Groggy, the Doctor winced at the sunlight that caught his attention. Great, he internally muttered to himself, just shoot me with morning rays so I can’t see.
“Good morning to you, too.” Tossing the Rubrics cube in the Doctor’s general direction, having it land onto the pillow beside his head, Lisa managed, “You’ve been asleep for the past three days. You don’t need that sort of rest, do you?”
“If I could manage another month of idea-free slumber? Yes.” Stifling a yawn, he stretched his arms out to pull the kinks out of his shoulder blades, then shifted around to sit up straight. Fingers placed upon the cube, the Doctor frowned in a muddled sort of confusion. Taking in the fact that only two of the usual colors were present, both black and white, the odd presence of mother-of-pearl squares riddled throughout the rest of the squares threw him off. “Did she say what any of this meant?”
“She said you’d understand.” With a simple shrug, Lisa added, “Beyond that, I thought of it as nothing more than a silly trinket. Breakfast?”
“Later. I want to figure this out. She’d laugh at me if I can’t figure this out. I’d laugh at me if I were her, too, so I really need to figure this out.”
Morning half-sleep was the only thing Lisa could think of as far as the way he was acting. Stalling tactic. “If I were to tell you that I’d take that away from you right now, and would not return it until you finished eating your breakfast, would you eat breakfast?”
“Is breakfast the name of a person, a place, a thing, or an idea?”
“You really need to eat something, even if it’s just a cookie.”
“Cookies? For breakfast?”
The look he gave her was one that only a child could have produced at the mention of cookies. He was obviously interested in the possibility of cookies. “Yes, just give me a few minutes.”
Once she was in the kitchen and out of sight, the Doctor tried to complete the cube to the best of his ability. Black with black, and white with white, were the only possible solutions. Why did she use mother-of-pearl for the other pieces of the―?
He knew Lisa was planning to make him eat cookies, if nothing else, when his nose caught the scent of a simple chocolate chip confection as it wafted into the den from the oven. Damn her for knowing me all too well.
I heard that, and I don’t know if I should take it as a curse or a compliment. How much is that puzzle puzzling you? Seeing his head leaning against the back of the sofa, the cube in hand above his face, and his eyes closed in vacant thought as she peeked around the corner meant he couldn’t figure it out. Great. Just great. “Do you really need to open it?”
“Life or death doesn’t fit the profile, but yes. Did she say anything about it? Beyond the ‘he’ll know what to do with it’ bit, I can’t comprehend the use of shiny swirls of water-born rainbow happiness. Which one decided to hand it over to you?”
“Not sure which, it was in a package addressed to me from her with a letter inside.”
That tiny notion of a reply did not sit well with Lisa, as it could have implied any number of things. I could try to find the note, if that helps.
The tone was sad, almost as if he felt defeated again. His body suddenly hunched over, his eyes intent on any possible pattern or color shift or… something as his fingers turned the cube over and over again was a quick turnaround, but it wasn’t any better than defeat.
“What?” Glancing up toward Lisa, the Doctor just stared. “What about them?”
“No more cube until you’ve eaten at least two cookies.”
Magnifying glass at the ready on his left, the puzzle directly in front of him, and a pad of paper and pen at his right, the Doctor sat slouched in his chair at the kitchen table just staring at the cube.
“I don’t want any more bruises, and I doubt she would have allowed it to be that easy to open.”
“How big is the actual key?”
“Oh, well. It’s bigger than the cube.” Taking up the magnifying glass, ignoring the look Lisa gave him, the Doctor took a deep breath, let it out, and then started trying to find any logical pattern in the ‘gray’ areas.
She took the chair across from him, watching his tiny movements. You said ‘water-born rainbow happiness.’
“Yes. Mollusks that live in the water tend to create an inner―”
“What? Yes, of course.” Attention raised, the Doctor lifted his head and gave her his full attention. “What of them?”
“The key is too big. You said the key is too big to fit, so there has to be some sort of… space/time… mollusk… thing she could have used?”
“You’re thinking too much.”
His attention lost, Lisa sighed in defeat. Would she have been able to infuse the squares with something to allow the key to fit? I’m guessing the key is too long to fit, not too wide.
“If you become too absorbed, I’ll throw it into the Bog.”
“No-one can become too absorbed in anything except themselves.”
He had a point, there, though she could probably find a few more things to throw into the list if she really wanted to nitpick. Then again, he might have just given her a double-answer. “Are you looking for a pattern that doesn’t exist? They all look gray to me.”
“Swirls and wisps and lefts and rights and, yes, black and white make ‘gray,’ but black and white don’t exist. Figments. Metaphors. Notions. Even this cube’s black and white sections aren’t, well.” Frowning, realizing he had missed that bit, the Doctor shifted the cube back and forth slowly. “That’s different.”
