A Feline's Fancy

Visitor and Muffins

After a satisfying breakfast made by Rose, the three of them watched a bit of telly. The Doctor had seen this episode before, and he couldn't for the lives of him understand why Icha would be watching it again within two weeks until he looked down at Rose. She appeared to be glued to the screen. Perhaps it was a girl thing.

The protagonist in the programme was about to save the girl of his dreams, and it was all about to get way too mushy for his tastes. So, as the hero swooped to safety with his fair maiden to a fireball explosion in the background, the Doctor silently reached down from the sofa and covered Rose's eyes with his hand. She grinned in amusement as the audio track proceeded to inform her as to why and attempted to bat his hand away. He insisted on blocking her view just to spite her, which caused her to fight harder. By the time he had almost fallen off the sofa with his efforts, Icha scolded him.

"Marwari!"

The Doctor straightened and looked to Icha, a mischievous grin still on his face, but he calmed down.

Icha huffed and returned her attention to the programme. "Males."

The Doctor frowned in mock offense and looked down at Rose. She poked her tongue adorably at him and ignored him again.

Then, the doorbell rang.

He had never heard the sound before, but it was definitely the door. The Doctor sat up straight, alert with curiousity. He looked to Icha.

"Oh, dear..." Icha said, appearing to have been caught off guard as well. She obviously wasn't used to visitors. After sliding off the sofa, Icha padded into the foyer.

The Doctor looked down at Rose, who was just as eager as he was to have something happening. He slid down his side of the sofa and gave her a hand up. Together, they peered around the corner into the foyer.

Icha opened the door and a familiar looking woman smiled at her.

"Tress?"

"Oh Icha, I know how you are with visitors, but I was sure you wouldn't mind me popping by. I've got so much to tell you!"

"Yes, of course! Um..." Icha looked back at the Doctor and Rose. The pair merely stared back, waiting. Icha turned her attention back to Tress, who had followed Icha's motions and had noticed the Doctor and Rose. Tress looked surprised to see them both, but Icha continued. "I was just about to take my pets for a walk. Would you care to join me?"

"That would be lovely, yes." Tress agreed, her voice still exhibiting her surprise. She had seen the Doctor before, but not Rose.

"I'll be just a moment. Please, do come inside."

Icha closed the door behind Tress and went upstairs. The Doctor found it significant that with such a large estate clearly made for entertaining guests, Icha would choose to leave when someone came to visit. Why didn't she ever have visitors in the house, but didn't mind pets sharing it with her?

As Icha had never instructed the Doctor and Rose to stay put, he welcomed the opportunity to meet someone more on his own terms. He didn't plan on speaking to Tress, but he could at least approach her. Coming around the corner with Rose in tow, he nodded his head in greeting.

Tress stared at him, appearing uncomfortable. The Doctor stopped, remembering Tress had been intimidated by him in the past. He pulled Rose alongside and looked down to her, and she looked back, uncertain.

Now that he thought about it, Tress hadn't actually seen Icha chastise him for speaking. At least, she may not have noticed his reaction when Icha buzzed his collar in front of her. She knew he could speak.

The Doctor squeezed Rose's hand and smiled. She smiled back. He offered Tress the same smile. "Hello."

Sure enough, Rose caught on. "Hello," she echoed with her own smile.

Tress didn't flinch, but she didn't respond positively either. She merely looked back and forth between the pair of them, waiting.

To the Doctor's surprise, Rose let go of his hand and took slow steps forward. She and Tress were about the same height, and as Rose approached, she had Tress' full attention.

Rose extended her hand when close. "Nice to meet you."

The Doctor grinned. Rose had obviously noticed the cat woman's fear of him and had taken the initiative to put her mind at ease.

"Yes, quite," Tress said, but didn't return the hand. She took a step back, looking up the stairs after Icha nervously before settling her gaze once again on Rose. "She teach you that?" Her comment was toned in a way that implied Tress really didn't expect an answer.

It was interesting to note how people other than Icha viewed speech from slaves. The Doctor looked to Rose to see what she would do, but Icha appeared on the landing and started down the stairs.

"Now, then," Icha said brightly. She was dressed for a walk, complete with her handbag. Tress' attention turned easily from Rose and didn't return. Icha noticed the Doctor and Rose in the foyer, but she didn't show any surprise. She produced their leashes and attached them to both collars. "Come along Marwari, Lily."

The two feline women led the way out the door and down the grand marble steps. Their conversation was about a mutual friend, a topic that didn't interest the Doctor in the slightest. He shared a smile with Rose, both happy to be outside.

As they approached the trellis work, the Doctor tried his luck in slowing Icha with tension on his leash. Rose joined in by pulling a little on her own. Icha stopped speaking and turned to see her pets looking towards the garden.

To the Doctor's surprise, Icha smiled at them. "You wish to play in the garden again?" Icha looked to Tress. "What do you say, Tress? It's really quite lovely this time of year."

Tress blinked. "Yes, of course," she said, sounding pleased and once again surprised. "I didn't think you took to the garden anymore."

