Tea and Cupboards
The Doctor had taken a fluffy green towel from a generous pile in an alcove near the door and was rubbing it through his mess of damp dark hair. He had found a basket of laundered slave shorts in a corner and had donned a pair that fit him. Hoping he wasn't taking too long for Icha, he discarded the towel on the floor and quickly left the bathing room, jogging down the hallway. The place was so huge for one person. Not like the TARDIS, mind. The Doctor wondered why he hadn't seen another living soul yet. Didn't she have servants? Other slaves?
He entered the sitting room--no, 'lounging room', she had called it, and now that he thought about it, hers was an even more appropriate term than his--to find Icha propped up in the center of the couch. A pile of large pillows served as a backrest and, by the look of the indentation there, it was definitely a favourite spot of hers. She had a remote in her hand, but it wasn't his. A vivid flat screen on the far wall, which appeared to be showing a sort of fictional television programme, had her full attention.
Icha glanced over and grinned. "Ah, Marwari... come sit." She patted the couch next to her, where the pillow 'gift' sat, then resumed watching her screen with interest. Well, this was good. At least he didn't have a shock coming for being late, as she didn't seem to mind the length of time he was in the bath.
The Doctor traipsed over and climbed onto the cushion. Remember, play it cool. He grabbed up his big brown pillow and hugged it to him, tucking his feet under himself and settling down next to Icha. It was then he saw his remote, tucked against her other wrist. The high probability that she wouldn't be without it did little to nullify the feeling of disappointment that came over him at seeing it at the ready.
He looked up to the screen. Two felines, an actor and actress, were in a heated argument with each other. He couldn't bring himself to follow the dialogue very closely, but after a few minutes of an escalating hissy fit, the two latched onto each other in a melodramatic snog.
Groaning silently, the Doctor fell back into the pillows. Please, please, please let his immediate future not consist of watching hours and hours of cat soaps.
The programme ended, and the screen began flashing adverts. Icha gave a soft sigh and turned her attention to him. "Ah, it's about time those two got on with it. Now, Marwari, I'll show you how to make... mm." Icha trailed off, the fur of her brow bunching in thought. "Actually, you may already understand. Do you know how to make tea?"
The Doctor perked up and nodded.
Icha's grin was jubilant. "Impress me." She pointed towards the door opposite the one he had taken towards the bath. "The kitchen's right through there. Clean up after yourself."
Eager for something to do, not to mention a good cup of tea, the Doctor bounded off the couch and hurried in the direction indicated.
He had nodded in reply to Icha's question, directed fully at him, without thinking. Would she have punished him if he had instead replied with, Do I know how to make tea? You'd better believe it! Rose says my tea is fantastic! English tea, anyway. Sadly, she thinks my Buzzatsi tea is just rubbish. But, since you didn't specify, and probably have no idea what either of those teas are, I thought maybe you'd settle for English tea. She didn't know what Buzzatsi was, either, which makes sense since she's never been to the Buzza system, but she tasted it and... No, that would have most likely earned him a thorough shocking even if Icha had been expecting a verbal reply. He wondered if a simple 'Yes' would have been safe. Did she expect him to remain completely mute, responding to her questions with simple gestures, or would she find his speaking when spoken to appropriate?
The hallway was a mirror image of the other one he had taken, and still, he saw no one. Would he find someone in the kitchen?
Like the other rooms, the kitchen was massive, and for the most part, looked rarely used at its potential. All was quiet in the pristine environment, not a soul about. The Doctor took in the commercial appearance of the ovens, marble-like counter tops, and burnished steel refrigeration units. This house was clearly built to serve a large number of people. Had it been well used before Icha acquired it, or had she been its original owner and just didn't entertain often?
The teapot, which appeared quite well used in contrast, was easy enough to find, along with proper ingredients in one of the refrigerators. He also found a package of biscuits, so he popped a couple into the oven. As he filled the teapot with water, he frowned in thought. How much should he make? Surely Icha meant for him to have tea, too? Regular folks had tea together as a form of bonding. They were bonding, weren't they? Deciding one could never have too much tea, he filled it right up to the top.
As the Doctor watched over the tea as it heated, his mind began to wander back to the last time he had made tea for him and Rose, one cozy night in the TARDIS after a particularly exhausting adventure. His first reaction was to push the thought away, shielding himself from any depressing thoughts of missing Rose. Instead, he found himself clinging to the comforting remnants of the memory as they floated before his mind's eye, warming him from the inside. Rose had been in a silly and, now that he thought about it, flirty mood that night, poking fun at him about his actions hours before.
"The Emperor was so making a move on you. I can't believe you didn't notice!"
"Rose, how can you say that? He did nothing of the sort!"
"I'm tellin' ya, he was. He had that look in his eye. And the duck! Why else would he give you a duck?"
