TenRose. Two species have grown unnaturally apart. The Tenth Doctor and Rose find themselves whisked away into a sensual mystery of greed, love and loyalty that shatters the barriers of their relationship.
This story is rated M for a strong sexual theme throughout. If you aren't interested in the Doctor and Rose in this respect, please do NOT read.
Cover art is available from tkirr.deviantart.com.
Endless thanks to WhoMe-2 for her invaluable feedback. Without her, Effigermus would have died with Chapter Four.
The Doctor and Rose entered the little shoppe, happily giggling to each other as the door swished open, and the smartly-dressed, human-looking woman behind the counter greeted them with a smile.
"Welcome to Quality Treasures!"
The Doctor grinned back. "Lovely, yes!" He began scanning the various shelves and display cases, thinking it polite to divert his attention from Rose long enough to find his next compliment. "Lots of bits and bobs. Curious stuff you've got here. Ooh, I love these!" He crouched down and squinted enthusiastically through the glass counter at what looked like a fairly complete Plumic Shell collection.
Rose began to browse the small aisles, and the shopkeeper addressed him. "Would you like to see it?"
The Doctor shook his head. "Nah, dunno what I'd do with them." He stood and smiled. "Just like looking. I'm the Doctor, by the way, and that's Rose. What's your name?"
The woman smiled easily. Her hair was blonde like Rose's, but longer and pulled back tightly behind her head. She seemed somehow overdressed in her light tan suit that ended at the knees, but the Doctor figured she just took her business seriously. "Sariel. You from here?"
"Nope! Off-worlders, us. Can't resist new cultures!"
Sariel seemed pleased by this information, the Doctor noted, probably thinking she could sell them something any native would know was junk. "Ah, that's wonderful! I wonder," Sariel turned and produced a delicate vial with a pump, "would your wife be interested in the scent of the beholder?"
The Doctor stood with his mouth open for a moment. While happy to have Rose referred to as his wife, he wasn't sure she would be pleased if he didn't deny the fact. Hands in pockets, he twisted at the waist, his brown coat swishing over his ankles, to peer momentarily at Rose. He couldn't tell by her expression whether she had heard or not, but she was looking directly at him. He turned back to the shopkeeper and plastered a grin on his face. "Oh, we're not married."
The woman arched an eyebrow. "Oh no? I would have never guessed..." Her eyes darted behind him at Rose. "Girlfriend?"
The Doctor clenched his jaw and squinted one eye, having been down this road before. "Not as such... is this going somewhere?"
Somehow, the lady looked even more pleased but was subtly attempting to hide the fact. She pulled back the vial and stashed it out of sight. "Oh, no, I did not mean to offend! Perhaps I can offer you something more appropriate, then?" Sariel turned to the back counter. There was a tray with two teapots and sleeve of small paper cups. She picked up the tray and turned back to the Doctor. "Perhaps I can offer you a sample of today's sale?"
"Oh, that's nice. Rose?" The Doctor turned to meet her eyes, and Rose came over to the counter.
"What is it?"
"An herbal tea from Iosiphonia." Sariel bent over the counter towards Rose and whispered, "I have a bit every day, love the stuff." Rose grinned as the woman played to her mischievous side. "I ordered a large quantity and I'm putting it on sale to build up demand from the people in town, but I'm happy to share it with visitors, too!"
"Yeah, I'll give it a go." Rose smiled politely as she was passed a cup. "Thanks."
The Doctor watched Rose wrap her hands around her cup and take a tentative sip before he was passed his own. He hovered over the surface a moment, inhaling its spicy sweet scent, before testing the liquid himself. "Mm, it's good!" Rose nodded her agreement and turned her attention back to their surroundings.
"So you have things here from all over, then?" Rose asked as she noted the variety. By her experience, she could tell that not everything there came from one planet.
"Oh, yes. Most of my collection is from this side of the system, but we have a few special treasures from beyond." Sariel winked at Rose.
Rose smiled back politely. "What about this planet? What's this place known for?"
"Well, I've got some authentic Chosthu treejumper teeth. Those tend to be popular with new folks." Sariel pointed at a bundle of cords with purple spade-shaped teeth tied to the ends. "I had some desert skates, but they really don't sell well here since there's no desert in the northern areas of Chosthu. Have you been to the desert regions yet?"
