The Doctor was sat on the edge of a padded stool in the lounging room, kicking his legs with pent up energy and waiting for something to happen. Icha had told him to bathe and to wait for her in the lounging room when he was done, then disappeared upstairs. He was staring at the wall, clean and contentedly wearing his new shirt and still kicking when Icha entered. His antics earned him an arched eyebrow.
Icha was wearing a light purple dress that ended in a bit of a flare at the knees. It shimmered in the sunlight that filtered through the domed ceiling of the lounging room with every hint of movement. Her shoes and gloves matched. The silver handbag was slung over an arm, and of course his remote was in her hand.
"How would you like to go for a walk, Marwari?"
The Doctor thought she would never ask.
Beaming, he catapulted off the stool and joined her at the archway. Icha chuckled and pulled out his blue leash. Despite the sight of it, the Doctor was still eager to go. He groaned inwardly. Would he find himself fetching his leash in the future and bringing it to Icha, begging to go for walks?
He couldn't escape even without it. The leash meant nothing, except that it gave Icha something to pull on him with.
Icha moved to the front door. Before she opened it, however, she turned to the Doctor.
"Now there's something you must learn about being in public. Normally it's learned pretty quickly, but I expect you to learn even faster, just as you have so far with everything!" Icha practically squealed in delight. "I can't believe how easy this is! You're going to be so much fun at the party!" The Doctor's lips stretched in a tolerant grin, and Icha calmed herself. "Now. First thing's first. Whenever we're in public, or even if I have guests over, you are to show respect. When you aren't walking, you are to stay down, just behind and to my right."
Icha demonstrated by turning towards the door and pointing to the floor where she wanted him. Was she serious? Knowing his life couldn't have been so easy as a slave as it had so far appeared, the Doctor figured if it got him out of the house, it was worth it. Embarrassing and a dent to his pride, but worth it.
Besides, all the other slaves most likely had to do it. In this society, it was normal.
The Doctor stepped just behind Icha, a little to her right. Icha's hand immediately moved back to rest on his hip, a motion she appeared to not even have to think about. It would be hardly noticed by others.
The Doctor closed his eyes briefly and let a bit of steam out as he exhaled. He dropped to a crouch.
"Very good, Marwari," Icha drawled. Without turning, her delicately gloved hand came up to scratch his head, mussing his hair. "You may walk comfortably, of course. You're a lucky pet. I'm good to my pets, and that's why they're good to me!"
The Doctor told himself he was lucky, but he didn't believe it. She could just keep on believing it in her own little world.
Icha opened the front door, and the Doctor rose and followed her out into the sunlight.
Icha's dress shimmered even more brightly outside. The weather was sunny and fair again, just like the first day, which was not uncommon for a Prima class moon. Perhaps this was Paurin, a Prima class. The Doctor longed to peek at the book Icha had taken from him.
Heat radiated from the pavement, warming his feet. Would Icha ever let him have shoes? Again, she didn't appear to be in a hurry to anywhere, so the Doctor was able to walk slowly.
That wasn't to say he wasn't in a hurry to anywhere. He wanted to run, trainers or not, down the hill towards the pet shoppe, and if it was empty, he would run to every building in the entire town until he found Rose.
In the middle of nowhere, Icha stopped. The Doctor stopped behind her and looked about, trying to ascertain what they were waiting for. Icha didn't look at him, but he suddenly felt her hand on his hip.
The Doctor grimaced and sighed, then dropped to a crouch.
"Good, Marwari. You'll get used to it."
Icha started walking again, and the Doctor got up and followed.
They made their way down the hill and into town. Several more times, Icha stopped for no apparent reason, and within seconds, the Doctor twigged and crouched down next to her furry leg. He kept telling himself it was worth it to be outside.
Moreso, it was worth it to catch sight of the pet shoppe, which he spotted on the corner up ahead.
What if Rose was in there?
As they continued to walk, the Doctor tried to peer inside. They were on the opposite side of the street, and it was too dark inside to see properly. They began to pass it, and the Doctor slowed until the leash pulled his collar tight.
