knocked the small Time Lord over a little.
'Yes Ace, yes.' He said, his rasping brogue strangely jovial and light. Ace had never seen her companion and tutor like this before and she found it strangely odd.
'Well come on then, let’s go.' She said, grabbing the small shawl that she had been commanded to wear. Throwing it clumsily around her shoulders she began to move down the empty row of chairs, clutching at the edges of her over-sized dress and moving with great difficulty. Reaching the end of the row she began up the central path, her Doc Martin boots stomping on the carpet, out of sight form the world as they were hidden beneath the pomp of her dress.
'I’ll get you outside then Professor, I’m not waiting around in here all night!' She snorted and stormed off up the pathway, shoving past a few of Venice’s cultural elite.
The warm, breezy air of Venice washed over her as she wandered down the steps and wrapped her shawl around her exposed shoulders and arms. The small square was busy with various audience members, carriages and vendors, all trying desperately for that last sale of the evening. Gondoliers stood at the ready up ahead, a few couples venturing onto the canals, lavishly dressed and unsteady of their sea legs as they tried desperately to board the boats. Ace looked up and stared at the sky, the stars twinkling above on the dark canvas of space. It had been a long time since she had seen stars as brightly as this. All of the constellations were beaming broadly in the night, millions of worlds that she had never believed to exist until that fateful day of the Time storm. How long ago that felt to her now.
It was a glad sight to be on Earth again and to see the constellations from her familiar point of view. Seeing them, however, was a privilege in itself. There were no sulphurous glowing street lamps to obscure her view. No buzzing glow of light pollution to keep the universe hidden from her behind the all encompassing blanket that seemed to sit over every city she had ever been in. Only the soft, warm haze of the gas lanterns in the square, the gentle clapping of hooves on cobbled streets and the brisk, salty odor of sea water to keep her company. She smiled to her self and rubbed at her shoulders, a cold breeze coming in off of the canals.
'There you are.' came a familiar voice from behind her. She turned and looked as The Doctor came trotting down the steps of the La Fenice. He came to a stop beside her and tipped his panama hat with the handle of his umbrella.
'Wasn’t that just wonderful? The way Wagner shapes the music and words around the great Norse tales is just…' He closed his eyes a little and cast his hand out into the air.
'Wonderful.' Ace extended her smile and took his arm in hers and shrugged.
'If you say so Professor.' The Doctor remained quiet for a moment once more, as if still tasting and savouring a wonderful meal. He blinked and raised his dark eyebrows before looking over at Ace on his arm.
'Positively outstanding.' He returned his hat to its position and tapped Ace on her hands. 'A spot of late supper I think then back to the TARDIS, what do you think?' Ace looked up at him and then rested her head on his shoulder.
'A wonderful evening.' She said contently. The two travelers moved on into the square and off into the night.
The great doors of the TARDIS control room swung open and cast a sweeping pillar of light out onto the alleyway. Ace guarded her face as the clinical brightness washed over her, the soothing pulse of the ship’s heartbeat ringing in her ears. The Doctor toddled over to the control console, a little uneasy on his feet.
'You’ve had too much to drink Professor.' Ace said with a smile, a hiccup escaping past her ruby lips as she began to laugh. She staggered into the ship and leaned heavily against the polished white walls.
'Nonsense,' The Doctor retorted, the word barely escaping past his lazy tongue as he slurred a little. Bashing down on the large red lever that stood proudly next to him, the doors closed with a loud hum and slammed shut behind them.
'I once held drinking contest with Hemmingway, or is that will hold a drinking contest.' His brow wrinkled and he held his finger to his lips, hushing himself. 'Now there was a poet!' The Doctor lifted one striking finger into the air.
'Oh yeah?' Ace giggled, unlacing her boots and throwin' them across the control room floor. “Who won?' She slid down the wall and sat cross legged on the floor, rubbing at her aching feet through her socks.
A wry smile crept across The Doctor’s face as he moved his finger to his lips again, laughing to himself. He turned lazily and began to dance his fingers and hands across the dials and buttons of the console. Even in a slightly inebriated state, the familiarity and control of which the Time Lord demonstrated with his ship, friend and home was dazzling.