The Doctor and Rose shook their heads.
"It's so hot there, the sand turns to glass. During the winter, you can skate on it. Very popular sport here!"
The Doctor nodded. "How does it turn back to sand?"
Sariel raised her eyebrows. "Sorry?"
"Well if it's all glass last year, how does it turn back to sand so that it can turn into glass again this year? Or if it's always glass, where does the new sand come from to melt into glass in the hot season? Sounds like a dangerous place, don't go near a construction site, that's for sure!"
Sariel puzzled. "I... I don't know. Honestly I haven't been here a year yet. I was only told about it."
The Doctor frowned with interest thinking it at least might be worth checking out and turned to Rose. She didn't seem interested in the least.
In fact, Rose seemed troubled. A small line formed between her brows. "Sorry but, can I use your loo?"
Sariel smiled and gestured delicately to the back. "Yes, it's just there on the left." The Doctor watched her hurry along and disappear into the dark back corridor, briefly wondering if he should be concerned, but Sariel continued. "If you plan on staying on Chosthu, they should be opening up the deserts for recreation in the next few weeks. Every year it's a bit different depending on the weather patterns."
There was a sound from the back, and the Doctor turned to look but couldn't see anything. He craned his neck and frowned.
"It's a mess back there. She probably just bumped some boxes over. I'll clean it up later, no worries." Sariel smiled up at him, drawing back his attention. "Feel free to look about. I'm sure she won't be long."
The Doctor nodded, gave the back corridor one last look and began to roam at a leisurely pace, looking at this and that. It wasn't a particularly fascinating shoppe, and the tea wasn't really that good, but Sariel was nice enough and he found himself minding his behaviour around Rose more and more. He stopped a moment in thought, wondering if he really should be concerned about that.
Sariel disappeared into the back, he noted, and he wondered if she went to check on Rose. She returned a moment later and began busying herself behind the counter. He was about to ask if she had seen Rose, but he bit back the words. What was he like, carrying on like a mother hen? He forced his eyes back to the shelves, not really paying attention to what he was looking at, but the attempt at distracting himself kept him occupied. As soon as Rose came out, they would be off. He thought he had spotted a chippie round the corner; they could stop for lunch. He thought back to the last time they had chips, at how much he had enjoyed watching Rose laugh at his tales of adventures past. Nice place, Sariel, but we really must be going, see you!
He looked up and found Sariel behind the counter, her hands raised and holding something. "Hm?"
Sariel bit her lip. "I don't mean to trouble you, but... you seem such a gentleman and, well, I'm thinking good with your hands too, yes?"
Why yes, yes he was. He frowned and walked to the front, his eyes moving to the small spot of pink in her hands. Despite her flattery, he was determined to show it wasn't working while still wishing to be helpful. He was also on guard. "Suppose so, why?"
The shopkeeper looked up at him apologetically from a downcast face. "It's just that... well, your friend. Her name reminded me of this." She spread her cupped hands for him to see the rose-shaped object, careful to hold it only by its base." I've just got it down from the shelf and, well I've been meaning to clean it, but with all the inventory I've been doing lately..." Sariel sighed and looked up at him. "Could you clean it up for me? While you're waiting. I hate to ask, really, but maybe if it shines again, you'll see how lovely it is. Perhaps you'd even want to make a purchase for your lady." She winked at him.
"Hm," he grumbled noncommittally, but reached for the sculpture all the same. His fingers stopped just shy of the object before he pulled them away. "I really should go see if Rose is all right." He made for the back of the shoppe.
"Oh, you wouldn't be allowed in the women's room!" Sariel scolded. Her words and tone were just enough to make him hesitate. Sariel hurried up to him. "I'll check on her. Here!" She lifted her hand, palm down, and he raised his automatically to receive it. Sariel then bustled past him and into the corridor. "Make yourself comfortable on the sofa. I'll be right back!"
He turned on his heel to the small sitting area next to the door and peered at the thing in his hand. Sighing, he made his way over to the sofa and had a seat.
