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"Welcome." Doc Scratch doesn't speak, as such. At least, Rose wouldn't describe it as such. It's more like a subtle telepathy, noticeable if you're waiting for it or if he announces himself with a more obvious communication when he begins and finishes speaking. Something like a set of audible brackets, perhaps. Fortunately it's easy enough to pay attention to when you're standing right in front of him. But it still isn't speaking, it can't be, because—

"You do have a large cue ball for a head," Rose comments. She can't help feeling it's incredibly inane even as she says it, but she supposes when you're omniscient nearly all comments must be inane.

"Of course I do; I told you, I don't lie. Have some candy. Would you like to verify anything else about my anatomy, now that we finally meet in person?"

Rose ignores the candy, as of course he must have known she would, and raises her eyebrows. "As I recall, your other claim about your anatomy was that you have no physical means of reproduction. Are you asking me to verify that? Did you really just invite me to your room with candy and then offer to drop your pants?"

"It would seem that I did," Doc Scratch responds. The absence of tone and lack of facial cues doesn't give her anything more to work with than text had. Fortunately she's well-practiced reading people even from that.

"This is ridiculous," she says after a moment. "You know exactly what you're doing."

"That statement is nearly universally true," he says. There's still not much tone to it, but there's no way for that not to come off smug.

"So why are you doing it? Why are you deliberately presenting yourself as a predatory pedophile, only a white van away from personifying the stereotype? Are you trying to put me off?"

"Not quite. 'Trying' implies that I have an uncertain chance of succeeding. I never try. In this case, I know perfectly well that I will not succeed in truly putting you off. You are a very clever and persistent girl." Doc Scratch's lack of a face is still disconcerting—it's difficult to connect the body in front of her to the voice in her head.

"So why make the attempt? Or whatever you want to call it." Rose doesn't disguise her irritation.

"Because it's funny, I imagine. And because the comparison would be made regardless of whether I drew deliberate attention to it or not."

"Would it?"

"Of course it would." Doc Scratch folds his arms neatly behind his back. Somehow that clicks something in her perception—the neat suit and the arrogant pose align with his personality in her mind, even with the strangeness of his head.

"You said you're not attracted to me." Rose says, more hesitantly.

"And I am not, and cannot be. Not in that way."

"Then why?"

"That should be apparent by this point. It's not my attraction in question here. It's yours."

Rose instinctively schools her face to blankness, but she can feel her cheeks heating. She wonders for a split second if Doc Scratch can see it before remembering that's a stupid question. Of course he doesn't need to.

"You find me to be very charming and intelligent," Doc Scratch continues without waiting for a response from her. Not that she was going to provide one. "An intellectual sparring partner who can best you. And of course more than a little bit dangerous. All of which is entirely correct, and all of which you find attractive. And for you, that attraction is sexual."

Rose swallows. "A gentleman would politely ignore an adolescent girl's absurd crush on him. Instead you decided to go the creeper route?"

"It's absurd to hold me to any human standard of behavior. There was no possible way for you to believe I hadn't noticed. Or known about it before the fact, as the case may be. This method allowed you to confront the issue and its inevitable implications directly. In addition, as I believe I mentioned: it was funny."

Rose's lips quirk. "I guess it was. So what happens now that I've confronted it directly?"

"Well, I am certainly capable of being a gentleman in other ways. What happens next is up to you."

"But what I'm going to do is inevitable."

"Yes, it is."

"Is that an invitation?"

"Yes, it is."

Heart beating quickly, but high with the certainty that she can't make a wrong step, Rose crosses the room to stand close to Doc Scratch. She slowly reaches up to place her palms on his face—or where his face would be. The surface is smooth and slightly warm under her hands. He remains disconcertingly still, and this close she can see where the sphere blends seamlessly into his neck, just above the collar of his well-fitting suit. It's bizarre—does he even eat or breathe?

She can feel part of her mind reacting viscerally to the wrongness of it, but somehow it doesn't seem to be talking to the part that's making her breath come quickly and making her feel warm between her legs.