"It was a goose, not a duck. In the Opturi culture, Fleimese geese are given as courting gifts to women. Only! Not men! There's a difference!"
The Doctor had thrown his hands up then. "It's obvious, isn't it? He meant it to be a gift of appreciation. He expects me to give the goose to one of his daughters."
Rose had pinned him with a daring look under one arched eyebrow. "But you won't."
"Of course not! That's beside the point, anyway."
There had been a pause as they had simply stared at each other. Rose had grinned, then, and broke it with a singsong voice, just to spite him.
"The Emperor fancies you."
The stove suddenly hissed angrily at him, forcing the Doctor out of his daze. He saw, rather, that water had boiled out of the teapot, and he cursed himself for filling it too full as he hastily removed it from its heat source.
After fishing up a tray and a couple of cups (he decided to test his luck and bring one for him), he was soon done with the tea, which he added more milk than usual to, thinking himself so clever. After all, he was serving a cat. After completing the snack with the now freshly hot biscuits, the Doctor took a deep breath and carried the tray out into the hall.
Icha craned her neck as he entered the room, eyes roving the tray expectantly. She couldn't see its contents clearly until the Doctor lowered the tray to the sofa next to her, at which point she grinned approvingly. The Doctor found himself crouching down before the tray, as if in submission, and he turned his thoughts inward. Why had he done that? Yes, he wanted to play on Icha's good side, but did he really have to go to such extremes?
Plucking the dainty cup from the tray, Icha tipped it to her feline lips. "Mm, not bad," she leveled. As she continued to sip, the Doctor couldn't help but feel disappointed. He had been sure the extra milk would have done the trick. If she was impressed, she was doing a good job of hiding it. He waited impatiently in his crouched position until Icha looked to him, then beckoned. "Well, come on."
The Doctor grinned boyishly, springing up and landing on the sofa with a bounce. Tea! Picking up his cup in both hands, he made much shorter work of it than Icha had of hers. Halfway through, he peered nervously over his cup at Icha, but she didn't appear to mind. He did notice, however, a glint of amusement in her eye.
The rest of the day had gone by much too slowly. The Doctor learned nothing further about how to escape, as he was made to sit next to Icha on her sofa as she amused herself with an unending string of fictional programmes. He caught himself several times staring at the screen, being sucked into whatever boring drama was presenting itself at the time, and would shut his eyes tightly to block it out, thinking of Rose instead. Several times, he found himself burying his head into his pillow, which smelled new and unused.
When the domed glass above grew duller with the coming evening, Icha asked him if he would fix them supper, and he was more than willing to leave and see to it. Still, he saw no one. She must live alone, here in this grand mansion of a house. It made sense, then, that she have a "pet" to keep her company. Certainly though, with so much wealth, she'd be able to afford servants?
After a good Earth hour in the kitchen and few choice words toward the cooking facilities, he separated out the non-burnt assortment of sundry foods together from that corner of the galaxy to present to Icha. The Doctor considered cooking a pretty simple task, but the kitchen apparently didn't want him using its contents. Despite his misfortunes, Icha seemed satisfied.
Supper had long been finished off when the "telly" went blessedly silent and Icha began to rise. Excited to be doing something, the Doctor picked himself up and stretched his stiffened muscles.
"Time for bed, Marwari."
He gaped. What? Hadn't they been resting all day? Sighing in resignation, he grabbed up his big brown pillow, his only current possession, and followed Icha through the archway and into the foyer. At least he'd have his freedom while she slept.
The Doctor stopped just inside the foyer, looking up at the staircase.
Did Icha have a huge bed to match the sofa and expect him to sleep on her duvet like a faithful pet?
Or worse, did she want him to sleep under it, with her?
Instead of heading towards the foot of the stairs, Icha instead went around the other side of a small table with a marbled vase sitting atop a frilled doily. She opened a triangular door under the stairs and opened it wide, revealing a cupboard. Inside, he could see several warm blankets and a smaller, simple pillow.
"The door is not locked, but this is your own space. I would ask that you stay here when you sleep, but you can of course get up to use the washroom."
Relieved, the Doctor exhaled a deep breath and moved forward. He paused before passing Icha, looking down to search her eyes. Did she honestly expect him to just play the part of a domestic slave, following her around, preparing her meals? She obviously didn't like him talking, but she'd never said he couldn't look at her. And look at her he did, now, attempting to show her through the intensity of his eyes how much he disliked being a slave, how desperately he needed to leave and find someone he cared about, and how arrogant she was for following her society in keeping other sentient species against their will.
Icha didn't flinch.
"I'm tired, Marwari. Please, go to sleep."
The Doctor directed his gaze at the slanted opening directly in front of him, staring hard in frustration. Nothing would be won this day, but he wouldn't give up. Crouching down, he scooted inside, pressing his back against the wall and looking up at her.
