The Doctor led Rose back to his cupboard under the stairs and quietly ducked inside. He hastily threw back the blankets and began picking up all the bits of his pilfered collection of parts, loading them into Rose's offered arms. After he had retrieved everything, he closed the door and carried his own load back through the foyer and down the corridor to the library.
Rose dumped her armload next to the Doctor's on the table and peered curiously at the contents of the accumulated pile. She began plucking up one bit at a time and squinting at it as the Doctor crossed to a drawer at one of the bookcases. "And how's this all gonna make a trap, or should I bother even asking?"
"My madly impressive skill at Junkyard Jiggery-Pokery. Here." The Doctor set a knife from the kitchen in front of Rose. "Use this, cut the rubbers off." He spilled a stack of pencils next to it on the table.
Rose pulled up the nearby chair and began sawing at a stick of wood. "Even cat people use pencils?"
Finding his own chair, the Doctor perched on the edge of its seat and began sorting through the tangle of wires. "Yep. Well, no, not originally, but this outpost was seeded partly by humans." He made a face. "That would also explain the soaps. Anyway, they've reappeared due to the arts community. Something about going natural and original works, getting lead on your fingers, etcetera. It's in one of the books in here." He pointed at the pencil Rose was working on. "Make sure you expose the core on both ends."
Both were silent for a few minutes as they concentrated on their respective tasks. Rose finished her second pencil and picked up another. "You okay?"
"'Course I am." The Doctor glanced at Rose after a moment when she didn't continue, hesitant to take his eyes off the delicate connections he was twisting apart. "'Why wouldn't I be?"
He could see Rose shrug out of the corner of his eye. "Dunno. Just... what happened earlier. I wasn't sure if... you know."
He frowned at the ends of wire in his hands. "Didn't I say? I didn't even feel the thing on me. They're just scavengers from what I can tell, don't do any real harm."
"No, I meant..." Rose hesitated, and the Doctor put down what he was doing and looked at her properly. She was studying him. "You and me. Are we okay?"
Ah. The Doctor pulled in a deep breath through his nose and sat back in his chair, watching her. "What are we doing, Rose?"
Rose visibly flinched. "I know. Maybe it's 'cause we have nothing to distract ourselves with like we usually do. We never would've done what we did if we were fighting towards a goal. I really don't want to think we've ruined anything..."
The Doctor grinned. "Rose."
She stopped. "What?"
"What are we doing right now?"
She looked down at the table. "Chopping up pencils?" She pointed at the wires. "And that, whatever you're doing?"
"We're doing what we usually do. What we did before three weeks ago." Rose made eye contact, a look of confusion on her face. His eyebrows rose suggestively. "Fighting monsters? Saving a world that does or doesn't deserve it?"
A smile grew on Rose's face. "Yeah, I guess we are."
The Doctor smiled back and told her earnestly, "And I still need your help. I want your help, want you by my side, every step of the way."
He nodded decisively. "Yes." He gestured to the table. "Shall we?"
Rose beamed and picked up a pencil, resuming her sawing with renewed determination.
The Doctor was so focused on his work he didn't notice dawn begin to filter through the large bay windows. Rose did notice, thankfully, and the Doctor jumped up in alarm and began gathering the pieces of the work in progress together in a rush. Rose picked up what he couldn't carry, and they both hurried down the hall, Rose bending down to snatch what fell from his arms to the floor along the way. They reached the Doctor's cupboard and quickly dumped the parts on the blankets before he shooed Rose towards her room. She complied, rushing back out of the foyer, and the Doctor ducked inside and began hiding the pieces properly in the corner.
Not ten minutes later, Icha was awake.
After breakfast, Rose slept on the Doctor's pillow next to the sofa until lunch time. She blearily woke to go fix something in the kitchen. The Doctor watched Icha carefully. If she was suspicious of Rose's sleepiness, she did a good job of hiding it. Hopefully she would assume Rose was just bored and passing the time.
Icha took the Doctor and Rose to the PCOS room in the afternoon. Rose slumped in the corner and slept some more, and the Doctor was glad for it. He didn't think he could take her loaded looks after last night.
