The Doctor peered through his black mask at the crowd around him. No one appeared to be having a bad time tonight. He'd just finished talking with the Opera House's premiere diva, Carlotta, who was rather captivating even if her primary topic of conversation was herself. He was currently looking for the woman he found much more than simply rather captivating. She'd get a kick out of him retelling the conversation. She was the one most excited about this trip after all.
A trip where world saving would not be part of the plan. Yet something that would knock her socks off just the same. Something new, exciting, glamorous, and romantic. That's what she'd wanted, though he had no idea why she needed romantic in the equation.
He'd seen her being led along the dance floor several times throughout the evening. She was new to Paris so garnered quite a bit of attention. As much as he hated the idea of anyone else laying a hand on her, knowing she'd be leaving with him at the end of the night made it bearable. Of course, dressed as she was tonight there was no telling.
He had no idea what the TARDIS was thinking, he mused as his eyes scanned the crowded room for any sign of the bright, barely there crimson dress. She was Cleopatra. He got that, but surely the TARDIS could have chosen a gown that left more to the imagination than this one did. The bright gold top was barely more than a bra. The faux jewel dangling from the thin strap between her breasts served only to draw attention to those particular attributes.
Attributes that until tonight he'd tried to avoid paying attention to, sometimes with difficulty. There was no avoiding them tonight, particularly combined with the gown portion of the costume that he imagined was supposed to be a toga. Only thing was this one was far more revealing than the stereotypical ones seen in history books. Her entire side from shoulder to hip was visible, including a generous portion of her abdomen.
He liked it, that wasn't the issue. Though he would have foregone the dark wig the TARDIS had also supplied. He liked her hair the way it was. Otherwise, the costume was a good one. He just didn't like how many other men at the ball seemed to like it, too.
One in particular she'd seemed predictably charmed by and had allowed him more than one dance. The Comte de Chagny knew how to handle women. He didn't need to be familiar with the story of the Opera House to know that. It was evident in everything about him. From the glean in his eye as he honed in on the attractive newcomer to the way more than one woman's eyes followed his move with hope etched on their faces. He saw scorn in a few, too.
As he moved through the room, apologizing as he bumped into a person here and a couple dancing there. He glared at one woman, wondering if she realized the vibrant blue dress she wore with the equally vibrant multi-colored mask complete with feathers going every which way made her look more like a peacock than anything. He imagined she thought it looked stylish. The Doctor, however, found it ridiculous.
He grew more paranoid when he noticed neither his companion nor the attractive, sophisticated, wealthy, and suave Comte were anywhere to be seen. He was just her type, too: tall, dark, mysterious with an accent and loads of money and prestige that went with an old family name.
The Doctor's name was an old one, too. There was a certain amount of prestige and respect that came with it as well. Of course, none of these people had heard of him or knew what he was. He could certainly do one better than a count.
He was a Time Lord.
It was closing in on midnight, time for the unmasking and the Doctor had been keenly interested in being by her side when that time came. He'd wanted to be the one to see her face for the first time that night without a mask covering it.
Many had left when Red Death came, ruining the fun mood of the evening. The Doctor knew that things had a long way to go before the story so many knew was complete. He was of the mind to interfere, meddle as he knew he had no place to.
He knew how it played out. Beautiful man gets singing star. They're happy for a spell, but singing star eventually comes to realize that beauty is far more than surface deep. Like a festering wound, that knowledge serves to undermine everything she'd achieved. In her personal life anyway.
Would she be an even bigger star if she'd made a different - the right - choice? Would she feel more than empty inside anytime she wasn't onstage?
Frantic now, as he couldn't find Rose in any public areas of the Opera, he tried to think where someone like the Comte would take a seemingly easy Rose. Based on her choice in costume the Comte would believe this was the case.
He found them in the infamous Box Five. He supposed he should hand it to the Comte. If he was trying to impress a woman, he imagined Box Five would be tops on his list as well. Especially if he thought that he was the first one telling her the story of the Opera's ghost.
Rose knew the story, of course. It was one of the reasons he'd chosen this night for their bit of R&R. He knew she'd like seeing this night unfold.
"Excuse me," the Doctor said, parting the curtain and stepping into the box. He wasn't interrupting anything, yet, but he was quite certain the Comte hadn't brought her up here for the view. "Right, yes, there you are, you two."