The Doctor rotated the small, satsuma-sized corolla in his fingertips. Now that he had a better look at it, he found it to be a rather curious material—light pink and glossy, smooth, and slightly transparent as if glass, but just on the surface. He experimented with the pad of his thumb, rubbing at the broad surface of an exterior petal, and found it to be soft and slightly pliant. Fascinating!
There was a thin film over the surface, perhaps dust, and it cleared away where he had worked at it. Just under the shiny surface appeared to be a soft velvet texture. The surface reflected the light, but its core absorbed it. It really was quite lovely.
"Rose says she's fine, she just needs another minute," Sariel said as she returned to the front.
"What's this made of?" the Doctor asked conversationally as he slowly, delicately ran the soft part of a finger along one of the petal's edges. It wasn't sharp, but it was sturdy, keeping its shape.
"Mm..." Sariel paused, thinking. "I don't remember the material, but I believe it came from the Moon of Muramphe."
"Really," the Doctor mumbled. The Moon of Muramphe. There was something about that place that put him on edge, but he didn't bother dwelling on it long enough to recall why. It couldn't be all that bad, he thought, if its inhabitants created a lovely thing such as this, could it? "Do you have anything to clean with?"
"Oh!" Sariel exclaimed. "I'm sorry! Yes, I have something around here, been moving things around so..." She trailed off as she appeared to be searching behind the counter. "It's around here somewhere, just let me look."
The Doctor was studiously buffing out more filmy areas with his fingers when he noticed the object began to move. He stopped and stared at it. The rose was, well, blooming. He couldn't say right when it had started as it had begun rather slowly, but now that he had ceased contact, the spreading petals slowly stopped and held their new positions.
"Hello," he greeted the object in delight. He watched it, as if awaiting a response, but it was silent. The Doctor then looked up at Sariel, his eyebrows raised, and emphatically informed her, "This isn't a statuette."
"What?" Sariel peered up from behind the counter at him, then looked at the rose. "Oh, no it's not! Didn't I say?"
"No, you didn't."
"It's meant to do that, of course! Pretty, isn't it?"
The Doctor reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out his thick-rimmed glasses, and deftly perched them onto his nose with one hand. "What is it?"
Sariel frowned. "I don't know." Her brow furrowed as she began looking for cleaning supplies again. "Most people don't ask. If they like it, they buy it."
The Doctor returned his attention to the curio in his hands and began rubbing at it again. He was beginning to like Sariel less, but he was liking this rose more and more. In the end, he just might purchase it after all... right after he sonicked himself some local currency.
Should he hide it from Rose, give it to her as a surprise over chips? The Doctor swept his tongue thoughtfully over his back teeth as he imagined the look on her face as she discovered its more interesting properties.
The rose continued to bloom as he worked at the broader surfaces. He was afraid he might break the petals, because even as he pressed hard enough to polish them, they expanded outward against him. He eased off, lightening his touch, deciding to wait until the flower bloomed outward enough for him to apply equal pressure to both sides of a petal so he wouldn't damage it. That way, he could also get to the more intricate places where he couldn't clean because Sariel didn't seem to have all her rocks and was taking her sweet time at finding those supplies.
He glanced up over his frames, sparing a few seconds to watch Sariel muck about. She really had no idea what he had his hands on.
The Doctor suddenly noticed the animating object was getting darker, redder. Rosier! A sly grin slipped across his face, and he made a small happy sound in the back of his throat. "Ooh, you're enjoying this, aren't you?" he murmured quietly to it as he lightly caressed its curves. He surreptitiously glanced up under his brows, suddenly conscientious and hoping Sariel didn't hear. She didn't appear to notice.
The outer petals had spread far enough for him to get a grip around one if he nudged it a bit. Strange, it felt slightly warm inside. No, it was probably just absorbing the warmth from his hands. He rubbed his finger and thumb together on either side of the petal in little circles, now able to press more firmly.
The outer petals spread more readily, seeming to like this. Oh, listen to him go on in his head about this thing being alive! It was certainly fun to pretend, though, as long as Sariel didn't hear him talking to it. The Doctor kept his mouth shut in his private little corner of the shoppe, entertaining himself with this little delight as he waited for Rose to do... whatever it was she was doing.
What was keeping her, anyway?
