A Feline's Fancy

Acclimation

"You can't imagine how bored out of my head I was in that place. You'd think that cat bloke could toss in a Gameboy or somethin', but no-"

The Doctor lifted a finger as they exited the bath, peering down the hall towards the lounging room. "We've taken long enough. More later," he whispered.

He had stayed in the huge bath facing the doorway while Rose had showered, not wanting to leave her alone. While she was busy, he had picked through the basket of slave attire in the corner and tried to find something that would fit her. Unsure, he gave up and pointed her towards it and waited at the doorway.

Now, the Doctor led Rose, freshly-clothed in a new black band and shorts, back to the lounging room and prepared for a silent few hours. Play it cool, he told himself. Not too excited, but appreciative. Show you can behave agreeably just as easily with Rose here, if not better.

Icha was watching a programme as usual. She looked up as they entered, offered a small smile, and patted the Doctor's empty spot on the sofa.

The Doctor and Rose circled around in front of the sofa, and the Doctor sat down. He wasn't sure if Icha had meant for Rose to sit, too, and there wasn't really room for both to lie down on this side of Icha-not in a way Icha would like, anyway. He would be content to just hold her close for a while, but it wasn't really an option in his mind. Satisfied that perhaps in the future Icha would be okay with it and he could look forward to the opportunity, he motioned to Rose to sit down on the floor for now right next to the sofa where at least they could be near each other. He half-expected Rose to object, but she settled down immediately.

There was room on the other side of Icha. Since Icha didn't seem too fond of Rose, he thought maybe it would be better to stay between her and Rose for now. Besides, he didn't want Icha between them, and he thought Rose would probably feel the same way.

The remote to their collars was also in Icha's right hand, the side opposite the Doctor near the spot where Rose would have to occupy, and Icha no doubt didn't trust either of them enough for that.

The Doctor picked up his big brown pillow and passed it down to Rose. She accepted it gratefully and hugged it. He grinned at her as she then pressed her nose into the fuzzy fabric and inhaled deeply.

Swiveling, he lay on his stomach and propped his head up with his elbows, looking idly at the screen and thinking how different it was to be here with Rose. He wondered what they could do until lunch without disturbing Icha.

The cat woman teased his shoulder with a clawing motion. "Marwari..." she sing-songed.

Blimey, did she have to do this now? The Doctor rolled his eyes and looked over the sofa. In front of Rose?

Knowing he had little choice and was being ridiculously timid, he sat upright and peeled his shirt off inside-out and over his head. He lay back down, avoiding Rose's eyes for as long as he could. When Icha began to pet him, the Doctor couldn't resist any longer and looked down at Rose.

It was a good thing Icha couldn't see Rose's face over the edge. Rose tried to keep a straight face, but apparently his condition was amusing to her, and she was obviously having trouble keeping quiet. Yes, being pet by a cat, very funny. The Doctor looked away, mortified, and rest his chin on his crossed arms and pretended to watch the programme.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

"Now then," Icha said brightly after her programme ended. She sat up from her pillows and crossed her legs, turning towards the two of them.

The Doctor, happy Icha was done petting him and eager to do something else, sat up and mimicked Icha's posture while pulling his shirt back on. Rose got up on her knees and rested her elbows on the sofa, looking at Icha.

Icha studied Rose for a minute. Her expression was kind, but the Doctor could see the wariness in her eyes. "I must think on what to call you. Come," Icha invited, patting the sofa near the Doctor. "Sit up here. Let me have a look at you."

Rose readily climbed onto the sofa, the look on her face indicating she was just as wary of Icha as Icha was of her.

The Doctor wanted to just tell Icha her name, though he thought that Icha must have heard him use her name in the shoppe. Had he said her name loudly enough?

Icha could just ask him, and he would gladly tell her. Maybe he should just say it. No, knowing Icha, she would decide not to use it simply because he had spoken and wasn't allowed to. She had to know that since they hadn't grown up in captivity, they would already have names. Perhaps she didn't use people's real names on purpose as a form of control, and that's why she never had asked for the Doctor's name.

Icha's eyes moved slowly over Rose, and Rose studied her back. The cat woman raised a hand and brushed it through the golden blonde hair that framed Rose's face. "Your colours... I shall call you... Lily."

As in the flower? So close! The Doctor, excited that Icha had almost said Rose's name, reached for her hand to get her attention, to show Icha she had almost guessed it.