"And you are?" the Comte asked.
"With her. That is she's with me. She's my Rose. You can pick another woman to try and impress tonight, Monsieur."
"She didn't say she was with anyone."
"Did you actually ask?" the Doctor asked, walking to Rose's side. He regarded her for a moment. "Do you really think a woman would wear such a costume if she was unescorted? That would just be inviting trouble. Don't you think?"
"Mademoiselle Tyler. Is he speaking the truth?"
She stared at him, not quite mad but not particularly happy with him either. She did that thing with her tongue that drove him mad. Particularly tonight with her dressed as she was.
"Yeah," she said simply. "I did enjoy the tour, though. I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten as good of one from anyone else."
The Doctor scoffed at that. She was flirting with him with the Doctor standing right there!
"You can leave now," the Doctor said.
"What do you think you're doing? I was having a good time?" she asked once the Comte had left them alone.
"Do you have any idea who that was?"
"Of course I do. I was just flirting with him. No harm. No foul."
"Not in this time, dressed like that."
"Dressed like what exactly? The TARDIS picked it out for me, and she's never picked out anything inappropriate before."
He brought his hands to her shoulders, cupping them, feeling the softness that was Rose beneath his palms.
"I don't think she intended for you to go off alone with a known womanizer."
She did that thing with her tongue once more, this time though it was accompanied by a cheeky grin.
"Who do you think she thought I'd be off alone with then, Doctor?"
"I don't. That is," he stammered. "You shouldn't be alone with anyone."
"I'm alone with you."
"Yeah, that you are. Right. We can fix that, though, go on down join the Parisian masses."
Just then he heard the striking of a clock, indicating it was now midnight.
"Time for the unmasking then, yeah?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, not at all put off for her reaching for his and removing it.
"Are you going to leave me masked then?"
Hers was a little more delicate, bejeweled and what not. He didn't want to risk being too rough with it, dislodging any of the baubles. Slowly, he removed it revealing her beautiful eyes to him as he was accustomed to seeing them.
"Hadn't planned on it, no," he said. With it out of the way of him actually seeing her, he no longer cared about how fragile it might be. He tossed it almost carelessly on a nearby chair.
He kissed her then. She had no idea the effect she had on him. That he'd dreamt of an excuse to kiss her since the first time she'd accepted his offered hand. Always he'd imagined she'd politely turn him down or kiss back but in such a fashion he'd know she was just trying to be polite.
That was not the case. At least not tonight. She kissed him back with a vigor and wild abandon that surprised him. Almost as if she'd been waiting for him to do just this for some time.
Lips parted and his hearts started racing as their tongues met. She tasted of champagne, and he realized the Comte must have given it to her. That didn't sit well with the Doctor at all. Her fingers rather adeptly worked his cravat, especially considering he doubted she'd had the need to work with one before tonight.
He drew away when she started sliding it through his shirt. He hadn't wanted to dress in anything different, but she'd insisted. He'd been unwilling to say no to her request. It really wasn't much of a costume, just a basic tuxedo styled from the turn of the century.
"Did you really think I'd do something foolish with him?"
"I never know what kind of mischief you're going to get yourself into when there's a good looking man around paying attention to you."
"Well, then maybe you should start paying attention to me so I don't look to other men."
"I pay attention to you."
"Not in the way I meant."
"I do pay attention to you, Rose," he reiterated. She had no idea how closely he paid attention to every move, every smile, every blink.
She smiled then, licking her lips that looked rather well-kissed just then.
"So, do you think the ghost is watching us?"
"No, I think he has rather more important things on his mind than who might be visiting his box tonight."
"Good," she said, wrapping the cravat around her hand.
"Why?" he asked, curious as to her answer.
She pushed him so he fell into the seat behind him. Luckily, not the same seat he'd tossed her mask on moments ago.
"Because I'm not leaving this box until I'm well and truly done kissing you."
"Yeah?" he asked, not finding that offensive at all.
She maneuvered her way onto his lap, no small feat considering the dress she was wearing. She brought her mouth to his, running her fingers through his hair, and he knew she'd given him his answer.
He wasn't exactly in a hurry to leave either. So that worked just fine for him.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com