"Got it!" the Doctor announced in a hushed tone and grinned from ear to ear. He carefully extracted the lock pick connectors from the door. "Don't smell anything funny, do you? I hope her key will still work."
The door opened and Rose peered out at him excitedly, matching his grin. "Right, that's more like it. Now you can give me a proper tour, yeah?" The Doctor stood, and she enveloped him in a hug.
"Oof. Right! Although, you've seen most of it already. Just the library left, really."
Rose pulled back, her hands still locked behind his neck. "And your cupboard under the stairs."
"Uh, well, yes, but it's just that... a cupboard."
She regarded him seriously. "So, let's see it."
Her look gave him pause. "Right, yeah." He tried to shake it off lightly. "Well, I've got to stash this, anyway." He lifted the mass of probes and wires still in his left hand. "Come on."
Rose let him go, settling her left hand in his right as they padded softly through the lounging room and into the foyer. They peered up towards the landing in the dim night lighting, but there was only silence.
The Doctor put a finger to his lips and tiptoed to his cupboard door. He pulled it open, finding everything as he had abandoned it before his jailbreak mission. Ducking inside, he tucked the lock pick away. He gripped the opening preparing to pull himself out, but his companion darkened the exit and crawled inside after him.
"Um..." the Doctor watched Rose, surprised. He was about to protest, to insist there really wasn't room for both of them, but Rose fluffed his pillow up against the wall and squeezed between it and him. She settled herself and peered around in the darkness. "Wouldn't it be easier to have a look without me in here?"
Rose didn't avoid the question so much as ignore it altogether. "Cozy, isn't it? Can't say much for the lighting, though."
"Yeah, well, I did make a light," he admitted conversationally, his voice graveled in his hushed tone. "It exploded when I tried to open the front door, though. Snap! No more light." He was studying Rose's movements as he spoke, attempting to ascertain her intentions, and he paused. "If you like, I got one working in the library. I think of the place as a bit of a sanctuary."
Rose turned to look at him in the darkness, the soft light from the foyer allowing him to determine the direction of her eyes.
It wasn't that he minded being close to Rose. True, it was pleasant to have Rose relative to the same place he kept his few possessions. It made him feel he could better protect her, even though he knew it was a false sensation. The small space made her alluring scent somewhat overpowering, however, and he really should get out. "I know this is a sanctuary of sorts, but the library's more... comfortable."
Rose immediately picked up on his insistence, seeming to come to her senses. "Yeah. 'Course. Definitely more comfortable." She wiggled herself to her feet and the Doctor followed her out of the cupboard.
Feeling better, the Doctor took a deep breath of the foyer and silently led the way back past the bedroom and towards the library.
Having spent a good deal of time in the library in the dark, the Doctor moved easily through the hazy purple glow from outside to the table lamp and switched it on. During the day, the large bay windows suffused the room with bright daylight. The lamp lit the room completely differently. It lit the books and miscellaneous on the shelves weakly from below and cast long shadows from the chairs.
The Doctor spun and grinned, showing off what wasn't his, and spoke at normal volume. "See? Cozy."
Rose had waited at the doorway, unfamiliar with the layout in the dark. She peered curiously up into the shadows of the bookcases and stepped inside.
He picked up the book next to the lamp and weighed it in his hand. It had been the last one he had read. He looked to the shelves. "I've read most of them. The one book I want to read is upstairs. Icha took it away from me."
"Did she?" Rose said, amused. "What do you suppose you have to do to get it?"
"Dunno. She may not ever let me have a look. Here we go." The Doctor pulled out a chair and motioned for Rose to sit. She did so, and he took a chair opposite her at the table and flipped open the pages of the book. "I've managed to work out a few things. Catkind hasn't always been the dominant race here." He pointed to a passage. "It says here they made up about a third of the original settlement population and served mostly in a scientific capacity, some of which pertains to the power plant. I'm guessing that's significant since that's where the trouble seems to be." He idly flipped pages, peering at them in hopes something would jump out at him.
Rose leaned forward, her elbows on the table. "So what made them dominant and start enslaving people?"
The Doctor sighted down his finger at her. "That's the question. Whatever it is, it shouldn't have happened."