Bad move.

Rose cried out in pain and surprise, just for an instant. The Doctor jumped up almost to his knees, ready to protect Rose. He knew he hadn't pressed anything when he had gripped Icha's hand. No, he was sure it had been her left hand, not her right.

Icha had shocked her! The Doctor glared at the cat dangerously.

Icha was staring at Rose, her expression surprised and slightly horrified. She recovered her mask, but not as quickly as usual, and met his eyes. "Marwari," she scolded in her controlled tone. "Never do that again. I don't want to hurt either of you, you know that, but I will if you make any sudden moves, in my own defence."

The Doctor stared at Icha. Despite her queen slaver's mask, her expression very easily could pass for guilty. Had she just pressed the wrong button?

Icha waved them off the sofa. The Doctor and Rose backed off and stood, facing her. Icha managed a grim smile. "Go on," she said with forced cheer. "Marwari, take Lily to the kitchen. Show her how to cook if she doesn't know how." She waved again. "Go on, then."

Rose moved readily away, and the Doctor put a steadying hand to her back, leading her towards the left hallway. Icha watched after them arrogantly. The Doctor gave Icha one last look before rounding the corner and turning his attention to Rose.

Rose had been shocked before, but not by Icha. She had seen Icha shock the Doctor, but only because he was clearly disobeying her. Now, Rose looked frightened and angry. The Doctor wanted to comfort her with an embrace, but he wanted to put some distance between them and Icha so he could also soothe her with words.

The walk to the kitchen seemed to take longer than ever. Once upon the cold tiles and inside the humming utilitarian atmosphere, the lights flickered on. The Doctor turned Rose into his shoulder, and she went willingly.

"That woman is horrible!" Rose carped, hugging him tightly. "I didn't even do anything! You didn't really, either."

The Doctor stroked her back and touched the flesh beneath her collar gently. He wanted to pry the cursed thing off her neck. "She didn't mean to."

Rose pulled back a bit to meet his eyes. "What?"

The fight had left him, replaced by a sort of quiet frustration. He blinked slowly. "You heard her. She meant to shock me. She shocked you by mistake. Not used to having two buttons, I guess."

"So it's gonna happen again, then."

"Oh, I'd think not. It was my fault, really."

"Like hell it was." Rose pulled away from him, turning to look around.

The Doctor sighed, looking around himself. "Welcome to the kitchen," he said with a presenting arm.

Rose looked all around. "It's big," she observed with wonder. "Could fit a dozen cooks in here."

The Doctor nodded in response, moving towards the washer and pulling out a few plates. "Easily. Not everything works anymore though, thanks to me, so hopefully we don't get nearly that many."

"They come often, then? Cook up a big feast every night?"

He shook his head. "Nope. Just us."

Rose stared at him, her hand on the refrigerator door. "Seriously? You, me, and... Icha, was it?"

The Doctor nodded, fishing around in a drawer for teaspoons. "We're not just pets, we're slaves. I do all the cooking. Well, we do, now. We're not allowed upstairs, so don't even try. At the end of this hall is the laundry and some locked utility cupboards. In the other direction, you remember the bath. At the end that way is the library. There's nothing in-between we can access."

"So why's this place so big for just her?"

The Doctor passed Rose, giving her a weighty look. "Good question."

Rose peeked into the refrigerator. "Well, I'd say she likes biscuits. How does she keep her figure?"

The Doctor shrugged and opened a cupboard, retrieving the sugar. "Can't say she eats much. Pull out a package of those, will you?" He frowned. "Can't say she does much either." He looked over at Rose and found himself appreciating the way she doubled over behind the refrigerator door. "I'm afraid we'll be watching a lot of telly."

Rose straightened, a papered roll of dough in her hand. "Ugh. Well I can't really complain, can I? It's got to be better than being stuck in that shoppe without it." She walked towards him.

The Doctor waved a knife at her. "Your brain will turn to mush. Don't say I didn't warn you." He set the knife down on the counter noisily. "Here, biscuits. Have at it."

Removing the paper, Rose picked up the knife and started slicing. "Well we're together. Can't beat that, considering."

