As soon as the sky began to brighten, the Doctor was out of his cupboard and down the hall. Lifting himself onto the chair, he reached onto the shelf and pulled the heap of scrap from its resting place. Surely she wouldn't notice it was missing. Icha probably didn't even know what it was.
Stealing quickly to his cupboard, the Doctor settled himself inside and began pulling the components apart on the floor in front of the doorway where there was more light. It was harder than he expected, and the Doctor once again wished for his screwdriver. He wondered who had decorated the library. While the rest of the place fit what he assumed was Icha's style, he couldn't imagine her thinking objects such as this could be considered a form of decor. Granted, some of the shelves held a statuette here and there between the books, but then there were treasures such as this, and the Doctor fully intended to make use of what he could.
Icha was awake. The Doctor began snatching up the pieces and stashing them under a blanket in the darkest corner of his cupboard, towards the foot of the stairs. He lastly picked up the bits he had begun threading together, closed the cupboard door, and continued to fiddle with them until Icha came downstairs. He hid it on top of the secret pile and reclined against his pillow, attempting to look sleepy.
Icha, again in her fuzzy off-white robe, said good morning and immediately shooed him off towards the kitchen to make breakfast. The Doctor did as he was told. Icha never gave him a time limit on cooking, and he admitted he had taken his time last night with supper just to kill time, but she had mentioned something new for today, and the Doctor couldn't help but wonder if it would present him with an opportunity. He didn't put together anything special: pink eggs, some sort of bacon he couldn't identify, and of course toast. He liked toast.
After breakfast and a television programme he unfortunately recognised from yesterday morning, the Doctor was instructed to return the book he had left on the sofa the night before and return without a new one. He put the book back in its place and enjoyed the library for as long as he dared before marching back down the hall. He passed the bathing room, but before he reached the lounging room, he was surprised to see Icha in the hallway. She was unlocking the door just outside the main room, and as she opened the door, she looked up and spotted him.
"Ah, there you are Marwari. Come inside!"
Curious, the Doctor followed her through the door as the lights activated to half the level of that in the hall. Soothing meditation music rose from the silence, and the Doctor couldn't pinpoint its source. Leafy ferns hung from the walls and sprouted robustly from pots in the corners, reminding him of the bathing chamber. A shallow cupboard with an artistic fountain tap hugged the right wall.
It was then the central lamp flickered on, lighting up a table in the middle, and the Doctor stopped in his tracks.
Jescaic Prime's penance platforms wouldn't be invented for another two centuries, and the wiring was all wrong to be a "Bane of the Enemy" from the Hru'Tar moon empire, unless it had been greatly altered. No, it more resembled a Krellic lashing board, but it was missing its straps. Why would Icha be excited to show him a lashing board? Surely she didn't find whipping her pets to be a soothing experience?
No, the setup wasn't right. A lashing board didn't belong in a setting befitting a sanctuary. This was something worse.
It was a massage table.
The Doctor turned to find Icha locking the door with an antique brass key and slipping his collar's remote into a sheath attached to the wall near the entrance. Once the remote was in the sheath, a little blue light turned on, signaling a connection. Icha beamed at him, sweeping an arm across the room. "This is PCOS, or Pet Co-Op System."
Thin metal pipes led out from the remote's holder against the wall, and the Doctor followed them up through the wall and across the ceiling towards the room's centre. Icha continued, stalking towards the Doctor with slow, measured steps. "It's very expensive. It interfaces with a neural link implant," Icha tapped the side of her head, "only for advanced handlers. If a handler goes unconscious, or doesn't so much as like what a pet is doing, the pet will be chastised." Icha stopped in front of him, looking up into his eyes. "I know that won't be a problem for you, Marwari, but I know how curious you are and thought you would appreciate knowing."
The Doctor swallowed nervously in the heavy silence that followed, betraying his cool. Icha noticed, her eyes catching on the motion of his throat.