Icha stopped and looked. The Doctor pulled a bit and pointed at the pet shoppe imploring her with urgent eyes. Icha studied him, narrowing her own.
"We're not going there today, Marwari."
The Doctor swallowed, his hearts accelerating. How far was he willing to go with this?
He grasped the leash, relieving the pressure around his neck, and pulled, focusing on the shoppe.
"Come, Marwari." Icha instructed calmly.
The Doctor didn't relent. He didn't get very far.
The buzzing almost made him jump, even though he had been expecting it. He stopped.
Was it worth it? How likely was it Rose was even in there?
"Come, Marwari. Now."
There was no point. Even if he managed to yank the leash from Icha's grip, he wouldn't even make it to the middle of the street before being shocked helplessly to the pavement. He may even be able to get up again and run for it, but he imagined this would only earn him a further shocking so severe that he wouldn't be able to move at all. Then he wouldn't have accomplished anything except earn Icha's mistrust.
Were the chances Rose was in there any higher than her being in another building, really?
Sagging with defeat, the Doctor let go of the leash and put some slack into it. He pinned Icha was a furious glare, but Icha's own hardened gaze only lasted an instant before she turned away and continued walking.
His slaver was not happy with him. He had elicited curiousity in her before, however. Surely she had to be curious as to why he was so adamant about this over anything else?
The Doctor was distracted from his pining thoughts as he caught sight of someone crouching next to a cat man across the way. It was a woman, who appeared content to play with an object in her hands while her slaver talked to someone else, and it was obviously not Rose. He could see the black shorts she wore were longer than his, and the dark red band around her chest had decorative edges to it. When she looked up for a moment, the Doctor could tell that it was not Eli.
Icha turned into a coffee shoppe. A few patrons sat on stools at little high tables, but it appeared to be a slow day. A cat man greeted Icha from the counter.
"What can I get you, Ma'am?"
"Orange tart tea, and a side of sweet berries, please." Icha alighted upon a stool at an empty table, and the Doctor made to sit next to her. Icha gripped his arm. "No, Marwari." She smiled sympathetically and pointed to the floor next to her stool. "Stay there."
Rolling his eyes, the Doctor crouched down by the stool, playing the game, and watched the other patrons. Most kept to themselves. One cat lady kept looking up at Icha from over her coffee, eyeing Icha up and down when she wasn't looking, but the lady either didn't notice the Doctor watching her or didn't care. Two cat men were talking at another table. The Doctor couldn't pick up every word, but he heard the words "power plant" and something about "restless slaves."
Icha's order was delivered, and the Doctor watched Icha as she tested the tea gingerly and popped a berry into her mouth.
It had been years since the Doctor had had a sweet berry. It was the common term for a red, strawberry-like fruit native only to the fourth, fifth, and eleventh sectors of the Gestaapa system, if he recalled correctly. The berries on Icha's little plate looked to be the juiciest he had ever seen, and he knew that just one of them would significantly brighten his day.
He was sure of it.
The Doctor waited impatiently as Icha sipped her tea and munched with excessive enjoyment on the sweet berries.
It wasn't fair.
He thought he could see only two berries left, but he wasn't going to beg. It was just a piece of fruit.
Icha sipped slowly on her tea, then bit down on another berry.
When she picked up the last one and didn't make the slightest move towards him, the Doctor reached for the closest bit of fur, which happened to be her delicately-strapped ankle.
The berry hovered near her feline lips, and Icha looked down into the Doctor's big eyes, his puppy expression switched on full.
The corners of her mouth turned up a little, but she made no move to appease him and simple watched.
Oh, give me a break, the Doctor groaned inwardly. He wasn't going to cave.
Icha smiled and made to eat the sweet berry.
The Doctor threaded his forearm through the stool's legs and wrapped it around Icha's lower leg, his hand coming to rest just below her knee, his elbow now at her ankle. He directed his full attention to the berry as Icha again dropped her eyes to look at him, and he prayed to Rassilon his complexion didn't come close to matching the fruit.
