A Feline's Fancy

Opportunity

When Icha began to stir upstairs, the Doctor groaned out loud and stuck the tip of his tongue to his upper lip in concentration. Gingerly, he poked the last bit of wire around its connection next to the flux housing and pressed on it, making sure it was secure. He wouldn't have minded if a spark lit the house on fire, but unfortunately this society didn't generally use many flammable materials in a building's interior for genius reasons, which worked out very well for pet owners. The contents of the lounging room and library were in contrast very flammable, but vandalising them wouldn't help him escape.

It would make Icha very, very cross. It's possible an unhappy Icha would take him back to the pet shoppe, which would be very good. If he wanted to upset Icha, he didn't have to burn anything down, however. No, he would save that for something that might actually give him an opportunity to get out of here.

So, while he wouldn't mind if the house burned down, he would mind if this thing sparked over his cozy accommodations and lit up his blankets.

The Doctor hadn't found any light sources within the house he could salvage without breaking through a wall or at least having a tool to remove a fixture with, so he had made his own. It was a rudimentary flux flame common on Trayok IV, similar to how an incandescent bulb worked, but without the bulb. The scrapped coil interface from the library had a lovely tri-wax sheath that would substitute brilliantly, quite literally.

Someone had cheated with the wiring underneath the stairs and had run it along the edge and painted over it. He had contemplated creating a short, but the conduit was clearly too small to affect the mansion's important systems by doing so. He would likely only get so far as cutting off the only supply he had managed to find unprotected. After pinching the stringy contraption together with the frayed strands he had torn out of the conduit, the Doctor twisted the flux housing and was rewarded with a blinding orange glow from the sheath. The Doctor whooped in victory.

He hurriedly twisted it back off and leaned out the cupboard, scooping up the bits of metal and fiber he had been working with and tossed them into the growing mess of scrap corner in his cupboard and tucked the blanket over it. He left the flux flame wired in, hanging from the ceiling where he doubted it would be noticed by Icha. Now he could read! Well, not now, but tonight he could read, after Icha had gone to bed. The Doctor would sneak out first thing and grab one of the other books he dare not be found reading on the sofa lest Icha take it away from him.

"Sleep well, Marwari?"

The Doctor tipped his head out the cupboard door. Instead of Icha's off-white robe, she was dressed for public. From his reclined position on his poofy pillow, he grinned agreeably and shook his head. Unfortunately, Icha looked away a moment before and didn't catch it.

"I thought we might start with a walk today, right after breakfast. Doesn't that sound nice?"

It did sound nice, but since Icha wasn't expecting an answer, the Doctor didn't bother letting her know just how much. He pushed off the floor to head for the kitchen and noticed how sore his fingers were from working the flux flame all night. It had taken a lot of time-consuming effort with no tools to construct, but it would be so worth it!

After breakfast they went for a walk, but instead of heading towards town this time, they moved uphill through the wealthy residential area. The Doctor scanned the front of the homes for any sign of Rose as they passed, but he wasn't surprised when his efforts came up empty. He wondered if Icha was avoiding the pet shoppe and the possibility of another incident with an unruly pet. Icha practiced stopping many times, and the Doctor's reaction time shortened considerably since yesterday. She seemed satisfied with his progress, and they returned home.

Icha "quizzed" him on his painfully limited vocabulary, and the Doctor repeated the words without hesitation. She was pleased, and again reminded him he could only say it when she asked him to speak at the party. After a bit of telly, Icha left the Doctor in the lounging room, telling him she would be right back and slipped upstairs. She had left the screen on, and the Doctor lazed on the sofa waiting for her.

His pillow was getting a lot of use. He thought he might rub off his cheek with the heel of his hand as he stared at the telly, which replayed the same advert he'd seen a hundred times. A cat in a hover car was zipping along after a giant ball of yarn that seemed to roll away of its own accord. Suddenly, the ball started to unravel and entangled itself all over the hover car. To an annoyingly triumphant soundtrack, the voice over praised the hover technology for not even slowing a kph as the car proceeded to look more and more like the yarn ball itself. The latest model of the car was displayed, yarnless, with sparkling lights, then it cut back to the news programme. Why didn't Icha have a hover car?

The Doctor released his cheek, which started to ache, and rubbed the hand down his face as he groaned softly. How many more times would he see that advert? Couldn't this settlement charge a fee for entertainment rights and skip the commercial breaks like more enlightened societies?

He grabbed the screen's remote from across Icha's empty indentation on the sofa and made to change the channel. Instead, his gaze caught on the remote in sudden inspiration and he flipped it over, pondering if its insides could prove a useful combination with bits of coil interface scrap.

His ears registered the news flashing several uninteresting bits of domesticity as he pried off the battery cover, and something about a power station laborer going mad, apparently seeing things that weren't there. This last bit peaked the Doctor's interest when he heard his name being called. Well, the name he'd come to respond to. Finally something he wanted to watch, and Icha had to go summoning him for... what was he being summoned for?

