A Critic and a Sceptic
And here is chapter two! For those who enjoyed chapter one but don't want the femslash, you're in luck. Due to reasons of characterisation/believability, this chapter is also gen. So, read away and you'll find it's only the teeniest bit shippy.
When Kate Stewart arrived on the scene, she saw a group of frantic human scientists outside their research building, and one irritated Time Lady trying to argue with the soldiers who were not allowing her back inside.
"As you are all now most likely aware," The blonde said to them all, raising her voice, "A Slitheen managed to infiltrate us and fit several of our buildings with a chemical weapon. Unfortunately, we have all been partially or briefly exposed and now must hope that the effects aren't potent enough to cause us real harm. No one is permitted to re-enter the buildings for their own safety. Everyone is to return home and avoid contact with anyone. Go home, keep to yourself, shower to try and get the chemicals off, and then stay put for 48 hours. After that, effects will be evaluated and we can proceed from there."
There was muttering amongst the group, but it wasn't as though they could argue with her. As they began to disperse, the Rani came up to Kate.
"And what about me? My home is in there, and you're not allowing me back in," She said, not bothering to hide how annoyed she was by the whole situation.
"Yes, well…" Kate frowned. "I can't have you wandering around. You'll have to come with me."
"To my apartment. I still have to undergo the 48 hour evaluation period, and it wouldn't kill you to do the same, even though your superior biology means that you are likely to be fine. And I don't trust you with anyone else."
Kate's apartment was ten stories up and full of natural light, and spacious yet cosy. Usually, she felt immediately better just for being in it, but not today. Today she had dangerous chemicals and a potentially volatile Time Lady to worry about.
The Rani didn't look impressed by the apartment so much as vaguely interested. It wasn't likely that she had been inside a huge amount of human residences. What were houses like on Gallifrey?
"Well, I'll take the first shower, and then while you're in, I'll come up with something for us to eat," Kate suggested. "I'll be quick, but I need to be thorough too. Just…make yourself at home."As she left for the bathroom, she saw the Rani cast her eyes around the room before sitting at the small dining table. Kate shook her head and hurried into the bathroom. She turned on the shower, undressed and got in. It was tempting to stay there indefinitely, but she couldn't risk leaving the Rani alone for too long. So she grabbed some soap and began scrubbing furiously at her skin, hoping that she got every inch and rid it of any excess chemicals.
She stepped out and wrapped a towel around herself before leaving the bathroom and going to her bedroom to throw on a new blouse and a new pair of slacks. She decided against shoes, and came out into the kitchen area.
Seeing the Rani in her apartment was an odd sight, even though it was expected. In her high heeled boots, tight leggings, long shirt and metallic jacket, she hardly looked domestic. On the contrary, she really did look otherworldly, and the long braid of auburn hair and unconventional but unforgettable facial features only emphasised her difference from the setting around her.
"You can go in now." Kate crossed over to the kitchen cupboards and began looking for something that might be usable for dinner. "There's a spare towel in there which you can use. I'll find some spare clothes of mine that you can wear."
The Rani sounded as though she was grumbling under her breath, but when Kate turned around again, she was leaving the room and pulling the tie off the end of her braid.
The inhabitant of the apartment went back to food, but all she could find was some canned vegetables and some bread that had gone off. Such were the dangers of being a workaholic who barely ate at home. So instead, Kate grabbed the phone and ordered some Chinese instead, asking specifically for one of the containers to be vegetarian only – she recalled the Rani not eating chicken at the café and thought it was safer to guess that she was a vegetarian of some kind.
Her wardrobe wasn't massively full of anything other than trouser suits – none of which she was keen on sharing – but she did find some old jeans and a plain navy shirt that would do well enough. She laid them out on the bed. She then considered something else before deciding that she wasn't going to give the Rani any of her underwear because the concept was too strange. No, she could just keep the clothes when she was done.
She returned to the living area and five minutes later, the Rani emerged, wearing the jeans and shirt. Her hair was loose for the first time that Kate had seen, long and dark and falling down her back in very damp strands.