Pet Co-Op System, right. More like Enslavement Assist System, he mused. The Doctor could understand the reason such a system would be invented and why this society would be making use of it. The PCOS took over for her while in a compromised position, so she wouldn't have to hold the remote. Icha moved to the cabinet half shaded by fronds, and the Doctor wondered from behind her back what she was doing. If what he sensed was coming were true, he almost would rather her be retrieving the missing straps of a Krellic lashing board.
Icha pointed to the table. "Make yourself comfortable, Marwari."
The Doctor didn't want to move. Wasn't she wanting the massage? Really, he would rather just leave for the safety of the lounging room and face boredom and an inevitable shocking, but Icha had sealed the door behind him and he didn't have his sonic screwdriver.
He knew the lock was actually more complicated than it looked. The door had a slot for a simple-looking key, but just like the TARDIS, the locking mechanism was not mechanical. The brass key he had seen Icha use probably had a chip inside it, which would actually be the trigger. There would be no picking it.
Seeing no alternative other than to be shocked and eventually do this anyway, the Doctor trudged over to the table. Now that he was closer, he could see the table was padded. He seated himself and stared at Icha anxiously. She turned round, holding an elaborately shaped glass bottle of some sort of liquid, and again gestured to the table.
"Lie down, Marwari."
The Doctor found himself shaking his head, expressionless. Did he look like he wanted a massage? Hadn't she gotten enough out of petting him for hours on end? He tensed and looked for the remote in her hand, but of course it wasn't there. It was on the wall by the door.
Connected to the room. Connected to her head.
Instead of becoming angry, Icha appeared surprised. "Marwari, I'm not going to hurt you," she purred. "See?" She held up the glass bottle, as if it said everything.
The Doctor peered at Icha quizzically.
Icha smiled. "It's pet oil! You don't have fur. It will help." She moved closer, again motioning for him to lie down. "Here, I will show you."
As Icha advanced, the Doctor felt a sudden, inexplicable panic rise within him, and he recoiled. "I don't--" the Doctor bit out before stopping himself.
He didn't want this. He didn't want Icha touching him. He watched Icha with wide eyes, holding his breath and waiting for her reaction.
Icha again appeared genuinely surprised at the Doctor's reaction. Curiousity overrode anger, it seemed, and no shock came. "Marwari..." Icha's tone dripped with patronising concern. "You're so afraid! There, there, nothing to worry about! Do you think I would hurt you, really?"
The Doctor's breathing had quickened and he shut his eyes, attempting to calm himself. This didn't make sense to him. Sure, it was an invasion of his personal space, but that sort of went with being a slave. He'd been a slave before, and he knew it wasn't going to kill him.
It was based on the same aversion he had of Icha petting him, he could tell, but he had gotten past that. This was worse, somehow.
"Marwari, look at me."
The Doctor opened his eyes. Icha was close, regarding him seriously.
"I don't know why you're afraid, but you have no reason to be. You will lie down, now. I need to show you what you must do for me. You can't know how to do it until you feel it for yourself."
So that was it. Icha wasn't trying to invoke anything in him, she was just trying to teach him.
Taking a deep breath, the Doctor swiveled and stretched out on the table. He didn't have to like it, he just had to do it. He told himself it was better than being shocked. Not believing it, he told himself again. And again.
The muscles in his shoulders twitched when Icha touched his bare skin. He had expected the oil to be cold, but it was warm. Icha smoothed her hands slowly between his shoulder blades and down either side of his spine, and the Doctor found it within himself to marvel at the difference the oil made. It was an almost completely different experience from being petted.
"Pay attention, Marwari. Always go with the fur, not against it. Notice where to press harder, and where to stay light."
The Doctor closed his eyes and listened to the calming music, directing his full attention to the sliding pressure across his back. Tension he had been holding inevitably began to give under Icha's expert ministrations, and he found himself anticipating the next stroke, yearning for deeper pressure he hadn't known his muscles craved. He thought back, trying to remember the last time he had allowed anyone this close.
He thought of Rose.
