A Feline's Fancy

Rose

Put on your favorite reunion Doctor Who track and have at it. (I personally feel "Doomsday" fits Chapter 10 well...)

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"Marwari, go shave before someone thinks you're getting lordly ideas."

The Doctor looked up from the pink eggs he was idly shoving around his plate on the sofa. Wouldn't they have to actually meet someone else for that someone to care?

Icha looked back to her programme. "When I was young, I remember thinking it cruel to make male pets shave their faces, but when my mother told me some actually liked being shaven..." She trailed off, then looked back at him. "To not be clean shaven is to make a statement that you think you're of equal status as one of the catkind, and I can't have that, can I?" Icha pointed to his plate. "We're going out. Pick up the dishes and go wash up."

Fine. Dragging himself upright, the Doctor pulled his shirt on over his head, took the plates and returned them to the kitchen. He doubled back through the lounging room and to the bathing chamber, located the razor, and did as he was told.

He had let himself go the past few days. Whenever he had thought to do it, he found he just didn't have a good enough reason to spend the energy doing it.

So they were going for a walk. He supposed that was good, sure. It would be nice to get out of the house. He used to be enthusiastic about it, but now it just seemed like one more thing he had to endure.

The Doctor left the bathing chamber, rubbing a hand over his now smooth face. He met Icha in the foyer, who was dressed for public with her handbag and gloves.

"Ah, much better. You wouldn't think so, but I like you better this way. Come on." Icha led them out.

The weather was fair and sunny, as it seemed to be most days in this part of Paurin. The Doctor told himself it didn't really matter what the weather was like, that it didn't affect whether he was free or enslaved. He breathed deeply of the fresh air anyway, thinking he really should lighten up. It didn't do him any good to be miserable if he could be content just to be alive, fed, sheltered, and clothed.

Today, they walked down the hill into town. The Doctor expected they would cross the street per usual, maybe pop over to the cafe for sweetberries, but they didn't. Icha walked down the right side of the sidewalk, the same walk the Doctor had taken his first time here towards Icha's house.

They would pass right by the pet shoppe.

Now fully alert, the Doctor looked on as they drew closer and closer. Was Icha testing him, to see if he would disobey her and try to enter?

Or dare he hope, was the pet shoppe their destination?

The Doctor pushed the idea away. He didn't think he could take the disappointment if it wasn't.

Then again... whether they passed it or not, he would definitely be able to get a good look inside.

They approached the shoppe, the Doctor's hearts hammering in anticipation.

"I'm thinking a sort of crimson would look good on you..." Icha mumbled as she slowed. To the Doctor's great joy, Icha turned inside the shoppe, and he hurried after her and looked to the cages.

A girl hugged her legs inside Eli's cage, but it wasn't Eli.

"Rose," he breathed, the word a reverent whisper. It didn't even occur to him that he wasn't supposed to speak until after the fact, but it was more of a fleeting observance than a worry. He thought he noticed Icha turn her head to him out of the corner of his eye, but he found he didn't much care.

Something deep inside the Doctor switched on--something he hadn't even noticed had faded.

Despite being overwhelmed at the sight of her, he managed to register a lesser shock at seeing Rose wearing much less than he was used to. He was familiar with the black band across her chest like Eli had worn, and although still modest, it seemed less effective on Rose's fuller bust. She wore the same type of shorts Icha had found him in. There had been very few instances he'd seen Rose with less than her preferred style of makeup, and while he could detect only faded traces, the absence of its usual vibrance only served to pull at the Doctor's empathy.

The young woman had been watching the doorway as they entered. When Rose locked eyes with him, hers had gone wide in recognition, relief and, the Doctor was proud to see, readiness to act.

After the shock had set in, he noted, she took a moment to give him a once-over herself.

The Doctor abandoned Icha's side and rushed forward, only to be caught at the end of his leash. Without a thought, he unclipped it from his collar and hurried to crouch at the bars of the cell, Rose simultaneously jumping up to the bars and crouching down to meet him. Rose's face was a picture of relief he'd often seen before. In one way or another they would get separated saving a planet or otherwise running for their lives, always to reunite with one another. She was fully expecting him to get her out, and that everything would be fine.

He was not in a position to rescue her this time, however. He didn't have the freedom to take Rose by the hand and run, facing their escape together. He was acutely aware that what he wanted would most likely not be what those in power wanted.

The Doctor put a hand to Rose's face. "You all right?"

"Yeah." Rose exhaled in relief and beamed, the brightness of her smile prompting him to return one of his own. "You?"

The Doctor's reply was stifled by the warning buzz about his neck, and he clenched his jaw shut. Rose's expression filled with sudden worry, and before she could ask what was wrong, he moved two fingers to her unusually pale lips. Seeing Rose again had transported him back to when they had last seen each other, as if the past two weeks had been but a dream. He glanced down at the collar around her neck. He had forgotten himself in the excitement of the moment.

He looked to Icha. Her expression wasn't one of anger or gloating. Icha didn't want to hurt him, but she felt she had no other choice. He saw anxiety, fear.

Rose was a threat to her and what Icha had with the Doctor.

"Come along, Marwari," the command in Icha's voice clear.

The Doctor felt panic begin to rise. He didn't want to be shocked, but he couldn't leave Rose. No, he wouldn't leave Rose. At that solid fact, the Doctor's panic hardened into resolve. There was nothing else for it.

Twining an arm through the bars, the Doctor crouched outside the cell facing Icha, ready for what he knew would come.