Icha drew the door inward, darkening the chamber. "If I find anything broken or amiss in the morning, I will not be pleased. I know you understand me, so there is no excuse.
The Doctor nodded his understanding, but gave her nothing attentive in his expression.
"Also, do not go upstairs unless absolutely necessary. You'll be automatically chastised if you do, but it will alert me should you need help. This is a safe district, so there shouldn't be any need to wake me. Do you understand?"
Again, he nodded, and Icha smiled. "Good night, Marwari." With that, she shut the door, plunging his little space into blackness. The Doctor felt along the angled surfaces, but there was no detectable lamp. He heard Icha ascend the stairs, and then all was quiet. His eyes quickly adjust to the low light level afforded by the slanted slats in the door, but it was still quite dark.
While he had been doing nothing but think all day, he found he could ponder on things more comfortably now that he was alone and could let his guard down. He propped his big pillow in the corner and lay back into it, staring up into the darkness. It made sense Icha didn't want him to sleep in the same room as her. How would she protect herself from a disgruntled slave? What if her pet took advantage of her inability to zap him while unconscious?
If Icha owned such a big house, though, why couldn't he have a proper bedroom to himself? She didn't want him wandering about, and with his own room, he could have his own ensuite washroom. The room could be locked, preventing him from poking into places while she was asleep.
It was a power thing, of course. She planned for him to work for it and get a bigger room later, like he'd earned his pillow. There was also a possibility she didn't have a room for him. The rest of the place could have secrets hiding behind its doors, like other slaves or... anything, really. That didn't seem as likely, however, as she'd given him the freedom to at least move through the halls.
The second story was off limits. Was she hiding something up there, or did she simply not wish to be disturbed?
He would take a walk at least where he was allowed, for now, but he would wait a while for Icha to fall asleep.
After waiting for what he assumed was long enough, the Doctor cracked open the flimsy cupboard door. The air had grown stuffy, and he breathed in the freshly circulating air of the foyer. The lighting had been dimmed considerably, but compared to the cupboard it was quite suitable to see by. Closing the cupboard behind him, the Doctor stretched his legs and crept over the thick carpets towards the front door and peered up to the landing. It was even darker up there, and all was silent.
Even though he was still trapped in the house, the Doctor felt excitement to be on his own and exploring. He supposed he even felt a bit like a cat, sneaking around in the darkness. He stole through the darkened lounging room and down the right corridor. The whole place must have dropped into night status, either by Icha's hand or automatically. He tried doors as he went along, the first two locked. The third opened into an unoccupied bedroom, perhaps half the size of the TARDIS' console room, appearing ready to receive a guest at any time. The Doctor frowned and moved on, finding several more empty rooms before he'd even reached the bathing chamber. He found his towel still on the floor just inside the door of the bath, indicating there was no one around to pick up after him.
More of the bedrooms and locked doors lay beyond. Everything seemed to be in its place and tidy. Unused.
The end of the corridor opened up into a sort of annex. The first to catch his eye were the large bay windows. Hopping up onto one of them, his feet sinking into the plush pillows at its base, the Doctor tested his knuckles against the pane. He grimaced and his hopes fell. Reinforced endo-glass--there would be no breaking it.
Towering bookcases between the windows held perhaps three thousand volumes. He peered closely at the spines on one shelf, but it was no good--even the ambient purple light from outside was weak. There were no lamps on the two small tables in the center. Moving back to the archway, the Doctor found a panel along the wall and pressed his palm to it, but the room did not light as he'd expected.
It appeared slaves had a curfew.
The Doctor's idea that this place had been designed for pets was increasingly more apparent. Deciding he'd find a way to return during the day, the Doctor left the study.
On the opposite side of the house, past the kitchen, the Doctor could only find more industrial areas. There was a washroom just behind the kitchen of moderate size, no doubt for servants. He passed several locked doors, and when he pressed an ear to their doors, he could hear a faint humming--probably just utility cupboards. A laundry half the size of the bathing chamber was at the end in this direction. A quick search only yielded towels and various other linens, but nothing he could wear without looking more ridiculous. There had to be more clothing in the house. They were most likely in the locked bedrooms, and upstairs.
Every window he came across was made of endo-glass. The few outer doors he found were of course locked just like the front door, as he expected. He couldn't find a way around them, and he pined for five seconds with his sonic screwdriver.
There was nowhere left he could go except upstairs, but from what Icha had said, he wouldn't get far before regretting it. Returning to the foyer, the Doctor looked up again at the dark landing. The house seemed much smaller now that he'd fully explored what he could of the first floor.
Climbing back into his cupboard, the Doctor decided he very much didn't like playing the part of Harry Potter, and it was only a matter of time before he would escape.