Her elbow went onto the table top to allow her hand to catch her chin. “Everything is different and everything is exactly the same.”
“No, no, this is―”
You’re doing it again, it is exactly the same. Whenever it comes to her, you shut me out. You did it the first time you introduced me to her, you’ve done it several times over between, and you’re doing it right now.
“Yes, well,” came the expected pause, his eyes keeping themselves on the puzzle. “I don’t need to keep you in the same pains I feel, they’re deep.”
Ugh. Snatching the cube up from him, Lisa gave it a few good glances with it in one hand while the other kept a single finger up to keep him silent. Satisfied, she threw it back to him. “The centers don’t match for your solids. Turn them the other way around and see what happens.”
“That’s what I was saying was different, but thank you for the confirmation.”
Should I keep my thoughts on not knowing your thoughts on her to myself?
What if I don’t?
Taking his time and keeping his attentions on the pattern work, the Doctor debated on what he should do about the present situation. A split second later gave him the answer. “I told you it was deep. Ah!”
Still grabbing hold to the edge of the table as if her life depended on it, Lisa couldn’t believe what just happened in her mind. It was if the Universe itself had screamed in agony, thrashing for eons and clawing for freedom from itself and what happened within it.
“Look, see?” Showing her his amusement with the cube, he sighed just as quickly. “I told you it was deep, I warned you it was deep. You were right, look - the patterns match perfectly. The rays are exactly in alignment, it’s exquisite!”
You’re looking at it, now, as a work of art and not a puzzle.
“That’s because it is a work of art, see?” Pressing the black and white centers inward slightly, a trigger clicked and the squares folded in on themselves to leave a completely hollow space between the two colored sides. “She was brilliant.”
There still isn’t a key.
“No.” Eyes calm, the Doctor took a moment to decipher the codex, then slid the top and bottom in opposite directions to have a four by three by three box in his hands.
You knew that would happen?
“…no. But surprises lurk around every corner, sometimes. She would have said that if she were the one figuring this out on her own. She would have been grinning.”
All Lisa could really remember of the woman was that she was flighty, or angry, or intent on universal domination, or… not. A frown appeared on her features when she tried searching and only found blank spots.
“I’m sorry, I’m trying to focus.”
“I was not aware you could do that to me,” Lisa glared.
“Mea culpa. I’m… keeping them blank in mine, so you’re just getting residue.” Twisting things around with the box, as it was acting as though it were still a Rubrics cube, the Doctor felt as though he should just throw it across the room in frustration, but he held his composure.
“Sorry,” Lisa slumped, her chin settling back onto the palm of her hand. “You’re just getting reinforced emotional notions as to what I’d do to it if I were you.”
“Will it fold in on itself?”
“Didn’t think of that, did you?”
“No, it’s a box,” came a shrug.
A box the length of the key?
Smiling slightly, Lisa was happy to know he was finally willing to answer in silence. You don’t want to fold it over, do you? You would have done it by now if you wanted.
I’m too close to possibly figuring out the puzzle, and once I’ve finished? “I don’t know if the key is worth it.”
“You stayed here for around three weeks waiting for me to return to ask about the key in question. That would mean that the answers in the box that said key opens are more important than finding the key itself.”
I’ll open it if you don’t. As he folded the box in on itself, the Doctor moped and Lisa frowned. Why would he be so sad when he just…?
“The Red-Head sent this to you. I figured that she would have been the only one willing to send it by puzzle box. She loved puzzles.”
“I know she loved puzzles. I also know she loved riddles, and dragons, and annoying me on purpose. You’re saying it was her because of the rubies?” Seeing his fingers trace the graceful lines in the silverwork box that had appeared when the Rubrics had been folded over in half, Lisa knew she didn’t want to feel his emotions right now. “If you two want to be alone….”
“Mm.” Picking the box up without opening it to see if a key even existed, the Timelord scooped up his coat and stood from the chair. “I’ll see myself out. Thank you.”
I’m not leaving you alone with that silly box, my comment was something called sarcasm. Following behind him without missing a beat, she kept in stride from the kitchen to the den - grabbing a pair of house shoes and slipping them on - then out the door and to the blue Police Box standing beside her house. “I’m coming with you. You’re not in the right frame of mind to pilot this ship anywhere.”
With an inward groan, the Doctor placed his forehead on the door with his eyes closed. “I’m not going to be piloting this ship anywhere, I’m going to be pouting in the corner like a sad little boy that just lost his beloved pet.”
She was your ‘beloved pet’?
“You’ve no idea.”
You never really gave me a true history…
“I don’t intend to, either.” Never having actually locked the doors, the Doctor just slipped inside the TARDIS without much thought of if Lisa followed or stayed outside. Coat tossed to the rigging, he slumped into the chair near the console and stared at the silver box.