Icha giggled, appearing deeply amused. "Oh, you'll be the death of me, Marwari!" She passed the berry down to him and watched him eat it.
It was a very good sweet berry.
"Well, that was a lovely walk, wasn't it?" Icha announced brightly after they had returned home.
The Doctor didn't bother answering, knowing the question to be rhetorical. Yes, by seeming conversational, you make one of the friendliest slavers, I'm sure, Icha.
The cat woman went upstairs and returned in her robe. She crawled onto the sofa, sent the Doctor off to make supper, and switched on the telly. Icha pet his head while finishing her programme, then afterwards clicked the screen off and turned to the Doctor. Surprised, he sat up and faced her, curious.
"I know you'll like this bit, Marwari." Icha grinned. The Doctor raised an eyebrow. Icha sighed, preparing to lecture him. "I'm taking you to a party. Other pets will be there, too, with their owners, but you'll be the best of them all!" The Doctor watched Icha, following so far. She clasped her hands together excitedly. "You're still pretty wild, and many pets there will be very tame, having spent many years with their owners. But you," Icha tapped him on the nose, momentarily making him go cross-eyed and blink, "are the smartest of all of them, I'm sure."
The Doctor was sure, too, but he really wished Icha would get on with her point.
"You learned very quickly how to show respect in public today, Marwari." She reached up to scratch his head, which seemed awkward given their height difference. "You've come to accept physical contact well enough with me, which strengthens the bond between pet and owner."
Yes, Icha, I'll do my best not to embarrass you, only because I don't want to be shocked. Where are you going with this?
Icha smiled conspiratorially, as if sharing a secret. "Only the smartest pets can speak."
The Doctor straightened, surprised.
The cat woman's face sobered. "I know you can speak quite fluently. While I may accept that you are able to, most people won't. You're lucky, Marwari."
He was silent, and didn't display any signs of disagreement. He knew his situation could be worse, but that didn't change the fact that he missed Rose terribly.
Icha knew he could speak, and the Doctor wanted to ask her why she wouldn't let him, even though he already knew the answer. Letting him speak freely would take an effort in Icha to change the way she interacted with her pets. Yes, she found it convenient that she only needed to instruct him once for him to understand what to do and how to behave, but he couldn't imagine the change in mindset it would take to let a slave rattle off the volume dynamics of spatial wake distortion in sequential order by craft velocity and consider the creature still beneath you.
Then again, the act might educe lesser minds to think him barking mad, and something more closely resembling everyday conversation might prove his point more effectively.
"It would normally take a great deal of practice for a pet to memorise the words and inflections necessary to be impressive, but you clearly have already had a great deal of practice with our language."
If Icha knew how many languages he could speak fluently, she would never tell him to do anything again.
"Now, I know you want to just babble away, but like I said, it's just rude! You wouldn't want to be rude at a party, would you?" The Doctor bobbed his eyebrows at her suggestively, causing Icha to hesitate. "Right, well, I won't have it. You only say these words, and only when I tell you to speak in front of people."
Icha proceeded to feed him a phrase carefully, as if it took a great deal of effort for him to remember them. She then asked him to say it back to her. She asked him to speak. Why were his hearts pounding?
The Doctor said the words back to Icha quickly, eager to show her just how easily he could speak, and he wasn't shocked for it. She didn't seem surprised at all at how easily he repeated her.
"You've got them, but slow it down. It makes for a better show."
Biting his tongue, he said the simple words again, slower, until she was happy.
"Good, good. We'll practice more tomorrow. For now, bedtime!"
Yes, that was a great deal of fun, Icha. Enjoyed our little talk. The Doctor sighed and got up, picked up his pillow, and shuffled through the archway into the foyer. He showed himself into his cupboard, and Icha seemed pleased he was getting into a habit.
"Sleep well, Marwari. I'm proud of you. I can see you're going to be my most favourite pet!"
Icha climbed the stairs, and the Doctor waited in the darkness. He wouldn't be her most favourite if he could help it.
He opened his cupboard door. Pulling up the blankets from the under the lowest stairs, the Doctor picked up the pieces of scrap, strew them across the floor, and got to work.