The Doctor couldn't help but feel disappointed, but he waited out the night alone as Rose requested. She had always kept up with his pace during their adventures and sometimes from one directly into another, but when they returned to the TARDIS and Rose would immediately fall asleep on the captain's chair, he would order Rose to her room for a proper sleep cycle. Sometimes, their day would be tiring enough that she would go off on her own, but he would always say good night.
He never had to worry about her while she slept safely aboard his own ship. He often felt compelled to enter her room and wake her because he was bored and wanted to go somewhere new with her, but he rarely gave in. Instead, he would tinker around under the console and wait for her, knowing Rose needed her rest for their next destination. He was a Time Lord--what was a few hours wait?
During those times, knowing he could go to her if he wanted to was enough. The fact that he couldn't now was almost unbearable.
The Doctor sighed and opened his cupboard door, peering out towards the lounging room awash with dawn's light. He hoped she wasn't ill.
Rose had been inactive for the past two weeks in a prison. Yesterday had to have been the most excitement she had endured in a while, even though they had been lazy for most of it. Emotionally, it had probably been an exhausting day, and she hadn't been up for more.
Still, they had finally gotten time alone, without time limit and run of the house, and the Doctor felt like she had given up on him.
Oh well, what was the rush anyway? He could look forward to plenty of time with her in this place, even if they had nothing really to do.
He had spent his time alone refining his lock picking instrument. Unlike the secure outer door locks of the mansion, the bedroom door used one of those metal keys of Icha's. The physical key was very simple to copy. It was the electronic component of it he wanted to bypass without frying it and giving Icha reason to move Rose to another room. He thought about getting up now to try it, waking Rose early, but it was too risky. Icha could come down at any time and catch them.
Finally, the Doctor heard Icha upstairs. He stretched and drew himself alert, eager to see Rose again.
"Good morning, Marwari," Icha greeted cheerily as she passed through the foyer. The Doctor took his cue and climbed out of his cupboard and followed her. Sure enough, Icha passed through the lounging room and down the hall to the guest bedroom Rose had been left in.
"Lily, are you awake, my dear?" Icha called through the door as she unlocked it. The Doctor stood behind her, bouncing on the balls of his feet until the door opened, and he then followed Icha inside. Rose was sitting on the bed, and when she saw him, she stood.
The Doctor's eyes immediately flicked over her new appearance. Rose wore a white jumper made with what looked like soft fleece. Its sleeves ended in diagonal ends at the elbows. Her pants appeared to be of the same material as his, but hers ended at the knees in the same diagonal style as the top. The outfit fit her perfectly, doing much to accentuate her natural curves.
While a secret part of him wished he had taken more advantage of her pet shoppe attire, he had to admit he very much liked what he saw. He had assumed Icha had given Rose more clothing her first night home for the Doctor's benefit, but he had expected something less feminine, less... fitting. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't seen any slaves wearing loose clothing. It was probably a bad idea to allow them to wear clothing one could hide potentially dangerous objects in.
Apparently, his expression was cause for Rose to bite the curve of her lip. Her mouth slackened when she looked to Icha, and the Doctor followed her eyes. The cat woman was watching him, but brightened and looked to Rose when he saw her.
"I haven't seen that outfit for some time. It looks good on you, Lily."
Rose smiled politely in what the Doctor assumed was thanks. Icha approved and left the room, and they were of course expected to follow.
The Doctor took Rose's hand and leaned close. "Got anything for me in those drawers?"
She grinned mischievously. "Not unless you've got some Time Lord gender-swapping trick I don't know about."
They followed Icha into the lounging room, where she swiftly waved them on to the kitchen. Delighted to spend some much needed time with Rose, the Doctor practically raced her once halfway down the hallway.
"You let me win!" Rose accused the Doctor once they were inside. "Don't be goin' easy on me!"
"Or what? You'll tell on me?"
Rose suddenly went serious, looking around the kitchen. "Doctor, it's been botherin' me. How did we get here?"
The Doctor frowned at her, taking a couple of steps towards her and further into the kitchen. Assuming she wasn't talking about the walk to Icha's house, "You know we're not on Gestaapa anymore, right?"