As the three of them made their way back down the hallway towards the lounging room, a flicker of something caught the Doctor's eye. Rose stopped, having seen it, too. When he stared at the spot it had been, it disappeared right before his eyes. Almost immediately he shifted his gaze, staring slightly off to the side. It reappeared in his peripheral vision, and it was a considerable effort to keep himself from looking directly at it.
There, crawling on the wall along the ceiling was the outline of one of the ethereal creatures. The fact that there was absolutely no sound to accompany its scurrying movements was frightening. As he stared past it, he could make out its long teeth and bulbous eyes as it moved past the light fixture. He tried to follow it, but the further it got from the light, the harder it became to see, and eventually it was gone.
Icha had never stopped walking. The fish thing had been far enough in front of them that she should have seen it. Should have, but didn't. Curious.
Rose met his eyes, uncertain. He took her hand and rushed to catch up with Icha. It was a possibility that Icha was just used to seeing the creatures, but the Doctor didn't think so. When he had seen something on the screen in the lounging room, Icha would have known what he was reacting to, but she had been confused and had told him to calm down. She had been staring at the same spot he had.
The Doctor was willing to bet there was something about the catkind eye that couldn't register them. Their eyes weren't slitted like their distant, lesser cousin felines. They weren't nocturnal, and their eyes appeared humanoid, but genetically they had to be tuned somewhere in between. With exception of their last encounter in the dark bedroom when the creature had been feeding, they had always seen them in the light. The Doctor wondered if Icha couldn't see as high into the spectrum as he and Rose could.
The Doctor had a lot of work to get done on his fish trap, he had come to call it. It needed this and that and he'd been eager to get to it all day, after Icha had gone to sleep. And he would. He really would, when he could. Right now, however, he couldn't seem to remember what "this and that" it needed, and when he tried to think again about what he was trying to put together, he had forgotten that, too, because as soon as he had dumped the half-built contraption with its associated bits and bobs on the table of the library and had sat down, a certain blonde vixen had climbed into his lap and was currently running her fingertips across his scalp and biting down on his Adam's apple.
His palms were against her shoulders, ready to push her away, but the Doctor didn't quite have it in him. "Rose," he croaked vulnerably.
"You said later," Rose mumbled into his skin, "I've been needing to feel you all day."
"We could attract the creatures again. For all I know they're clever and could figure out what I'm trying to make." He prodded her shoulders. "Rose, get off."
Rose chortled huskily. "Mm, I plan to."
The Doctor shut his eyes and groaned. Finding it within his fuzzy brain to make a decision, he pushed Rose back and moved with her, lifting by her rather firm backside and standing. Rose clung on, now distracted from her intentions by what he was doing, and the Doctor stepped over to the chair she had occupied last night and deposited her into it.
Removing her arms from around his neck proved difficult, so the Doctor pressed her back into the chair's plush fabric with a fiery siege to her mouth. He quickly began to lose focus on his goal as Rose snogged him back rather soundly, but as she started to give, the Doctor took advantage and deftly removed her hold on him. Rose opened her mouth when she realised he had outwitted her. The Doctor just grinned back cheekily and took his own seat.
"Now, then, where was I?" he announced brightly.
Rose sulked and pulled her legs up to her chest, crossly eyeing the object of the Doctor's attention. "You said they're everywhere, right? What makes you think they haven't overheard you on about trapping one of 'em already?
The Doctor hefted the bulk of the machine in his hands and turned it over. With the corner of his shirt, he rubbed the metallic contacts. "Mm, I told you, they're phasmic. Metaphysical."
"Like the Gelth."
He nodded, popping the top off a little container of powdered pencil lead. "Like the Gelth, except for these creatures, it's their natural state. They're drawn to sources of power in our world, but they don't really connect with it unless they're feeding from it." Gingerly, the Doctor pried the two halves of the machine open and began wetting the crevices along the inner groove of the essence duct with the tip of his tongue. "I don't know that they have a language, but it never hurts to be careful."
"God, don't do that."
The Doctor looked up at Rose, frowning. "What?"
"That!" Rose pointed. "Licking things! You lick everything."
"Do not!" He frowned down at the contraption. "Not everything."
"Maybe you just don't know what to do with your senses," the Doctor insisted conversationally as he peered closely at his task. "Humans have such dull gustatory receptors! You have no idea what you're missing. Imagine, for example," he gestured to the machine," if I couldn't tell the difference between platinum and a titanium-kerium alloy. Same colour, same temperature, so which is it? One taste? Obviously, it's platinum!"