A sweet scent reached his nose, and the Doctor pushed his nose down into the flower and breathed slowly and deeply, savouring its scent. What a treasure this was! Whoever made it was very talented, and he decided as soon as they left planetside, they would go visit the Moon of Muramphe. Why did that place sound familiar, in a bad way?
The Doctor was sat with his elbows on his knees as he peered closely at the flower. Strange, the next layer of petals had a filmy layer on it, too, as if it had been stored open. He glanced up at Sariel, who was busy at the counter with her back to him. He wanted to ask about it, but he found he really wasn't in the mood to draw attention to himself.
Curling his tongue over his upper lip, the Doctor concentrated on removing the dust from the second layer of petals. The exterior petals fell away even more as the next ones began to loosen. By the time he was done, this thing was going to shine in all its possible beauty. It wasn't just the way it managed to look hard and soft at the same time, but it felt that way, too. Its colour was deepening to a dark red, and the petals were becoming more and more pliant.
Some of the film down deep between the petals was being stubborn, refusing to rub away. It was probably too dry. It no doubt tasted nasty, but he would sacrifice the experience for a good cause. The Doctor opened his mouth, his lips meeting the edges of both explored layers, and dipped his tongue between them to wet the dust, which did taste nasty. It was dust all right. At least his efforts were working. He rubbed away more of the dust and wet more of the elusive crevices, wishing he had a cotton bud. Now there was a brilliant invention! Quality-tips, perfect for getting in the tight spaces. He would have to take another trip back to the nineteen twenties and visit Mr. Gerstenzang. Certainly the genius mind that came up with such a useful, disposable device had other great ideas.
A solution struck him, and he ducked his head again. He couldn't reach the acutest of angles with his fingertips, but he most certainly could with his tongue. Slipping into the tight spaces of the third layer of petals, the Doctor worked his tongue in and out, flat against the supple flesh of the flower, concentrating on the textures at the tip of his tongue. He found pulling it from side to side worked better, flattening the tip into an edge and allowing him to reach further.
The Doctor closed his eyes, the rhythmic way he lapped at the surfaces soothing and almost hypnotic, yet somehow exhilarating. In the back of his mind, he noted that his hearts were throbbing as if he'd been running. He pulled and pulled, cleaning away the fine texture of the grime and making one bit smooth before moving on to the next.
The second layer sloughed readily away, and he began work on the third. He was almost to the centre now. The filmy taste no longer bothered him, and he could sense something else, perhaps the flavour of the petals themselves. Its heady scent filled his nostrils, driving him on. He was almost done. He was so close. The Doctor rolled his tiring tongue, wrapping it around the inner petals, stroking it clean, and he found himself mechanically stroking the base of the rose with his thumbs.
The flower pulsed. Startled, the Doctor jerked his head away, staring down at it. The rose was now a deep crimson, but it wasn't moving. He could swear it pulsed! He had felt it against his tongue. Suddenly once again aware of his surroundings, the Doctor swallowed nervously and noted Sariel still had her back to him, doing something at the counter.
What had he been doing? Getting away from himself, for sure! Focusing on slowing the flow of blood to his cheeks, the Doctor gingerly pulled away the last of the petals and looked inside.
Its filaments glittered like crystal, topped with anthers that glistened with aromatic oil. The flower's ovary and style were transparent. He squinted and held it to the light, his fingers splaying the petals open.
Within the ovary and length of the style, the Doctor could make out a single golden hair.
The Doctor glanced away, attempting to connect the thoughts that bounced around his foggy brain.
Something was wrong. He stood, staring at Sariel, and folded his glasses away before pocketing them. She continued to ignore him, busying herself at nothing in particular. "Found those cleaning supplies yet?"
Sariel turned, giving him a questioning look.
"Perhaps a cotton bud?" The Doctor, now annoyed with himself as he began to strongly suspect he'd been played, heard his voice growing harder, more dangerous. "Hell, a wet towel with a bit of solution?"
The woman turned fully, looking him up and down, then at the rose in his hand.
"Where's Rose?" he demanded.
"Perfectly fine, I'm sure," Sariel deadpanned. "More than fine, really."
The Doctor stormed toward the counter, taking care only to place the flower gently on its surface before glaring menacingly at Sariel and moving past and into the back corridor.