Fixing the remote and putting it back, the Doctor got up and followed the sound of Icha's voice and nearly collided with her coming through the archway. She was dressed in her robe.

"There you are, Marwari. Come, come, here we go." Icha crossed the lounging room for the hallway. "I could use a massage, but you could use some practice even more, I think."

Grimacing behind Icha's back, the Doctor followed unenthusiastically into the PCOS room.

The calming music and gentle atmosphere with its center table didn't scare the Doctor nearly so much as it did yesterday. Instead, he found himself strangely eager to get started. He had missed an opportunity the last time. Yes, there was a risk involved, but could it be worth it?

Icha disrobed and stretched out, sighing happily. The woman had everything she thought she wanted in her own little world, queen of her mansion with her own personal faithful slave. What she didn't know was that this "faithful" slave would defy her and escape the first promising chance he got.

The Doctor engaged his task without hesitation, and he mused at how comfortable he had become with touching her in such a short time. As he put effort into the movements of his hands across Icha's back, he didn't miss the fact that this time he was wearing a shirt because he had done well before. He also found that he actually liked an aspect of the process in that it gave him something to do. It shared a common effect with tinkering with the TARDIS in that it gave him something to concentrate his mind on. While he wasn't nearly as comfortable doing this as he was crawling under the console, the action allowed other thoughts to slip through, and he could mull them over without actually paying attention to what he was doing.

It was in this fashion that after some time, the Doctor had made his way to Icha's shoulders and neck. Slowing, he thumbed the little circular tufts of fur growing opposite the rest near her collarbone and thought carefully. He had grown soft over the last few days, cracking under the muzzle of silence and being shaped into the role a proper slave was expected to fill. He had hoped that by gaining Icha's trust she would allow him privileges, like being able to speak, one of his more influential abilities.

He had failed to do so, however, and the Doctor feared that if he didn't take a chance soon, he would never see Rose again.

That opportunity he had been waiting for was now.

Leveling his breathing in resolve, he readied himself and drew his fingertips upward. The Doctor rubbed his thumbs behind Icha's feline ears and settled two fingers on either side of her temple, rubbing in little circles. A sharp arc of indecency suddenly pierced him as he realised what he was doing, and when Icha's purring faltered into a pleased hum, he feared she had picked up on the familiar nature of the act. It was common to touch one's mind at the temple as he had done countless times, and it was considered just polite as long as one didn't wander. Because he needed to keep moving to avoid suspicion, however, the Doctor had inadvertently created an implication of intimacy.

The Doctor was sure Icha wasn't aware of his species' propriety and was merely appreciating a good massage. Taking in a shuddering breath against his thudding hearts, he pressed forward.

He slipped her a mild suggestion, masking his entry. Doesn't that feel good?

Cautiously, he skirted under Icha's drifting awareness, attempting to locate the PCOS neural node that linked her mind to the system.

Just... there!

Careful to bottleneck the building storm beyond her perception, he focused on the spot it would be unleashed in a rush of violent mental energy.

Then, something went very, very wrong.

The Doctor didn't realise until too late that he hadn't accounted for the fact that by probing into Icha's mind, he had left the collar a rather vulnerable opening into his brain stem.

Fierce, burning pain ignited in his head and flared across his vision, overwhelming his senses. The Doctor yelped and lost sense of time.

The next thing he knew, he was coming to on the floor, his brain a live nest of angry nerve endings. The back of his head smarted terribly. He probed it with his fingers. No blood.

He was crumpled against the cupboard, somehow wet. Apparently, he had thrown himself backwards with enough force to slosh water from the fountain, which explained why the back of his head hurt.

"You're telepathic," Icha whispered.

The Doctor rubbed his head, grimacing, and looked up to the table. Icha was perched on the edge clutching her robe about her shoulders and staring at him, her expression one of horror that faded into disappointment. She knew what he had tried to do.

"Had I known, I would have thought to warn you that it's safeguarded against psychic assault."

The Doctor drew his eyes closed. Beaten.

Icha's whiskers trembled, and she blew out a breath threw her nose. Suddenly on her feet, she marched to the doorway, snatched his remote out of its sheath, and left the room.

He let her go. The Doctor had screwed up, and he didn't care where she was going. It didn't matter what she was doing, and he was content to sit on the floor against the cupboard and nurse his aching head.

Right, no he wasn't. The Doctor groaned and picked himself up, staggering to the door. He blinked at the brighter light of the hallway and peered both ways. No sign of Icha.

The Doctor pulled back into the room, leaning against the doorframe for support. It wasn't like her to just leave him without telling him what to do while she was gone or how long she would be. She wasn't herself at the moment, understandably.

His eyes were drawn to the collar remote sheath on the wall next to the doorway.

Maybe it hadn't all been a waste.