After enjoying the ability to converse freely for a couple of hours, they left the library and strolled down the hall aimlessly. To the Doctor's surprise, Rose turned into the bedroom, and he followed. He supposed the room wouldn't feel so much a prison now since the door was "unlocked."
"Welcome to the penthouse," Rose introduced with little attempt to hide the sarcasm. It was a richly crafted room, just like the rest of the estate, but it was obviously tailored to be usable by a slave. It was free of breakable objects, and the inward lock on the door was a good giveaway.
He scrutinised the decor, having more time to look around than he did that morning. "Nice place. Lots of soft things. Poofy chairs, springy carpets." The Doctor conveyed annoyance. "Why do you get a suite and I get a cupboard? And the light! You didn't tell me you had your own light at night."
"Guess she likes me more," Rose said, continuing her streak of false condescension.
"Your own washroom." The Doctor peered around the inner doorway leading from the room. "Jealous," he sing-songed. He was rewarded when Rose smiled. "I still don't know about the wardrobe, though." He approached the chest of drawers and pulled on a handle, frowning down at the drawer's contents. "Certainly there's something in here I could use."
Rose swayed by, licking her lip. "I wouldn't be going through there. Those are the intimates."
The Doctor promptly shut the drawer and opened the next one. He pulled out several tops. "These are all for women?"
"So what, men sleep in a cupboard and women in a room?" he grouched. "What's that about?"
Rose was on her way to the washroom and looked critically over her shoulder. "Lots of rooms, isn't there? Maybe there's one for you, eventually."
The Doctor calmed. "Yeah, maybe."
Rose disappeared into the washroom, and the Doctor sat on the bed, waiting and looking around. When Rose emerged, she was in her pet shoppe attire. The Doctor questioned her with a look.
"Well I can't very well sleep in my sweater and jeans, can I?"
He frowned crossly. "Sleep?"
Rose tugged on the duvet, making him stand, and scooted under. "I can't function after staying up all night like you. Not when I'm bored out of my head." She looked at him properly once settled. "You don't have to go. You broke the lock."
Even though he knew an open invitation had always been implied due to circumstances, it was strange to hear her verbalise it. The edge of fear in her eyes mirrored his own, as if the idea of having him out of her sight for another night would be enough to raise panic. The room was her sanctuary, but only if he was there with her, and the bed was easily big enough for two.
He smiled in assurance. "'Course not. I'll be here until Icha wakes up, if that's okay with you. Then we'll be together all day."
"Icha's not gonna come down, though? Catch us?"
"Nah. She never has." Rose looked doubtfully at him, and he insisted. "If she does, we'll deal with it. I wouldn't worry, though."
She smiled slowly. "It's a bit exciting."
He grinned in agreement. "Hard to come by around here."
Rose continued to smile at him, and the Doctor had to appreciate the way her hair splayed on the pillow. "Get the light?"
He nodded and searched, locating the panel on the other side of the bed. Once the room was darkened, he decided having Rose sleep wouldn't be so bad if he didn't have to leave.
Coming around the bed again, the Doctor settled carefully on the duvet and pillow. It was nice to be on a proper bed. He would rather be out doing something, but if he had to wait, this was the way to do it.
Rose blindly found him in the chest and slid a hand up over his shoulder, determining his location and assuring herself he was near. He squeezed her hand in his own and settled them against his chest, over his hearts.
"I dunno how I got so lucky," Rose spoke into the darkness.
The Doctor puzzled over the simple statement a moment before answering. "Yeah, the chances were against me finding you a fortnight later in the same place."
There was silence, and the Doctor started to doubt he had interpreted her correctly. If so, she didn't correct him. Rose finally sighed and her breathing evened out. He had hoped they could maybe talk some, but she was clearly more tired than he had thought.
"Good night, Rose."
"Night," she replied sleepily.
He smiled to himself, content. In the TARDIS, the words usually preceded a lonely night without her presence to fill the timeless void. He never tired of her and could always go to her if he wished to, but he would never admit to Rose that he couldn't even wait out a night of her sleeping without feeling her absence. Even though she would sleep now and be silent, she was a lot closer now than her TARDIS bedroom was to the console room.
He frowned. Functionally, they were far apart in the TARDIS as her room was down the corridor from the console room, but since his now unique ship was a lot bigger on the inside than the outside, they were spatially both crammed into a small wooden police box. He sighed, his hearts aching as he wondered if he would ever see the TARDIS again. He missed her presence terribly.