Trying to think of him as a creepy uncle hadn't really helped either. Rose doesn't have any uncles, but if she did, they wouldn't be immortal, omniscient beings from another universe.

Probably. It's always hard to tell with these things.

"Now," Doc Scratch says, just before she drops her hands to instead grip his suspenders. She glares and shoves him, the smug bastard. Even though he simultaneously predicted the move and prompted it he still stumbles when his back hits his desk, his arms finally unfolding from behind his back for balance. An act for her benefit, she supposes. And if he's willing to do that...

"You have hands, at least," she says challengingly, and if it's a bit of a non sequitur he's smart enough to take her meaning even if he wasn't omniscient, especially when she punctuates it by straddling his thigh, her skirt riding up slightly.

He steadies her hips. "I do. And I am quite skilled with them." And with that, an immortal first guardian is pulling up the edge of her skirt, his smooth, slightly-cool palm sliding to rest on the skin above her knee. If she was warm before, she's on fire now, and the touch isn't enough. She presses closer, lifting her knee and climbing half on top of him.

"I'm afraid that's one of those things that can't just say, even if you're omniscient," Rose says, slightly breathless and not making any attempt at keeping her voice even. "You'll need to prove it."

"It will be a pleasure," he says. He brushes back hair from her face and caresses her jawline with his other hand as the first moves up her thigh, the skin there so hot and sensitive that his light touch is exhilarating.

Even expecting it, it's still somehow a surprise when he slides his fingers under the edge of her panties and applies pressure in a way that sends a bolt of pleasure up her spine. She wonders if that's close to how he feels.

"I can't feel quite like that," he says, and Rose wonders if he's talking about sexual pleasure or what she had been thinking about. Possibly both. "But it's satisfying to see. All the more so close at hand in someone I've taken a liking to."

"Stop flattering me," Rose manages. She barely restrains herself from pressing needily into his hand.

"Never." His fingers deftly find their way between her folds to rub at her clit, and she gasps and turns her head. She accidentally—or maybe not—catches the tips of his fingers in her mouth. He takes advantage of it to brush at her lips, and they tingle. She abruptly realizes that he can't kiss. So instead she lets her mouth fall open again, licking the pads of his fingers. They're soft and warm, but strangely textured, and they taste slightly synthetic, like plastic and metal. It's not bad, though, and when he dips his fingers deeper into her mouth she sucks on them and shivers.

His hand between her legs keeps moving, and after a minute or two she's no longer sure quite what he's doing with it. Moving too fast for her brain to parse, maybe. I type very quickly. It hardly seems important, though, as whatever he's doing sends waves of pleasure through her. She loses track of what she's doing for a minute, and notices only belatedly that she's let her jaw fall slack, and his free hand has found its way under her t-shirt. When his damp fingers reach her nipple, her supporting leg trembles and threatens to give out. He shifts to take more of her weight.

She's sprawled out against him as he leans back on his desk, squirming under his touch, when it occurs to her that he's known this was going to happen the whole time. During all their conversations. What would be embarrassing under other circumstances just makes her breath hitch in a needy sob, and his fast-moving hand shifts its angle slightly and she crests the threshold of orgasm, trembling and pressing herself against his chest. He holds her in place with an arm around her waist.

The fog of pleasure clouds her mind for an interminable time, and even when she manages to focus it takes Rose a long time to convince her legs that they need to support her again. Eventually, though, she finally releases Doc Scratch's suspenders and step back.

"Well." What can she even say now? "You certainly weren't lying."

"Thank you."

"And thank you." Rose tugs her shirt back into place. "For indulging me. Shall we move on to the matter at hand?"

He straightens, and folds his arms once again behind his back. "We can do whatever you like. This will be the last occasion we have like this, at least for a while, but we still have quite some time."

Rose shifts her weight. Her panties are soaked through, and she's still incredibly sensitive, so the brush of fabric as she moves causes sparks of sensation. She's extremely tempted to make him do it all again. And he must know that.

"Let's talk business," she says. Somehow it doesn't take any of the edge off.