"What are you going to do with my clothes?" The alien asked. "Those are my favourite boots."
"Unfortunately, if there are detrimental effects are 48 hours, we'll need to burn them," Kate admitted. The Rani didn't look pleased. But due to the absence of the aforementioned boots, she was suddenly shorter than Kate was used to. They were exactly the same height. Trying to not let such a small thing disconcert her, she coughed and went back to what she had been about to say. "I've ordered Chinese food. Are you a vegetarian?"
The Rani blinked and looked at her with surprise. "Yes, most Time Lords are."
"Good," Kate said with a pleased smile, "Because I thought so, and I ordered you a vegetarian dish."
"I take it you noticed that I didn't eat the meat in the café."
The Rani smiled back. "You might just do yet, Stewart."
Kate nodded, glad to have been right. She went to her cupboard and found an old bottle of wine that she couldn't even remember buying. "Want a drink?"
"Sure," Her guest said, looking amused. So Kate took two glasses and poured the red liquid out before handing one of the glasses to her. "This is actually better than I expected. I suppose if there's something I can expect from a primitive culture, it's good alcohol."
Kate surprised herself by laughing. "You think that I would be used to your backhanded compliments by now."
"I'd have thought so as well," The Rani agreed, "Though I suppose it means that if I ever give you a real compliment, you will value it that much more." Her eyes darted to the door that led out onto the balcony. "Could we go outside? I'd be glad of the fresh air."
"If you can call it fresh with the amount of pollution in this city. Though I suppose I've encountered worse."
Kate chose not to comment on that.
They went to stand out on the balcony, leaning against the railing with their wine glasses. The sun was starting to set and the rays of the colour that were decorating the sky over London were stunning.
"I suppose this is one of those picturesque sights that the Doctor would call beautiful," The Rani said, making the woman next to her wonder if she truly didn't find it beautiful, or whether she was trying to find a less direct way of admitting it.
"You don't think it is?"
"If you'd seen a Gallifreyan sunset, you'd understand."
"Why, what did they look like?"
The Rani frowned. "There are two suns, the second of which sets in the north. The sky is burnt orange, so come sunset and sunrise, it is streaked with gold and silver. And if the light hits the trees just right, it looks like they have burst into flames." She looked at Kate, who realised that she was staring and was quick to look back out to her own sunset which seemed a little more mundane than it had before. "I suppose if anything is beautiful, it's that. But I've never put a lot of stock into beauty. The sunset paints a perfect picture, true, but it can't erase the fact that the planet is full of pompous, frigid, metathesiophobic morons."
For a few moments Kate was unsure of how to reply, and her gaze stayed fixed on the other woman, trying to understand. "Why don't you value beauty? The people on this planet might put too much stock into it, sure, but without it, what's the point? Where's the point in being alive if you can't find something beautiful?"
"You find knowledge."
"Why not both? The way I see it, knowledge makes your brain happy, but beauty makes your heart happy."
"Well, I have two hearts, it explains why I'm so difficult to satisfy."
Kate just shook her head and laughed a little. She looked over at the other woman, and realised, with a jolt, that the Rani was actually rather striking. The rays of the setting sun cast shadows on the angles and lines of her face and made her grey eyes almost glow. The red in her hair sparkled in the light and her lips were set in an odd, ironic smile, different because they were bare as opposed to their usual painted crimson.
The unexpected beauty caught Kate off-guard and she felt a strange and foreign weight in her stomach.
Luckily, a knock from inside shook her from her thoughts and shattered the surprising moment.
Quickly, she hurried to the door to take the Chinese food and shove money in the delivey boy's hand before shutting the door in his face. She couldn't risk infecting anyone with the chemicals, after all.
"The food's here," She called out to the Rani, who came inside. They lay out the food and sat at the dining table to eat in a considerable amount of silence. With a small amount of satisfaction, Kate noted that the Rani ate quickly almost looked to enjoy the meal, especially considering that she finished her entire dish.