The Doctor's hearts contracted with pain. He wasn't supposed to be here, in this intimate room with a rather attractive feline woman doing this to him. There were planets to save and people to meet. He wasn't supposed to be following Icha around, catering to her every whim and fancy.
He was supposed to do that for Rose.
Icha pulled back when the Doctor rose up on his elbows and looked at her. She hesitated, doubtful. "You think you've got it, then?"
The Doctor nodded and sat up, not really giving her a choice, unless she were to force him out of one, which she didn't. Seemingly satisfied, Icha smiled and went to the tap to wash her paws.
He had to admit, he did feel looser. The Doctor wasn't currently too happy with the table, however, so he stood up and waited for Icha, eyeing the PCOS system in hopes of figuring out more about how it worked. More specifically, he hoped to figure out if it was breakable or not.
Icha returned with a happy sigh and removed her robe. The Doctor, being caught off guard, immediately averted his eyes once what she was doing had registered. She draped the robe over the table and lay down.
"I don't expect you to be very good at first, so don't worry. Just do your best. You'll learn as you go."
Thankfully, Icha was wearing knickers. The Doctor's eyes roved over the stretches of white fur hugging the very feminine curves of her back and legs. The bottle of oil and the brass key sat on the cupboard, next to the tap. Of course, she didn't expect him to use the oil on her. It was for people without fur, like him.
Icha held no remote. The Doctor had to remind himself that, according to her explanation, he wasn't in any better position of escaping or overpowering Icha because of it. There was no way he could pick up the key and unlock the door and leave before being shocked. Besides, where would it get him but into another locked prison?
He grasped the basic idea. He picked up enough of what she wanted him to do. Combined with common sense, surely he could figure it out. Seeing there was nothing else for it, the Doctor made a show of cracking his knuckles and went to work.
The fur was soft to the touch. He could feel the pliant skin beneath and the bony protrusions of her shoulder blades. The Doctor made sure to move with Icha's fur, which made the process rather simple. Mapping her skeleton in his mind, he drew his fingertips lightly across bone. Using his thumbs, he pressed into the muscles between.
Before long, the distinct trembling of purring reverberated against his hands.
The Doctor paused. Icha twisted slightly and looked up at him, her eyes shining.
"That is very good, Marwari!" She lay back down, making herself comfortable. "Keep it up. I'll reward you later for being a good boy."
The Doctor froze. Icha noticed.
She chuckled. "I know what you're thinking. Don't worry. You liked your pillow, didn't you? You'll like this more."
The Doctor continued, grinning despite himself. He felt like he had earned something, which he admitted was pitiful, and he really shouldn't be pleased with himself because he was still a prisoner. He pushed the thought away, deciding to take heart in what little victory he could.
As he came across the shoulders and the back of her neck, he slowed his pace as a dangerous idea sprang into his mind.
This could be the opportunity he had been waiting for. A massage was a perfectly valid excuse for touching her head. The Doctor could psionically overpower the link to the node in her head, sealing it away from her control before she could react.
At least, that was the theory. Deciding it best to not think on such things with his hands so close to her mind lest his less than benevolent intentions were to bleed through, he moved back to stroking the cat woman's back as he weighed his options.
If he failed and ticked her off, the Doctor wouldn't get his "reward" for sure. What did it mean in the end, though, if it meant he could escape? Then again, maybe his reward involved going outside, which could also present him with an opportunity?
Steadying himself with a deep breath, the Doctor guarded his thoughts and surreptitiously moved his hands upwards. Surely the muscles of her head were in need of a good loosening, and he wouldn't be a gentleman if he didn't oblige her, would he? He splayed his fingers up the back of her neck and ran them up her scalp, eliciting a little moan from Icha. Since she clearly didn't object, he swept his other hand over the side of her head, ghosting over the temple. The Doctor closed his eyes, concentrating on reception of surface thoughts.
Yes, this was Marwari, just trying to earn his reward and make a good job of it, no need to be suspicious. He rubbed circles from the temple to the base of her feline ear, keeping his psyche passive, but unfortunately the relaxing effect of the action made her mind effectively blank for his purposes.