The foursome turned down the little path leading to the bench Icha had used before. They stopped in front of it, and Icha turned and started unclipping their leashes. The Doctor waited patiently, as if she were doing up his tie.

"Oh Icha, I would never have expected something like this from you," Tress said from behind her. Icha half-turned, puzzled. "You're just asking for trouble with these two. Even if you've spayed her, they clearly--"

Icha shushed her and met the Doctor's eyes. It was clear she didn't want Tress making such comments in front of them. A slave's ability to understand their language so easily wasn't always an advantage for Icha.

She finished with their collars and shooed them off. "Run along. Stay where I can see you."

As the Doctor and Rose did just that, Icha and Tress sat on the bench. The Doctor was looking back over his shoulder at them when Rose tagged him playfully and ran. He was caught off guard, but he quickly recovered and took after her with a laugh.

It wasn't by verbal agreement that they avoided the tree that had spooked Rose yesterday, but they chased each other everywhere else within sight of the little bench. The Doctor had caught up to Rose and tagged her before she had gotten to the bridge, and he had to turn tail quickly to avoid being tagged right back. He couldn't recall specifics of the game, if there was supposed to be a few seconds of immunity after tagging someone, but he decided it didn't really matter enough for him to ask.

There wasn't anyplace new to go, but the copse of trees Icha had buzzed them out of the day before looked very inviting. He dared to duck inside, but after passing through the entrance, he lost his resolve and decided it wasn't worth pushing it. Unfortunately, Rose didn't see him stop and slammed right into him.

"Ow!" the Doctor cried.

Rose blinked through the stars with a hand to her mouth then focused on him. "Sorry!" she giggled. "You all right?"

"Yeah," he admitted, massaging his elbow. "You?" Rose nodded. "Does that count as a tag?"

"Better believe it!" Rose grinned and ran away. The Doctor laughed, pulled in a deep breath and chased after her.

Rose tried to lose him by cutting across an orange and blue flower patch and around a bundle of white-leaved trees, and it almost worked, but he was lucky to catch a glimpse of her doubling back in a stray beam of sunlight. He skidded to a halt and backtracked, moving to cut her off. He didn't quite make it before Rose saw him, and she had to run full pelt across the expanse of sun-warmed lavender lawn to avoid being caught.

The Doctor put his last bit of effort into catching up and finally tagged her. Rose wailed in defeat and dropped unceremoniously to the grass, panting. The Doctor slowed his pace and collapsed next to her. He would have laughed if he wasn't so focused on catching his breath.

For the moment, the Doctor was content to just lie in the grass. Rose was sitting, looking around. After a minute he sat up and joined her.

"I wonder how often Icha will let us come here," Rose said between breaths.

"Dunno. From what I gather, she's more receptive to the idea than yesterday." He scooted a bit closer. "Besides, it's good exercise for her pets. She can't argue with that."

It was then Rose turned to face him properly and he noticed her lower lip was a bit swollen. He frowned in concern and touched it gingerly. Rose flinched away.

"You get hurt? Was that from when you ran into me?"

"It's nothin', really," Rose toned dismissively.

"You never said!" the Doctor insisted. He tried to catch her chin to get a better look, but Rose turned her head away.

"Really, Doctor, I'm fine."

The Doctor forcefully took hold of her head to keep her from squirming so he could get a proper look. Unable to look away, Rose sucked on her lip self-consciously, studying his eyes intently.

Yes, of course she would be fine. The Doctor made himself relax his grip, his hearts continuing to pump strongly despite their respite. A stray lock of hair tickled her face in the easy breeze, and he gently tucked it behind her ear. Flushed from exercise, Rose let go of her lip, and he found himself reacting unexpectedly to its agitated state. The sunlight set her golden hair aglow and penetrated the rich honey depths of her eyes, and the Doctor realised with a small amount of alarm that he was about to kiss her.

He really would have, he knew, if self-preservation hadn't kicked in just in time. He couldn't help but look past Rose towards the bench and notice the two women watching them.

For a moment, two instincts within him warred with each other, and he was caught between pulling away from her and actually going through with it. Despite the brightness of this patch of the garden, Rose's eyes had dilated, and she appeared to be fighting an internal battle as well.

In the end, the idea of Icha shocking Rose made up the Doctor's mind. He eased back and sat up straight and found he couldn't keep looking at her and hold his resolve, so he dropped his attention to the violet blades poking up from around their knees and concentrated on reigning in his breathing.

In the silence of his mind, the Doctor cursed Icha's interference. Who was she to determine what he could and couldn't do? He had the freedom to roam the entirety of time and space, go and do whatever he liked, and an ignorant little cat woman decided to keep the last of the Time Lords for her own little house pet. Sure, he could always just outlive Icha and escape, but Rose was human and wouldn't.

Then again, maybe Icha kept him from doing something stupid.

If they hadn't been captured and enslaved on Paurin, however, the Doctor doubted their friendship would even be stressed in such a way. Adventuring kept them well occupied and their minds on other things. The Doctor was focused on reacting to danger and keeping Rose safe, but here in their lazy little world, they were bored and aimless. They loved each other, he knew, but companionship through their trials had always been enough to sate them even if their endless drive to run and run was not. Now, he had to wonder if another element to their relationship was what either of them really wanted.