"Yeah, worked that out." She gestured towards the hallway. "With all the cats walkin' around with people as pets. I didn't see any cats on Gestaapa." The Doctor's lips began to stretch in a grin as she spoke, which drew her eye. "I suppose it could be a different culture, different continent, but you would've told me. You knew about the event that night, knew what it was like, which means you've been there before." Now, the Doctor was beaming at her. "Still, could've been wrong, so when I was able to see the sky, I could tell it was all wrong to be the same planet. What's so funny?"
"Not funny, brilliant. My brilliant Rose!"
Rose shrugged. "Not like I didn't have two weeks to think it over. But that man on Gestaapa, at the shoppe. He sold us as slaves, didn't he? Where's the TARDIS?"
His grin faded slowly, and his eyes turning towards the oven. "I don't know. I can't sense her, so I assume still on Gestaapa. There are a couple of ways I could pull it here remotely, but I can't well do it with Icha around."
Rose hugged herself and turned at her hips, swinging around idly on rooted feet as her eyes wandered the room. "Yeah, well at least we've got each other. Nobody's gonna figure out how to get into the TARDIS, and you'll eventually find it." She looked up at him. "We can make the best of it." Rose had started to smile, but when the Doctor didn't return it, she wilted. "What is it?"
"There's something going on here, Rose. I don't know what it is yet, but catkind aren't supposed to have slaves, ever."
Rose frowned. "Supposed to? Like a Time War thing?"
The Doctor nodded. "If you like. They never had a period of slavery in their entire history. Something's altered the way of life on Paurin, the mentality of the people on this little planet. Their power station's massive, way too big for such a small establishment. It's little more than an outpost and it's pumping power right out into the atmosphere because its modest design has been bloated and extended past its limits." He laughed wryly. "They probably spend more effort holding it together than they do producing it."
Rose looked anxiously at him. "So we in danger, then? How long have we got to get out of this place?"
"Oh," he waved a hand dismissively. "The planet's not going to explode tomorrow or anything. At least, I hope not." His eyes met Rose's widening eyes and he quickly assured her, "The plant has been growing for years. It's not going to suddenly destabilise on its own." Rose's expression calmed somewhat, but she still looked wary. He lowered his head to catch her attention straight on. "And the cats aren't going to devolve from slavery and start eating people, either."
This got Rose to chuckle, the tension escaping with some of her breath. The Doctor was rewarded with her shining smile.
"There we go!" the Doctor grinned brightly and patted Rose's arm. "We'll figure out how to save the world, but right now, we've got to make breakfast!"
The Doctor introduced a curious Rose to scrambled pink eggs. He was sat on the sofa polishing off his marmalade on toast when he peered down at Rose. She was absorbed in Icha's programme, and he hoped he wouldn't eventually find himself tuning the TARDIS aerial to the cat soap station so Rose could find out how they all ended. Taking advantage of her distraction, the Doctor sneaked his fork down to her plate and slipped its prongs into a piece of egg. Unfortunately for his hand, Rose noticed without outwardly diverting her attention and slapped him on the wrist. He made a face she didn't see, and Rose plucked the bit of egg from his fork and popped it into her mouth.
Despite his thwarted attempt at nicking Rose's food, the Doctor had eaten just enough to be satisfied. After Icha had pet him a while and finally had enough of his furlessness, the Doctor sat up on the sofa and pulled on his shirt.
He was in a good mood. Although he was the tallest one in the room, the Doctor felt the need to be higher, a distinctive desire to perch on something. He got up from the sofa and collected their plates. Instead of taking them to the kitchen, he left them in a neat pile on a doily protecting a shiny wood table near the hall and hopped up onto a broad footstool. Behind a high-back chair was a taller cabinet displaying useless knickknacks and gaudy painted statuettes. He snatched up the modest-looking pillow resting on the chair, tossed it on top of the cabinet, and climbed up after it.
Rose and Icha had been watching him, as he expected they would be. As he sat down on the pillow atop the cabinet, Icha appeared ready to scold him. She faltered when she saw he wasn't going to slip or break anything, curiousity and amusement showing through, and the Doctor was pleased to see he had read Icha correctly. He flashed a grin down at her.