Having nothing to do while Rose fell asleep but think on the physics of the Time and Relative Dimensions In Space, the Doctor proceeded to do so. After satisfying himself with his contemplations until he was a strange mix of bored and halfway bewildered, he turned his thoughts towards their predicament.
He really should do something to get them out of here. Now that he knew Rose was on the planet with him and he had the drive to protect her, he had to figure out how to stop whatever was threatening them. Rose had said she was lucky, but relatively, she was in a lot more danger than the average British individual of her home town. How did one define luck?
The Doctor wondered about her courage, if he had actually done her a disservice in the long run. She sometimes said things that scared him, careless things, and he thought maybe she had too much faith in him.
No, what was he on about? He'd done his fair share of daft things in the name of courage, too. He could take a closer look at every place they landed before stepping out the door. He could scan for alien tech as he had been told to, incidentally, by the one whose carefulness was in question.
He smiled to himself again. Rose was lucky. She was lucky to be Rose, brilliant and important and making a difference in ways she wouldn't have been able to. Yes, it was a dangerous lifestyle, and he considered himself infinitely more blessed to have her journey alongside him, but in the end, wasn't it worth it?
The Doctor snuck back to his cupboard before dawn. Icha woke and led him to Rose's door, apparently clueless he had disabled the lock the night before. Later, she decided to take them for a walk. She attached the Doctor's blue leash to his collar and a deep red one to Rose's and walked out the door into the fresh warm air with both of them in tow.
It was silly, really, that they wore leashes. Sure, they were an added form of control for Icha, but they didn't do anything to keep them from escaping. As they descended the grand curved steps onto the walk, the Doctor unclipped and switched them when Icha wasn't looking. Rose looked uneasy at first, but he assured her with a grin and waited to see how long until Icha noticed.
Before they reached the trellised arch, Rose turned to gaze at the three-leaf beholders, and was still staring at them as they passed. Oh, but they were brilliant flowers! How could he have not shown them to Rose before?
The Doctor caught up the slack of his leash and applied easy tension until Icha slowed and turned. He looked at the beholders and back to Icha. She raised a silver eyebrow, so the Doctor began moving towards them, and after a moment, Icha allowed herself to be pulled along.
He bent down a little to smell one of the higher blooms on the large bush, showing Rose it was safe to do so, and Rose found one a little lower to appreciate. She pulled back in alarm, and he grinned. From directly above flower, the stamens displayed what looked like eyes. And the closed petals... the Doctor gingerly grasped the base of the bulb and pinched, just like one would the much smaller snapdragon. The petals popped open, and a large "eye" stared back at Rose.
Rose started slightly and grinned at her skittishness. The Doctor grinned back and looked at Icha. She was smiling, too, amused by Rose's reaction.
Scanning over the bush of beholders, the Doctor could see other various classes of plants in the extensive gardens stretching out from either side of the walk. He looked to Icha and walked off the path, and sure enough, Icha followed.
He stopped next to a quaint bench and looked around.
"You want to play in the garden, then?" Icha asked from behind him. He turned and smiled, but Icha looked sad and his smile faded. What about the garden made her sad? Did she avoid it, and that's why they had never visited it? She recovered and sighed. "All right, come here." Icha reached to unclip his leash and noticed they had been swapped. She squinted up at him and unfastened both of them. "Oh, you cheeky thing. Now, run along. Stay where I can see you. Don't wander too far, or your collars will automatically warn you to come back."
The Doctor expected as much. Rose smiled brilliantly and took his hand. The pair of them started off barefoot through the cool blades of thick violet grass, heading further into the garden. Behind them, Icha seated herself on the bench to watch them.
They passed through the shade of a tree, and something caught Rose's eye. She let go of his hand and walked towards a cluster of bright yellow flowers the Doctor was unfamiliar with. He stopped and watched her, smiling to himself. No one walked the way Rose did, not even Icha, and Rose didn't even realise she was doing it.
Rose crouched and smelled the flowers, her eyes drifting closed as she concentrated on their beauty. Sunlight filtered through the branches, its rays settling in dappled patches that caused her hair to shine gold, a colour that put the flowers' blooms to shame. She looked up at him, then, her eyes exhibiting her excitement, and waved him over. He approached and crouched next to her, guided a bloom to his nose and inhaled its scent.