He offered her a small smile. "Yeah. I imagine these will be our best times, here in the kitchen, where we can occupy ourselves. Talk." Rose nodded in agreement, and they were silent for a moment while they prepared lunch. The Doctor imagined they would be alone together tonight as well, but since he wasn't sure what to expect, he wasn't ready to share the possibility with Rose.

"So why 'Lily'?"

The Doctor's mood turned up a little with a quirk at the corner of his mouth. "Don't you remember?" He teased, picking up the teapot and filling it under the tap. "Cat people think you look pink and yellow."

Rose affected puzzlement for a moment, then narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. "If I recall, it was you who thought so."

He glanced at her, mildly trying to hide his amusement. "No, I think it was the cats."

"Roses can just as easily be pink or yellow. Why 'Lily'?" The Doctor shrugged and looked back to his teapot. There was a significant pause. "What's 'Marwari' mean?"

The Doctor set aside the full teapot, not really looking where he was putting it. "Ah, just... a name."

Rose nodded immediately. "Right. 'Cause Icha made an effort to pick out a fitting name for a pet she doesn't even like much. Why put meaning into a name for a pet she obviously fancies?"

"I dunno!" The Doctor blurted, suddenly self-conscious. He scratched at the back of his head, avoiding her eyes. "How should I know what she was thinking when she came up with it? It's not like I can just ask her."

"C'mon, Doctor. I know you. You can't fool me. Out with it."

He sighed. Nine centuries of lying. He liked to think he was pretty good at it. And yes, he had fooled Rose plenty of times, thank you very much. "It's... um. A sort of... horse, apparently," he mumbled.

"A sort of what? Didn't catch that."

He fixed his eyes on Rose's, determined not to show his discomfort. "A horse. Brown... horse. Sort of..." he trailed off under Rose's scrutiny, her brows rising. "...leggy." The stove was behind her. Feeling warm all over and quite sure his cheeks were betraying him, the Doctor picked up the teapot and held it out.

"Right," Rose drawled and beamed a cheeky grin at him. She took the teapot, half-turned, and looked him up and down over her shoulder.

Since there were now three of them, the Doctor made use of two platters. He and Rose made their way down the hallway towards the lounging room, he carrying the one of tea and Rose the one of biscuits. Rose had complained that the biscuits weren't done, but he assured her they were and it wasn't her fault because he had broken the oven. When she had asked why he had broken it, he told her he would show her later.

Icha was watching another programme, which wasn't a surprise. The Doctor and Rose set down their platters on the sofa, and Icha looked them over with approval and helped herself. The Doctor waited until she was finished taking what she wanted before seating himself next to Icha and serving Rose and himself.

Rose settled herself between the sofa and the Doctor's pillow and distracted herself with the screen while sipping at her tea. Having no interest in the programme, the Doctor was content to munch on biscuits and watch her.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Supper went similarly to lunch. The Doctor and Rose got to disappear into the kitchen for a while. It was good to be doing something with Rose, even if it was just fixing a meal. Because there were two of them, preparations went quickly, but they did their best to stall short of letting the food cool. Rose informed him that she was entitled to a rather large helping and that two weeks of pet shoppe food was the most dreadful experience of her life.

After eating their fill, they lazed around some more. The Doctor endured more petting from Icha and the sniggering from Rose that came with it. He supposed he was somewhat used to doing nothing by now, and he worried about Rose being bored more than himself. When he really thought about it, though, this had to be much better than passing time in the pet shoppe. At least they were comfortable, well fed, and most importantly, together.

The Doctor dropped an arm over the edge of the sofa. Rose smiled and entwined her fingers with his.

When the screen finally clicked off and Icha stretched and climbed off the sofa, the Doctor sat up in anticipation and pulled his shirt on. Sensing it was time to go, Rose also stretched and sat on the edge of the sofa next to him. They watched Icha, waiting.

"Time for bed, Marwari." Icha paused and smiled. "Lily." The Doctor took Rose's hand and squeezed it, rubbing his thumb along her skin. Rose squeezed back, waiting for the Doctor's lead. Instead of getting up, he stayed put. Two pairs of brown eyes gazed up at Icha, and blue ones gazed back. Icha smiled in what the Doctor took to be sympathy. "I'll be right back."

They watched Icha disappear into the foyer, and the Doctor waited until he heard her ascend the stairs before he whispered, "I don't know where she plans to put you."

"Where do you sleep?"

"Under the stairs." He nodded his head towards the foyer.