Guessing Icha probably wasn't interested in participating, the Doctor looked to Rose and leaned over his lap, patting the front of the cabinet in invitation. Rose grinned but glanced warily at Icha. No, wrong way to think, Rose, look at me! He tapped again and Rose's attention was drawn by the sound. He gave her an insistent look, and after a moment, Rose unwound from her position and walked over.
She was about to look round again, so while still leaning over the cabinet, he snapped his fingers in front of her. The Doctor gave Rose a look that said she had better cut it out, and he could tell by her response that she understood. He nodded his head towards the chair he had used to climb up, and after a moment, Rose stepped over to it.
As Rose climbed the chair, the Doctor snuck a glance at Icha. She was sat up from her pillows, watching them, on the edge of annoyance but still silent. Curious.
The Doctor knew Icha didn't just want a slave. If she had, he knew now Icha wouldn't have picked him. No, she wanted a pet. Well, he would give her a show.
Not that he was being silly for Icha's benefit. No, playing with Rose was just loads of fun.
He was glad to see that two weeks hadn't affected the dexterity their adventures together had refined in Rose. She was on top of the cabinet in short order, and just before she reached him, the Doctor pushed off the edge and dropped to the carpets. He crouched looking up at her, poking his teeth with his tongue and bobbing his eyebrows, hoping she wouldn't rattle the contents of the cabinet.
Rose looked confused at first, but it gave way to animated determination at the challenge. Thankfully nothing in the cabinet moved, and the Doctor sped off as Rose landed right behind him.
He scaled the cushions to the high back of the chair just below the big screen on the wall, a place he had been before, and scanned the room for his next destination. Unfortunately, there weren't many more high places he could escape to. Pretty much all of the furniture was in a semicircle along the wall around the sofa, and he had covered most of it. His current location was a bit easier to get to than the last, and his pursuer was soon upon his latest perch.
The Doctor jumped, narrowly missing being swiped. "Hah!" Once on the carpets, he bolted for a grouping of spindly chair legs near the right hall and dove between them. After tucking himself securely underneath the chairs, he looked back just in time to see Rose disappear above him. He hadn't counted on her trying to cut him off on the other side. Turning at a right angle, he crawled for the safety of a dark gap between two hefty loveseats.
He had almost made it when the chair leg nearest him shifted, and he looked up through a crack in the cushions and saw Rose's silhouette. He heaved on the chair leg, pulling the chairs together and made for the gap. Halfway in, his leg caught, and he realised it was Rose's grip. He groaned in defeat. Rose giggled.
Backtracking, the Doctor peered up through the crack and grinned. Rose was there. Now she was in trouble.
Rose laughed and jumped away just as he reached up for her. He crawled out from under the chairs and spotted Rose waiting for him near the sofa. Rose bolted as he got to his feet, and he gave chase. He had to admit, he wasn't expecting to get this far without being buzzed. He could hardly complain.
Rose ran for the foyer, and they both zipped past the sofa and through the archway.
There wasn't really anywhere to go except back into the lounging room. To the Doctor's surprise, Rose ran for the staircase and mounted the first steps.
"No, Rose!" he hissed.
Rose looked back at him, apparently unaware of the danger. "What?" She whispered.
"I told you! Not up there!"
"If you keep your voice down," Rose pointed to the lounging room, "she won't notice!"
The Doctor grimaced and gripped his collar, giving it a little shake and pointed to the top of the stairs. Rose followed his gestures and her face fell. She stared up the staircase, realising what had almost just happened. The Doctor raised both hands in truce. "Five seconds," he whispered and cocked his head towards the lounging room.
Rose grinned and came down the steps, cleared the foyer and disappeared back through the archway. The Doctor counted five seconds and followed.
He was surprised when Rose was nowhere in sight. He walked to the centre of the room and looked both ways down the two corridors, but she wasn't in either of them. There wouldn't have been time enough for her to get to the kitchen the one way or even the bedroom the other way. No, she was in this room.
The Doctor scanned the room with predatory eyes. Ooh, where was the little minx? He hadn't had this much fun in some time. Granted, a simple game of tag didn't well compare to running for their lives or fouling an evil plot to take over a world, but it didn't have to. He was trapped here, the last of the Time Lords playing tag with his companion, locked inside a big cat house in a doomed little settlement on a lonely moon of a planet, and for just a breath of time, none of it mattered.