Rose leaned an elbow on the table and rested her cheek in the palm of her hand. "So you're tasting it to make sure it's all platinum?"
"Well, no. I need this lead to stick in the holes so static doesn't interrupt the flow regulation." The Doctor took a pinch of lead from the container and began rubbing his fingertips together over the duct's groove.
"Right, yeah. Sticks just fine to your fingers."
"Shh. I only need a little bit."
"I crushed up all that just to have you mash it back together?" Rose groused.
"Yes, because as you can see, not a lot is getting on the duct."
"Need a spoon?"
"Quite possibly," he grumbled.
Hours later, the Doctor was making the final connections to the trap's components. After a particularly tricky bit, he huffed a relieved breath at his accomplishment. He closed his eyes and rubbed them deeply with his fingers, then peered over at Rose. She was asleep, curled up in her chair. She had slept for several hours, which had made it easier to get work on the contraption done. There hadn't really been anything for her to do in the final stages. He had missed her conversation, but really just having her nearby had been nice. He smiled thoughtfully at her.
The Doctor stood and arched his back, stretching slowly. It wasn't dawn yet, but it couldn't be far away either. Stiffly, he stepped over to Rose and prodded her gently. She roused sleepily.
"Wake up, Rose."
He began bustling about, collecting the connected parts together off the tabletop. "Nope. All done."
Rose blinked and stretched herself, watching him. "Finally. What now, then?"
The Doctor grinned over his shoulder at her. "Time to test it out!"
"Yep!" he confirmed, popping the "p". Kneeling down in the middle of the open space between the table and the entrance to the library, the Doctor carefully began arranging the parts in a circle. After he was happy with it, the Doctor unplugged the lamp, plunging the room into darkness, and brought the cord over. In the dim corridor light, the Doctor pointed to the far piece. "Rose, press the two extending corners together on that node while I plug it in."
Rose sat down next to the said node and pinched as she was told. "These are metal. Aren't I gonna get electrocuted?"
"Nah. We're not starting her up yet." The Doctor sat down next to the capacitor and fed the cord in. He nodded his head at her. "Now that's not gonna feel right, but trust me, it's the right way. Just hold it steady for me."
"Holding," Rose said.
The Doctor set the capacitor down with finality, waiting. When nothing happened, he looked to make sure Rose was doing it right. He flicked the antenna a couple of times, and suddenly it sprang to life.
Rose yelped in surprise and yanked her hand away. The two extending corners jumped apart, and a little arc of electricity danced between them. The Doctor grinned. "Ohh, look at that. Beautiful."
"You said it wouldn't shock me!" Rose complained.
"I said it wouldn't electrocute you. It's just a bit of electricity, nothing an electrical being can't handle. That's nothing compared to the collar." The Doctor got up and started jogging in place.
Rose watched him in exasperation. "What you doing now?"
"Burning a bit so they can see me better!" the Doctor eyed Rose daringly, his voice shaking with every step. "Residual energy, you feed off it yourself when you apply your mind to some task, get it going in a certain direction, then divert it to some other thought. Really, it explains why it's been difficult to do lately. These things have been draining me ever since I got here."
Her eyes went round in the low light. "Really?"
"Yep. You, too. Everyone here to an extent. I don't think Icha used to be so lazy." The Doctor sat back down. He grimaced down at the capacitor in his hands, blowing a few successive puffs of air into the channel. "This would be a lot easier with a Time Lord interface."
"Well since we don't have one, you'll just have to work your geeky magic on it, won't you?"
The Doctor craned his neck and made a face as Rose walked behind and past him. "Geeky?"
Rose ignored him and sat next to him on the floor. "Now what?"
The Doctor wiggled his eyebrows. "Time to turn it on." He grasped either side of the capacitor and closed his eyes.
"Can I help?"
He turned his head and peered at her. She could, of course. He grinned. "Sure you can." The Doctor shifted and linked her hand in his, his other hand on the capacitor. "Do like me. Touch this panel, here. We're going to make a circuit."
Rose did so. "Not keen on getting shocked again."
"Not this time, promise. In fact, you might even find it pleasant."