Icha called them in. They had only been out long enough for a couple of games, and he guessed they had gotten too close to each other for her comfort. The Doctor wished he had known their time was so limited so he could take advantage of their precious time apart from Icha to talk, to work out with each other what needed to be said. Another part of him thanked Icha for forcing him to avoid it.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

The rest of the day was without event. Being bored meant dwelling on anything and everything, and since a certain topic was fresh in the Doctor's mind, he had to work hard to avoid thinking about it.

That night, the Doctor held Rose close. They didn't talk about earlier that day, even now that they had the opportunity to. It was stupid, really, because the Doctor's excuse that Rose was probably just harmlessly flirty didn't work anymore. By the time the Doctor came to this conclusion and had worked up the resolve to talk about it, Rose had drifted to sleep, and his wish not to disturb her became his new excuse.

The next morning, Icha favoured a visit to the PCOS room. It was Rose's third time inside the room, and the Doctor wished Icha would let her just hang out in the lounging room while he was made to work. Rose never offered to help, and she rarely watched him before, but today she did, and the Doctor found it unnerving.

Rose leaned back against the wall with her hands behind her, following his every move. He tried to keep his strokes over Icha's fur natural, but a few times the cat woman shifted uncomfortably, and he wondered just how off he was. He found his concentration fragmented, split between performing a decent massage and whether or not his mind was inventing the heat he saw in Rose's gaze.

Watching telly was as dull as ever, and the Doctor continued to come up with ways of combating boredom. The first time the Doctor draped his arm over the side of the sofa and touched Rose lightly at the temple with his fingertips, Rose had pulled away in shock. After she understood he was only trying to show her an amusing image relating to the currently running programme, she smiled receptively, and further attempts at touching her mind were followed with muffled laughter. The Doctor found himself using telepathy much more lately in place of speaking, since he really didn't have much choice.

The Doctor wasn't sure how, but he managed to convince Icha without saying a word that she should let him accompany Rose in fixing lunch. Perhaps his plan to surprise her came out in his expression better than he thought.

"How did you manage?" Rose whispered as they neared the kitchen.

I saw a package of muffin mix days ago, and it just occurred to me I could use it as an excuse, but I didn't really think through how I would ask her. I dunno how she was able to pick up on it. Or maybe she's tired of your cooking."

Rose stuck him in the ribs, and he feigned hurt.

They found a muffin pan and started collecting ingredients. Rose pulled the eggs out of the refrigerator. "Think they'll come out pink from the egg colour?"

The Doctor grinned happily. "Let's find out."

Rose handed him the bowl. "Since it was your idea, you get to mix."

After the batter was whipped up, the Doctor began pouring into cups. Rose apparently thought he was taking too long, because she snatched the bowl from him and took over.

"Oi, can never be too careful."

"Yes, yes you can. Watch the expert."

He had to admit, she did prove him wrong.

"Is this the part where I tease you about spending too much time in the kitchen?"

Rose peered at him sidelong while scraping batter into the last cup. "If I recall, Icha thinks you cook better than me. You've been around how many years? Perhaps you spent a few of them as a dinner lady?"

The Doctor wavered between showing hurt and giggling at being teased back and snatched the empty bowl back. Well, the bowl was almost empty.

Rose turned with a mitt and slid the pan into the oven. "So, I've been wondering. Is Derren Brown an alien?"

The Doctor paused mid-lick of the bowl, making an effort to track Rose's random reference. "The mentalist? Where did that come from?"

Rose dropped the mitt on the counter and pulled a glass down from a shelf. "Just wondering. Dunno, I miss home. Helps to talk about Earthy things." She poured herself some water and before she took a sip, she insisted, "So, is he?"

He lapped at the batter carefully with his tongue and smiled in amusement. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Oh my God, he is!" Rose exclaimed and looked to the Doctor. She apparently just then noticed what he was doing.

"I never said that."

"But you hinted at it, though," Rose insisted distractedly. She was watching his tongue.

The Doctor sucked his tongue clean and made another broad swipe in his mission to lick the bowl clean. "Mm, no I didn't. Well, if I did, it wasn't intentional. He could just be a very intelligent person."

That got Rose's attention. She challenged his eyes with her own. "You saying aliens are intelligent and human's aren't?"

Another lick. Rose watched. He frowned. "No, I believe you said that, not me. You're inferring that I said Derren Brown is an alien. I didn't. Why are you staring at me?"

Rose snapped out of it, but not before licking her own lips sympathetically. "Uh... no reason," she squeaked. She cleared her throat. "I mean," she gestured towards him, "you've got batter on your chin."

The Doctor swiped at it and checked his fingers. He didn't. He looked to Rose, who was busying herself uselessly with the sink, and he raised his eyebrows, amused.

After the oven dinged, the Doctor, Rose, and Icha enjoyed the muffins, tinged slightly pink.

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