It wasn't an activity he could imagine himself capable of sharing with many other people, and he would enjoy it for what it was.
He settled on Icha, who watched him with open amusement. There was something held back in her face, though... of course, she would know where Rose had hidden.
Had Icha just glanced at the group of chairs near the hall? Of course, Rose could hide there between the loveseats without being seen. The Doctor crossed the room and got down on his hands and knees to get a good look between the chair legs. No Rose. He got up and mounted the cushions, closing on the gap between the loveseats.
There was the faintest of stirring behind him, and he whipped round.
Rose dropped his pillow and was attempting to sneak along the sofa towards the hall. How had she fit under his pillow? When he looked her way, Rose began to run.
Ooh, she wouldn't get away. She was fast, yes, but he was quicker. Launching off the chairs, the Doctor covered the space between them in a few strides and pounced. Rose saw the inevitable coming and squealed. The Doctor shifted his momentum slightly so as not to crash directly into her and hauled her with him onto the sofa.
Rose laughed, and the Doctor giggled as he wrestled and pinned her forearms. Rose quieted and gazed up at him with shining eyes, her lungs labouring.
God, she was beautiful.
Rose expressed her discomfort with her eyes, indicating they weren't alone. Suddenly aware that they were directly in front of Icha, the Doctor's face heated, and he carefully shifted to the side to allow Rose to get up. He first thought to avoid looking at Icha, but really there was no point in attempting to deny what had obviously passed between them. He could at least acknowledge he was in a bad way.
As he feared, Icha was extremely guarded, all traces of amusement gone. She studied the Doctor for a moment, and he did his best to express his awareness of how tenuous his situation was as he made his way back to his spot on the sofa. Rose scooted across with him and dropped down the side as if both had been instructed even though not a word had been said.
What had passed between them? He and Rose very much needed to talk, but it was of course not an option. It was frustrating to be going through this with Rose, something that was so very important to their friendship, and have the third element of slavery interfering like this. They had known each other for a fair amount of time, and here their latest two-week trouble had to go mucking things up.
Lunch time came. The Doctor and Rose got up and stretched, but Icha checked the Doctor by the wrist.
"No, Marwari. Lily can handle it. You've had three opportunities to show her the kitchen. Stay here." Icha motioned to Rose. "Lily goes."
No, that wasn't fair! The Doctor looked to Rose, worried for her. She was surprised, but only for a moment and seemed to accept it quickly. The Doctor offered his most apologetic look, and Rose gave him a grim smile and left for the kitchen. He watched after her. There was nothing he could do. So much for having a talk.
After what had happened just a short while ago, he thought it to be in their best interest not to appear too angry about Rose being sent off alone. At Icha's insistent clawing at his shoulder, the Doctor governed a sigh of annoyance and stripped off his shirt, submitting to the one controlling their collars. He wondered if Rose would decide to make a bad job of lunch in an attempt to show Icha she still needed help in the kitchen.
It felt like a long time, but when Rose popped around the corner with a platter in each hand, the Doctor knew she hadn't been away longer than she had needed to. He sat up, and Rose set the trays down in front of him.
"Ah, Lily, looks lovely." Icha fixed herself a little plate, then the other two had their own. Icha delicately tasted the tea. "Mm, well done, Lily." She smiled warmly. "You will make a decent cook. I'm sure you'll get better with practice, just like Marwari."
Rose looked to him for his response to that, and he rolled his eyes dramatically at an angle Icha couldn't see.
After lunch and another mind-numbing programme, Icha got up, stretched, and headed for the foyer. "I'll be right back, Marwari, Lily. Clean up and meet me here."
The Doctor and Rose got up, eager to do something else. They each took a tray as Icha disappeared and walked towards the kitchen.
"What we doin' now?" Rose asked.
He took a deep breath in thought. "One of two things likely. She's probably changing clothes. I hope we're going for a walk."
Rose took a moment to respond. "And the other thing?"
They entered the kitchen and the Doctor took Rose's tray while she put the dishes in the washer. "Apparently, Icha thinks I'm a good masseur."