Peering out into the hallway again and finding it clear, the Doctor shook himself, attempting to clear his head. Come on, all this lazing about and now it was time to do something! He ran his fingers over the sheath's casing and found a catch. Oh ho, not so pet proof, are you? The Doctor pulled the casing away and squinted in excitement at the circuits, wishing he had his glasses to complete the mood. The idea wasn't to break it so much as reroute its signals, subverting its functions. He didn't want Icha to find it wouldn't turn on and suspect foul play. He wanted Icha to think it was working when it really wasn't.

He poked and prodded, wishing he had his sonic screwdriver. Hell, he'd settle for one of the spork-shaped parts from his scrap heap, but he didn't dare risk losing this opportunity to go get it.

PCOS zapped him once, but it felt like nothing compared to what he had just endured. He bit his lip, seeing the tiny pin he wanted but was unable to reach it properly. Staring off across the room, he set his mouth in a line of concentrated effort as he felt his way to it. Finally, he found it and pressed.

The system sparked and powered down.

No, no, no, no!

The Doctor cursed and peered out the door. Still no Icha. He returned to the panel and squinted. He had knocked out the right pin, but he had also loosened the one next to it. Feeling his way in again, he managed to trip it and PCOS flared back to life. He sighed, relieved, and grinned at his accomplishment. He replaced the sheath's casing.

Now what?

Apologise, that's what. He had to salvage what he could of Icha's trust, which couldn't be much, but it was all he really had. If he didn't make amends, he could lose all hope of finding another opportunity again.

The Doctor retrieved the door's key from the cupboard, left the room, and locked the door behind him. It felt strange to be in possession of a key. Unfortunately, he hadn't seen the same lock on any other door.

Icha surely hadn't gone towards the library, and she never used the bathing room he did. He headed for the lounging room.

She wasn't in it.

He headed under the archway and found the foyer empty as well. Deciding Icha had gone upstairs, the Doctor stepped onto the first stair and looked up. Icha had said going upstairs would shock him. He settled onto the second stair and hugged his bare legs to his chest and waited.

The Doctor realised he had begun to descend into a healing torpor when he heard a soft sound from above, and his eyes snapped open.

Icha gazed down at him from the landing, a look of sympathy on her face. He swallowed and lifted the key for her to see. She studied it a moment, then smiled softly.

"I was angry with you, Marwari, but I couldn't bring myself to hurt you more than you had already suffered. So, I left, and I've been thinking." She started slowly down the stairs. "Perhaps you meant to do what you did. Perhaps you didn't. Maybe you wanted to know me better and that was your way of connecting with me, I don't know. Or maybe you don't have full control over your ability and it just slipped. If that's the case, then I'm sorry to put you in that position." Icha seated herself on the stairs above him and gently took the key from his hand, looking kindly into his eyes.

The Doctor stared back at Icha, trying very hard not to let his incredulity show through.

Was she for real? Icha not only deluded herself about slavery in general like a high percentage of the population, but also about how the Doctor perceived her. Was it because she was partial to him, or did she rationalise bad behaviour in all of her pets? If she let other pets get away with similar acts of defiance, how did that translate into her apparently being an advanced handler?

It was more likely Icha very much knew what he was about and was trying to throw him off. In any case, the Doctor couldn't complain about lack of punishment.

Icha grinned at him widely. "There, now! We've got that out of the way! Now that you've learned another of your boundaries, we don't have to deal with that one anymore! Learning is sometimes hard at first, Marwari, but it will get better!" She reached out and ruffled the Doctor's hair, much to his annoyance.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

The rest of the day passed without further incident. Before turning in for the night, the Doctor was made to recite his words again, and Icha praised him and told him he was ready.

"There's one more thing. The party is day after next, and I had planned to skip tomorrow. Little Jelei's turning six tomorrow, and her mother Mees has just been begging me to come. I told her I was busy with a new pet, and she understood, naturally. I've been thinking, though. A birthday party would be an excellent test of your behaviour in public. I don't know how you are with children, but Jelei's quite the little darling and I'm sure you'll do just fine."

As Icha ascended the stairs, the Doctor stood in the foyer with mixed feelings. The idea of getting out of the house and doing something and meeting people sounded brilliant, but he was familiar with the word "darling" and knew it had two very different definitions. Deciding he could do nothing about it right now, the Doctor stuffed his pillow into the cupboard and secreted inside and closed the door.

There were more important things to do right now.

The flux flame switched on easily, and the Doctor beamed. Wary about the light being cast through the slats of his door, he secured a blanket up over the door and fluffed his pillow just right while he waited. He really could only sit one way comfortably due to his height. When he was satisfied Icha was tucked away for the night, he excitedly twisted the light off and stole towards the library at a swift but silent run. He felt more alive at night than during the day, just as he imagined a house cat would.

The Doctor had memorised where the books he wanted were and went right to them. He piled them on the table while he selected, then picked up the stack of eight and brought them to his cupboard.

When safe inside with his flux flame burning brightly, the Doctor spent the night reading all his possibly forbidden books in hopes of learning more about the history of this settlement and a clue to as to why its catkind had turned into slavers.

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