Dare he press further?
Rose was worth the risk. After Icha's neural link was severed, he could easily overpower her by sheer strength. The Doctor let his righteous anger permeate him. He would speak, loud as he wanted, and she would listen. He would talk some sense into her head, and she couldn't do a blasted thing about it.
Yes, he would overpower her, showing her just what strength a healthy male Time Lord could muster.
The Doctor was imagining the fear he would see in Icha's eyes when she suddenly shuddered under his hands and lifted herself up on her elbows. Blinking, the Doctor stepped back, stunned. What had he done?
Icha looked distracted, her brow furrowed slightly, but she shook it off and smiled at him. "Thank you, Marwari. You've done very well. More tomorrow."
As she rose from the table in all her white-furred glory, the Doctor spun round. In an attempt to hide his discomfort, he justified the sudden move by stepping to the fountain and washing his hands. He had fur stuck to them. Yes, that was it.
The Doctor had been careless. Icha had felt uneasy enough to escape the feeling by moving on.
What she was unaware of is that her perception of his wrath was real and not just paranoia.
Finishing with the tap, the Doctor dried his hands on a towel and turned. Icha was properly robed and shuffled past him, picking up the key and unlocking the door. She removed the remote from its sheath and its blue light blinked off. Eager to leave this room, the Doctor immediately followed Icha out into the brighter hallway.
"Wait here, Marwari. I'll be right down with something for you to choose!" Icha instructed once they had passed by the sofa, and she disappeared into the foyer. His slaver seemed just as excited to be giving him something as he was to receive it. Something to choose? What could it be? A toy? If it was, it had better have a circuitboard or plasma bytes. Maybe she was letting him read Paurin. Icha knew he liked the book, so that made sense. Or, maybe...
"Here we are!" Icha announced brightly, appearing in the archway with a decorative purple wooden chest, which she dropped onto the edge of the sofa. It was labeled "male" on the front. She lifted the latch and the Doctor saw clothes of all sorts of colors inside. "Choose one, Marwari."
The Doctor rewarded Icha with a broad grin and bounced onto the sofa in front of the chest. He was right--Icha did keep clothes stashed upstairs. He began pulling the articles out one by one. They appeared to be all tops, most of which were too big for him. He came across a plain white T-shirt that looked promising. Searching through the rest of the box, he decided it was his best option and looked to Icha.
Icha grinned. "Go on. Try it on."
The Doctor threaded his arms through and noticed how brightly light shone from his shoulder. His back was still slicked with oil. Deciding he didn't care, the Doctor pulled the shirt over his head and down his torso. It was nice and long, of medium weight, and definitely wouldn't fit just anybody. Not too stretchy, but just enough give. Not loose, but well fitted, just the way he liked it. He rolled his shoulders--not too tight.
The Doctor beamed up at Icha, who returned an expression of approval and delight at seeing his excitement.
"Very good. You look good in it, Marwari." Icha closed the chest. "I'll be right back."
As Icha disappeared again, the Doctor was left sitting on the couch in his new top. In just a few days, the Doctor had started to get used to being shirtless. It felt good to wear one again, and he felt just a bit more normal.
The Doctor slouched and hung his head, his new top's fabric bunching in horizontal lines against his lean stomach, and his smile slowly faded. He was still a prisoner. A prisoner with a shirt, but still a prisoner.
A prisoner that had cocked up a possible opportunity to escape.
What did a shirt matter in the end? Rose was out there and needed him. Here he was on a comfy couch with a shirt, and he had no idea if she had even that much. The Doctor shuddered.
Icha had reduced him to appreciating even the smallest of things, and he supposed that was something. It wasn't often someone could humble him to such a state as this.
He vowed that if he found Rose--no, when he found Rose--he would remember this feeling he had now. The Doctor would magnify it tenfold, because Rose was endlessly more important than a shirt, and he would never stop appreciating her as long as she lived.