Her brow rose. "Oh?"
"Yep! Dunno, maybe you'll have a go at it. If not today, eventually." He entertained himself with a mental image of the idea.
They finished up in the kitchen and headed back for the lounging room. The Doctor's earlier thoughts weighed heavily on his mind as they now had an opportunity to speak freely. Some time had passed since then, however, and he found it difficult to broach the subject. What if Rose hadn't thought their connection on the sofa a big deal, and he drew unnecessary attention to it?
Icha had just come down when they entered the lounging room, and when the Doctor saw she was wearing her off-white robe, his spirits fell.
"Come along, then!" Icha said excitedly. She moved off towards the PCOS room, and the Doctor led Rose after her. Icha unlocked the door, and the Doctor sighed and pulled at his ear. This wasn't going to be fun.
The familiar muzzy lighting and calming music kicked up as they entered, and the Doctor peered at Rose. She was looking all around at the foliage along the walls and finally centered on the table in the middle. Since she knew what it was for, her initial reaction wasn't nearly the one of terror the Doctor's had been, but she still appeared uneasy.
The Doctor rested his palms on the cupboard and looked down its surface, remembering the time he had been thrown against it after "misbehaving". Rose's sudden surprise as she whirled round towards the wall next to him indicated Icha had disrobed. Rose glanced sidelong at him, a look loaded with accusation. He bugged his eyes and shrugged. What, did she think he had looked at some point on purpose?
And even if he had, what was it to her?
"You two, don't be silly. Marwari, come here."
The Doctor turned. Icha had made herself comfortable and was waiting for him. He edged around the table to the other side and gently smoothed his hands down Icha's back. It was strange how something he had grown accustomed to could feel easy enough to do, but with Rose watching, it was as if he were being made to do this again for the first time. Rose's face was unreadable. She met his eyes briefly, but for the most part, she watched his movements over Icha's furry curves.
He couldn't help but wonder if this and sending Rose off to cook by herself were in response to what Icha saw from the two of them earlier, or if she had intended to do them anyway. Either way, he would have to be very careful in what he allowed Icha to witness. He didn't want her to think they were out of her control and feel a need to separate them.
Icha purred deeply as he thumbed outward from either side of her lower spine.
Rose seemed to mentally shake herself and looked away, her eyes catching on the remote near the doorway. She studied it a moment, and the Doctor could see the cogs working in her mind. When she looked at him, he could tell she planned on doing something stupid. Before he could warn her with a look of his own, her attention moved on to Icha. Apparently satisfied Icha wasn't watching her, Rose took a step towards the remote.
He couldn't stop what he was doing without alerting Icha that there was something worth stopping for. He shook his head at Rose, but she didn't catch it. No, Rose, you can't just pluck it up out of the socket. It's pet proof!
Not seeing he had any other choice, the Doctor came around the table, and Rose stopped to look at him. He gently turned her away from the doorway and guided her towards the far wall.
"Ah, yes, Lily. You don't have to stand about. Sit down. Get comfortable," Icha drawled sleepily. "Marwari and I may be a while yet."
Rose turned towards him once they had reached the wall, appearing confused and uncomfortable, and the Doctor placed his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. He shook his head, pleading with her to not try anything. The last thing he wanted was to see her shocked again. Now she looked frustrated. He stretched his mouth into a grim line and pressed on her shoulders, prompting her to sit. Rose hesitated, but she eventually complied.
The Doctor returned to Icha's side and began working on a new area, much to Icha's delight, but he was watching Rose. She hugged her legs and curled against the wall, trying in vain to distract herself with the leafy vegetation above her.
Icha's lack of invitation for Rose to learn from the Doctor in this activity wasn't lost on him. He made a point of avoiding situations like this in the past. Women were complicated, and he'd rather just avoid getting caught in between altogether. He didn't have the luxury of deciding enough was enough and leading his companion away this time, however. Icha was in a position of authority, and his choices were limited to what she would tolerate.
Playing tag had seemed like a good idea at the time. If he didn't proceed more carefully in the future, he could find himself losing what little allowance Icha had granted him.
Losing Rose wasn't worth the risk.