The Doctor closed his eyes, concentrating on moving the flow of energy in a single direction. "Nice even, steady breaths," he murmured. After a moment, he felt the movement begin, in through the capacitor and out the hand clasped with Rose's. It circulated, faster and faster, until finally he didn't want to exhale.
Amber sparks flickered between nodes, and the Doctor opened his eyes and grinned in excitement. "It's working!" Letting the circuit go, he quickly got to his feet and stepped back, pulling Rose along by the hand. Almost before they were clear, a deep thunderclap slammed through the air, accompanying a bright flash. The Doctor blinked to clear his vision, and there within the circle of nodes and its electrical field was a ghostly blue fish creature!
"Well, that didn't take long! I told you, they're everywhere!"
The fish thing's needle-caked jaws unhinged in a scream as its short smooth body writhed within its sparking cage, but the sound that accompanied it was unlike anything the Doctor had ever heard. It was a sort of mad hissing that scratched at his hearing, as if coming from right next to his ears. The Doctor sobered. He recognized it as a form of language.
"What are you?" the Doctor demanded.
The creature continued to hiss and throw itself about.
"Name yourself, or I'll keep you trapped forever. I think you know I'm capable," he warned dangerously, hoping the thrown-together pieces of equipment didn't fail.
The hissing grew louder, more clear as it translated properly into viable language. It spoke in a reverberating whisper that echoed in a unique accent, as if mimicking a form of speech not its own. "Zelshae!"
Rose gasped from next to him. "Zel Power...?"
The Doctor raised his head in understanding. "Indeed." More loudly, "How are the Zelshae influencing the power station? What do you plan to do?"
Electricity suddenly arced outwards from the circle, illuminating another creature outside the trap. Another appeared on the other side a moment later, connected to a visible wavelength in the form of a blue glow sprouting from its own tiny dancing lightning bolt. Then another.
Oh, this could be bad. Yes, there had been a possibility the burning of energy would attract more of them, but he had thought they would have more time. He put a protective arm in front of Rose, slowly pulling her behind him.
The creatures seemed to be concentrating on the trap. They were trying to snap it. After realising they couldn't, the creatures turned towards the Doctor and Rose.
The Doctor hadn't accounted for the social aspect of the beings. He swallowed nervously, attempting to salvage what he could in the form of a negotiation. "Stay back, or that one's never getting out. It'll die in there if I can't shut it off."
The Zelshae either saw right through his bravado, or they didn't recognise the argument. They came closer. "Release..."
"All right, you win!" The Doctor put his hands up placatingly. The way he saw it, they were outnumbered by a species of unknown power, and he really didn't know how many more of them were in the room and what they could do to him and Rose in great numbers. Keeping his eye on them, the Doctor slowly stepped forward and braced his foot against the capacitor. Bending down, he picked up the power cord and gave it a yank.
The sparks ceased and the blue glow of the Zelshae dimmed considerably, but didn't quite die out. The one that had been trapped hissed in a high pitch and turned tail, and the dim forms of the others followed. The Doctor shared a look with Rose, and together they chased after them.
The Zelshae galloped oddly down the corridor, the one in the lead glowing the brightest. Arcs of electricity still danced across their bodies like tiny lightning, their ethereal forms glowing brightest where the ends made contact.
The Doctor and Rose followed them across the lounging room at a dead run. By the time the Zelshae made it to the first door on the left in the opposite hallway, all but the one were completely invisible. The last dim shape jumped through the door, and the Doctor skidded to a halt.
It was the utility cupboard he had never been able to get into. The humming from beyond suggested it housed the power source for the entire mansion. Even as the Doctor and Rose stood outside, the humming began to increase in pitch.
"Can't you unlock it?" Rose asked, panting.
"With what? I wired everything I had into the fish trap!" the Doctor moaned.
The humming continued to grow in intensity, a spinning, whirring sound.
The Doctor realised with mounting dread what was happening. The Zelshae had been compromised, and their defense mechanism had them overloading the nearest steady source of power. If they didn't do something to stop it, the whole house was going to burn down with them trapped inside.
"Doctor! What are we going to do?"
The Doctor was staring at the door when it hit him. He fixed Rose with a look of desperation. "There's nothing else for it. We need Icha!"