"So, to clarify," The Rani finally said as she put her empty plate to the side and picked up her wine glass, "You're not permitting either of us to leave this apartment for the next 46 hours and 35 minutes."
Kate frowned. "Yes."
"Did it occur to you that you hold no actual authority over me and that I could simply walk out of that door any time that I pleased?"
It had, but Kate had tried to ignore that line of thinking. She evenly held the Rani's somewhat smug gaze. "I might not hold authority over the Rani, but I do hold authority over Doctor Rani Frey. Leave here against my permission and I would have the right to fire you."
"And my world would be shattered," The Rani said with dripping sarcasm.
Kate sighed, and said, "If you wish to leave, I can't really stop you and we both know it."
The other woman leant back in her chair and took a long, slow sip of wine from her glass. "Yes, but I don't."
"Then why mention it at all?"
The Time Lady smirked. "To be sure that you are always aware of where we stand." There was a brief silence where Kate just stared and the Rani paused. "But 47 hours of direct exposure will speed my investigation along very well, and heavily decrease the amount of time I will need to remain on this planet."
"Nothing is keeping you here, your TARDIS is practically fully repaired, you told me so yesterday," Kate pointed out.
"I don't abandon my investigations, no matter how much I might wish to. Whether or not either of us like it, we will have to endure each other's company a little while yet."
There was only one small flaw in the Rani's words, and Kate pointed it out. "If you have to endure my company, wouldn't that prove your investigation inconclusive?"
"It is not so much your company but the company that tends to form around you. I have no interest in any of the others who tend to linger," The Rani remarked with distaste. That was when her grey eyes scanned the apartment. "So what do you do in this place to keep yourself occupied?"
"I'm not usually here for extended amounts of time," The blonde woman admitted as she moved her leftovers to the fridge and dumped their plates in the sink to be dealt with later. "This will probably be as tiresome for me as it is for you. There's the television, and books. I have some paperwork I need to go over, though, sorry."
The Rani shook her head. "Coming from you, Stewart, I'd be rather disappointed if you didn't bring your work home. Your dedication is one of your admirable qualities."
"I'll do most of it now, and then it's out of the way. My bookshelf is quite extensive if you want to take a look. I have a lot of the classics."
The Time Lady approached the bookshelf and examined its contents. "Do you only have fiction?"
"My non-fiction tends to stay at my office. Sorry if none of it is to your taste, but it's the best I can do," Kate told her with a shrug as she took out her paperwork and laid it on the table. Meanwhile, her guest went back to the bookcase.
"Do you have any recommendations?"
"I didn't realise that someone such as yourself would have difficulty with something as simple as selecting a book." When the Rani glared, Kate found herself finding it rather funny, and couldn't hide her - slightly smug - smile. After a few second's deliberation, she said, "Try Lord of the Flies. It explores the nature of humanity, and weighs it against the effects of the environment."
"It sounds like science," The brunette said, locating the book and turning it over in her hands, "And yet it is a book about schoolchildren getting stranded on a remote island."
"Why don't you just trust me? Of all of the books in the shelf, I think it is one you will enjoy," Kate assured her associate. "Just read it."
"Don't tell me what to do," The other woman said with a frown, but took the book with her to the couch. She perched there in a reasonably sophisticated position and began to read.
Ten minutes later, when Kate glanced over, the Rani looked to be completely absorbed in the text - which it looked like she was already somehow halfway through. After another ten minutes, the book shut and was placed back in the bookcase. Its reader sat on the arm of the couch silently.
Without looking up from her paperwork, Kate addressed her. "Did you finish it?" She almost added already onto the question, but realised that an alien with superior intelligence was quite likely to have done so, and that there was no need to emphasise the distance between their IQs. When the Rani answered in the affirmative but gave no more information, the human woman added, "Did you enjoy it?"
"It was interesting," The biochemist said rather reluctantly. "But it only proves my initial thoughts of you creatures to be correct. Even your children turn to killing."
"It's just a story." Kate finally lifted her eyes to meet the Rani's grey ones. "Our children would not resort to killing."