The blinding pain overcame him, just as viciously as he remembered. It ended as abruptly as it had started, and the Doctor heard the tail end of his own cry of agony. The flesh of his neck burned horribly, his overloaded nervous system searing in alarm with an intense heat, or perhaps cold, he couldn't tell which. Rose had reached through the bars and was gripping him about the shoulders and chest whimpering, her voice and touch dulled from the assault to his senses.

"Stop it!" she cried.

"Rose, be quiet!" he hissed in warning. "Let go!"

Rose hesitated but complied, probably in reaction to the tenuous state of his voice.

"Come here!" Icha thundered.

While Icha could be intimidating when she didn't raise her voice, the fact that he'd never heard her do so until now was significant to note. Icha had lost her cool.

Lost her cool, wielding a shocker remote.

"I know what will get him," a voice grumbled from the desk.

The Doctor turned to look and saw Vicks, the man that had sold him two weeks ago to Icha. It didn't register what he was doing until the Doctor was suddenly deafened by Rose's shriek, her sharp cry from just behind him cutting through his dulled senses.

"NO!" the Doctor shouted, his voice breaking. A primal rage welled within him. The Doctor shot to his feet and glared at Vicks murderously. Rose quieted.

If Vicks shocked her again, he couldn't be responsible for the consequences to the cat man's health, the Doctor's collar be damned.

"That'll do," Icha said irritably.

Vicks was staring at Rose. When he finally released his grip on Rose's remote, the Doctor looked to Icha.

The cat woman looked stricken, staring at the Doctor for a long time as he pleaded back to her with his eyes. He was desperate to show Icha how important Rose was to him--short of showing too much affection, however. He remembered Icha not being keen on the idea of slaves being too close.

Icha hadn't expected her pet to resist past being shocked, to react aggressively to the shoppe owner. Her voice changed to match her appearance, that of one who had lost something or had given up.

"How much for her?"

The Doctor mouthed his surprise, his expression hopeful.

"Err..." Vicks' sounded just as surprised as the Doctor was before switching to an all-business tone. "Well, what you paid for this one would do just fine, surely!"

"I paid eight thousand for Marwari. For her, I'll give you three."

The Doctor looked to Vicks, who appeared indecisive. Vicks was looking at him, as if assessing the importance Icha placed on pleasing him and weighing it against Icha's obvious lack of interest in Rose. She didn't want to pay nearly as much for her, and the Doctor was very worried they wouldn't agree on a price.

"Well," the cat man began hesitantly, "I don't usually take less than four thousand for a specimen such as she." Vicks got up from his stool and crossed his arms, moving closer to Rose and studying her, as if for the first time. "She's wild like him, yes, but some folks go for that in females. Very good condition." He suddenly lifted a finger, eyes bright. "Oh, and she speaks Rudeese as well! It's my theory they came from the same place."

No shit, Sherlock, the Doctor censured inwardly.

Icha squinted suspiciously at Rose, then at the Doctor. Her gaze lingered on him. "You've had very good behaviour, Marwari, for being found wild. Do you think you deserve her?"

He had so much to say and wanted to spring on the opportunity at being asked a question, but this was too fragile a situation. He was about to nod at Icha, but looked to Rose instead. Rose looked back at him in anticipation. What response was Icha expecting, or did his answer even matter?

Did he deserve her?

The Doctor returned his eyes to Icha's scrutiny and slowly shook his head.

Icha judged him for a few moments. What would he do if she said no?

"Four thousand."

Vicks blinked at Icha. The Doctor gasped in a breath and held it as he waited for his decision.

Vicks pressed his feline lips together. "Err... well, you drive a hard bargain, Miss Nubien, but you're a good customer. Four thousand it is."

The Doctor barely suppressed a shout of victory and beamed down at Rose, still crouched against the cell bars. She grinned back up at him.

"If you become rebellious, she's out! Do you hear me?" Icha scolded.

The Doctor sobered and nodded at Icha obediently.

Vicks approached Rose's cell, and even though the Doctor didn't want to put distance between himself and Rose, he backed readily away so Vicks could get her out. Rose stood, smiling at the Doctor. The door opened with a clank and it was mere moments before Rose was rushing into the Doctor's arms. He hugged her to him fiercely, surprised at first by the unusual amount of contact with her skin.

How could he have forgotten for a single moment how she felt?

They reveled in their reunion, the Doctor not quite believing their luck. He was expecting to feel a buzzing at his neck, but there was none. This was the part where they should be swapping stories, exchanging "I'm so glad you're okay" and "Where have you been", but he wouldn't push it. There would be plenty of time for talk later, so the Doctor contented himself with the peace of just being in the embrace of Rose's body and scent as the voices of Icha and Vicks finished business behind him.

They completed the transaction entirely too swiftly. "Come along," Icha prompted, her strides marching for the street.

The Doctor didn't want to let go, but the sooner they reached Icha's mansion, the sooner they'd secure Rose's place away from the pet shoppe and hopefully find time to talk alone. He pulled away and looked into Rose's eyes and saw that tears had welled up. She gazed back at him and touched his face gratefully. The Doctor glanced to the door and gave her a questioning expression, as if to ask if she was okay and ready to move. Rose nodded back excitedly and sniffled.

She was so beautiful. He'd found his Rose, and now he could protect her again. Trailing his hands down Rose's bare arms and leaving one in her eager grip, the Doctor turned and followed Icha, tugging Rose along behind him into the daylight.

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