"Mm, very nice."
Rose was watching him. She looked around contentedly. "I like this place."
He smiled, studying her as she looked around. "Me, too."
They stood together and Rose led the way out from under the tree and across an expanse of sun-warmed lawn. Across the way, more manicured vegetation crowded in the corner created by two walls of the mansion.
"Hm. That's the lounging room, there, where it meets the corridor to the kitchen." He looked left, down the length of the long wall. "I'm sure of it."
"Mm, probably, yeah," Rose agreed distractedly, and the Doctor could tell she wasn't interested. He frowned and hooked his thumbs on his waistband since he didn't have pockets and trailed after her as she went around the corner.
Looking back at Icha, Rose decided that way was too far out of sight and continued on. The Doctor took in a breath of fresh air. The sunlight felt good on the back of his clad thighs.
A strange warble came from the branches of a copse of trees nearby, and Rose was drawn to it out of curiousity. A small path led between two lean trunks, and they could hear running water from within the leafy refuge.
Rose again looked towards Icha. The grove was out of sight, but she wanted to look inside. With a monkeyish glance back at the Doctor, Rose stole inside. He grinned daringly and followed.
A natural fountain burbled over rocks and pooled around fingered roots that arched gracefully to support a large central tree. The call from above shifted quickly, and they looked up.
"Look!" The Doctor pointed as brilliant red feathers caught the sunlight as the bird zipped from one tree to another.
Rose grinned excitedly at him. "What is it?"
"Dunno," he admitted happily.
Rose moved to the side of the pool and crouched in the sprawling bed of tender pink ground cover, and the Doctor peered over her shoulder. Multicolored fish darted away from her, fleeing towards deeper water.
Both jumped suddenly as their collars buzzed.
"Oop, time to go," the Doctor managed through a suddenly tense throat. They quickly backtracked, making themselves visible. As expected, the buzzing stopped. Icha was looking their way, but other than that, she was too far away to read.
They made their way slowly towards her, looking for anything they might have passed up. Everything was beautiful, but nothing jumped out at them as they neared the bench, and neither of them were keen on getting closer, so they turned and milled about in companionable silence, staying in sight.
As they walked, Rose lightly slapped him on the arm.
The Doctor peered curiously at her. She grinned, but she didn't let on to what she wanted. When he stopped, she poked him in the chest and looked at him again expectantly. He raised his eyebrows.
Rose glanced at Icha behind him for a fraction of a second then bit her lip at him. Suddenly, she turned and bolted.
The Doctor raised his head in understanding, amused. He was wary due to how the last game of tag ended, but Rose wanted to play, and who was he to deny her?
Ignoring Icha behind him, the Doctor took off across the lawn after Rose.
Unlike the lounging room, there was plenty of space to tear it up out here. He chased her around trees and across lawns, through tiny thickets and even over a little bridge. He wasn't used to running barefoot, and he could only imagine how much easier it would be if he had his trainers, but at least they shared the disadvantage. If anything, he had two weeks of walking over her.
Even if he couldn't immediately catch up to her, he knew he could outlast her. It was difficult for a human to compete with a binary vascular system.
And tire Rose did. He was surprised at how long she had evaded him. Tagging her on the shoulder, Rose stopped and braced her hands on her knees, panting. The Doctor grinned and stopped, panting hard, too. He waited with her but made sure to keep out of reach. After throwing him several threatening looks, she caught her breath and gave chase. The Doctor laughed and legged it.
It wasn't fun having to avoid the paths that led them out of Icha's sight. After covering the same ground twice over, the Doctor decided to change things up. Besides, they could use a rest.
Putting some distance between himself and Rose, the Doctor came around the copse of trees and jumped for a low-hanging branch he had passed before. After putting some muscle into it, the Doctor managed to haul himself up onto the bough just as Rose came around the corner after him. Rose gasped.
The Doctor grinned triumphantly down at her, knowing the branch was too high for her to reach. When he saw the shock on her face, however, he was suddenly concerned. "What?" She didn't answer at first, looking at the trunk near him in alarm. He looked over his shoulder, but saw nothing. "Rose? What is it?"
"Get down!" She pointed at the ground. "Jump, Doctor! Get out of the tree!"