Rose paused. "Seriously?"

The Doctor nodded. "If you mean by sleep running about the place and taking things apart, then yeah."

Rose beamed mischievously, but it was short-lived. "Well, something tells me that's not where I'm sleepin'."

He sighed quietly. "Not likely. A bit cramped, anyway."

Icha returned and patted her thigh, her tone subdued. "Come on."

To the Doctor's surprise, Icha headed for the right hall. Anxious, he got up and followed, his pillow in one hand, Rose's hand in the other.

They passed the PCOS room but didn't make it to the bathing chamber before Icha turned to a door. The Doctor recognised it as one of the empty bedrooms he had snooped around on his first night.

Icha opened the door and motioned inside. "Lily."

What about him? Rose looked to him sadly and squeezed his hand, then let go and entered the room. The Doctor met Icha's eyes and tried to follow Rose, but Icha stopped him with a hand to his chest.

"No, Marwari. Wait out here."

Icha disappeared inside and closed the door. The Doctor's anxiety spiked. What was she doing in there, alone with Rose? He put his ear to the door and listened.

"Here you are, dear." The Doctor heard drawers moving. Hadn't they been empty? Yes, some had, but a few had been locked. There was a pause, then, "I won't hurt you, Lily. There now, look at me. That's right." Another pause. "As long as you behave, you should be quite comfortable. There's nothing to fear. You're safe here. You're lucky, you know. Being a pet isn't so bad. I don't expect much. Just keep Marwari company." Another pause, and Icha's voice was much closer. "Good night, Lily. I'll be in for you in the morning."

The Doctor backed away as the door opened, and Icha stepped out. She turned and locked the door with one of her metal keys, then looked to Marwari. "Come to bed." Icha started down the hall, but he didn't follow. She stopped and looked back at him. "It's only for the night, Marwari. You'll see her again in the morning."

He supposed there was no point in standing there. Icha wasn't going to open the door. He would just have to come back after Icha went upstairs. With one last look at the door, the Doctor followed Icha to the foyer.

Icha showed the Doctor into his cupboard. "I hope you sleep well, Marwari, now that Lily is safe."

The Doctor stared as Icha shut the door and moved up the stairs. So, she had figured it out. He supposed it didn't take someone very clever. Icha had bought Rose for him, and assumed he would now stop attempting to escape. While he admitted he was more concerned with getting through the bedroom door right now than a way out of the house, he wouldn't hesitate to jump at an opportunity if it presented itself. He was much less desperate to get out than he had been, but there were other reasons to escape, and he would eventually find a way.

The mansion entered night mode, and the Doctor crept silently from the cupboard with a small bundle and back down the hallway. He reached Rose's door and knocked quietly. "Rose."

There was a rustling, and then Rose answered from just the other side, "Doctor, it's locked."

"I know. Bear with me, I'm gonna try to get it open." The Doctor set down the bundle of parts he had halfway made into tools and sorted through them, picking one up and applying it to the lock. He poked and prodded and the lock clicked and clanked as he worked. "What's in the drawers?"

"Hm? Oh, some clothes."

The Doctor stopped. "Really?"

"Yeah. Why?"

He hesitated, poking at the lock. "I had to work for mine."

There was another pause from behind the door. "Jealous much?"

"Maybe."

"Wonder why I didn't have to do anything for mine."

"I would think it would be obvious."

A pause. "Why's that, then?"

The Doctor applied too much pressure, and the makeshift tool snapped. "Damn!"

"What?"

He just stopped himself from slamming his fist against the door in frustration. "Just a little setback, that's all. I need... what do I need..." He looked over the bits of scrap.

"Doctor."

He lifted his head. "Hm?"

"It's... been a long day. I'm just gonna turn in, if that's all right."

The Doctor frowned. "I'll get this open, Rose."

"It's okay, really. I'm gonna sleep anyway. And it's not gonna happen with you making all that noise, either. I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

"Rose..."

"Doctor, I'm fine. I'm here, now." She paused. "You found me."

A moment passed before the Doctor sighed and nodded. He had found her. Rose wasn't going anywhere, and he would see her in the morning. Besides, she didn't need him keeping her awake.

"Okay." He picked up his tool parts and stood.

"Good night, Doctor."

The Doctor pressed the side of his face to the door and closed his eyes briefly. "Good night, Rose."

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