He frowned, confused, looking again at the empty branches. She glared at him.
Convinced Rose wasn't playing anymore, he shifted his weight and dropped from the tree, striding towards her and looking up. "What did you see?"
She pointed, indicating the spot he had jumped from to reach the branch and made an arc up towards the branches. "Something jumped, right after you did. I don't see it now, but it was there, I swear it. Just sort of... a flicker of something, flashed in the light."
The Doctor swallowed, a chill tickling his spine. There was nothing there, now.
"Marwari? Lily?" Icha called from a distance. "Come on, you two. Time to go inside."
"I love the garden. Think we can we go again tomorrow?" Rose asked as she dropped onto the bed with a bounce.
The Doctor closed the bedroom door quietly and sat down next to her. "I was hoping to avoid bringing my leash to Icha begging to be walked, but it may be worth it."
Rose wanted to laugh, but yawned instead. "God, I'm tired. I stayed up too late last night." She winked at him.
"Yeah? And you think Icha didn't notice with you napping on my pillow all evening?"
"For what, an hour? Listening to soaps? I don't call that rest." Rose got up and entered the small bathroom, returning a minute later in her slave shorts and torso band. "You're staying, right?"
The Doctor stood and smiled as she crawled between the sheets. He had quite enjoyed being close to her last night. "'Course, yeah." He switched off the light and lay down.
There was a pause in the darkness. "Doctor?"
"It's not fair you should have to spend all night on the duvet. And your clothes will get all rumpled."
He frowned. "They're already rumpled. I don't usually change anyway. It's fine."
Another pause. "I won't bite you. Don't be silly. There's a basket of shorts by the sink."
The Doctor hesitated, mulling over her words. He was ninety-five percent sure her intentions were as they sounded, but that five percent was enough to hold him back. He and Rose were close friends, had been through so much together, and he really was being silly.
Hold on a tick." He slipped into the bathroom and plucked up a pair of clean slave shorts from the basket. He changed quickly and crossed to the bed, climbing under the sheets next to Rose.
"So any clever ideas as to what I saw?" Rose asked.
The Doctor turned on his side towards her, supporting his head with an arm. The sheets really did feel nice. "Ideas, yes. Any of them likely? Hard to say without knowing more about it."
"Was it something, though? Or did I just imagine it? Trick of the light?"
It was something the Doctor had given considerable thought. It was definitely not a trick of the light, he knew. No, there was something going on, and he was sure it was attached to Zel Power. At the moment, though, he was at a loss as to what he could do about it. "I wouldn't worry too much. Anyway, I thought you'd be more interested in the three-leaf beholder."
Rose paused in confusion. "Come again?"
"The flower!" he said, as if it was obvious. "Lots of eyes?"
"Oh, right! Beholder, you said?"
"Yes, like the mythical creature. Well, allegedly mythical. They're not real eyes, of course. They frighten off animals that think the flower looks tasty, yet they don't scare away the pollinating insects."
"Huh. Like an animal's gonna know how to open the petals like you did and see the eye before it eats it."
He shrugged. "Some animals have fingers. Didn't you think it looked tasty?"
A pause. "You callin' me an animal?"
The Doctor fought a grin in the blackness. "So what if I am?" He imagined Rose would be studying him in that flirtatious way of hers if she could see him. Uncomfortable, he blurted out, "We've been through this. Stupid apes, remember?"
"Yeah." Sure enough, Rose's reply was muted, and the Doctor thought maybe he should have picked his words more carefully. She turned away and pressed her back into him. "Gonna keep this stupid ape warm all night?"
The Doctor closed his eyes and settled a hand on her arm, unsure where to put it. He reveled in the feel of her soft thighs against his. "You're warmer than me," he murmured somewhat breathlessly. Warm Rose. He could get used to this.
"Keep me cool, then?"
He smiled. "Sure."
As the Doctor held her, Rose drifted off to sleep. He closed his eyes, drifting himself, but not in sleep.
He could feel the world around them rotating, revolving. If he were human, he imagined he would be feeling very small, trapped. His first sense, however, one humans didn't have, filled him with importance and purpose. Not that humans couldn't feel important and purposeful, but they usually couldn't feel the world turn in the same way he could. Right now, it was all he was holding on to. That, and Rose.
He would get them out of this.