"It's in your blood, that crude need to lash out," the Rani answered, pushing hair back from her face, "You realise that you are one of the only species that feels the need to kill others. Others kill prey, they have a natural food chain, but the killing of the same species doesn't occur."
"We're not all killers."
"You're all potential killers."
"You can't just generalise us like that!" Kate snapped. The Rani's lip curled and the woman sneered.
"As opposed to what? All your species does is generalise because you're all too busy to bother learning about each other's complexities. Why put the time in to admit that everyone around you is a complex and singular being when instead you can put everyone into neat little categories and then go about your business? You don't even respect each other, how can you expect others like me to do so?"
Kate crossed her arms, trying her very hardest not to yell at the woman opposite her. "Well now you're just contradicting yourself. First you generalise us, then tell me that we shouldn't generalise. You put us all into neat categories and you certainly don't spend time learning about the individual complexities of humans."
"But it's different, because it's your own species. I am an observer, I can make whatever generalisations and categorizations I like." The Rani looked as though she was trying to look tall, but in bare feet, she lacked the height and heels to quite pull it off. But despite her more ordinary look with her half damp hair and borrowed clothes, she still held herself like a queen. Or rather, a lady, which Kate had to remind herself the woman actually was. And not just any sort of lady, but a powerful and genius lady of Time, which was why she was supposed to be trying to appease her.
But she was being horrid and difficult again, and how was she supposed to put up with it?
That was when she realised that her hands had balled into fists where they had fallen to sit in her lap. She slowly released them, only to catch the Rani eyeing them.
"Did I hit a nerve?" The woman asked, smirking, and it did the opposite of help Kate's feelings of irritation and offense.
"If you insult a person's species enough, it tends to happen," The blonde replied icily. "Look, you clearly have no respect for my race, or me as a person and a human. This entire 'investigation' is pointless and ridiculous."
The Rani just lifted an eyebrow.
"If you can't keep your unnecessary and disrespectful comments to yourself, this isn't going to work," Kate continued, her voice louder and stronger, "I don't care if you're a Time Lady, I won't be insulted in my own home. Either learn to deal with the humanity around you and find something positive, or show yourself out." She wasn't sure quite when it had happened, but she had stood, and the Rani had risen from her perch on the arm of the couch, putting them both on their feet, and precisely eye to eye.
"Did it ever occur to you, Kate, that I do respect you?"
Kate felt her chest burn curiously. It had not been the answer she expected. Her mouth open and shut a couple of times before she shook her head and tore her eyes from her guest.
"If that is even remotely close to the truth, you have a funny way of showing it," She murmured.
"You make it sound as though I'm used to having respect for people. It's...shall we say...not exactly my forte," The Rani admitted wryly. "Would you be interested in hearing a little more about my past so that you might come to have a better understanding of...how I am?"
The human woman looked back at her and nodded with slightly widened brown eyes. "Yes, I would." They sat back at the table opposite each other and pushed the paperwork to the side.
The alien sat neatly in her chair, with one leg crossed over the other. Her hands began to braid her drying hair at the same time she began to speak.
"As you know, I was born on Gallifrey and grew up on Gallifrey. I'm the same age as the Doctor, though like him, my travels in time have left me being not entirely sure exactly how old that is. In my youth, I attended the Academy where I spent a century and a half or so learning about the universe. There I went by the name of Ushas. I specialised in biochemistry. At our graduation, there was an incident involving a giant rat of mine that I would rather not speak of. After graduating and choosing the name 'the Rani', I spent most of my time in my lab with my experiments." The Rani finished the braid and used the band around her wrist to tie it off at the end.
"You said that you didn't live on Gallifrey, though. How did you end up leaving?" Kate asked, having been listening very intently.
The Time Lady's expression turned sour. "An experiment went wrong. One of my giant mice ate the Lord President's cat." Kate had to smother a chuckle at that. "I was exiled, but I managed to hijack the computer of the TARDIS they sent me away in, and so I became a renegade like the Doctor and many others before me."
"And you ended up on that planet of yours, Miasimia Goria."
"Yes."That was when the truth of it all hit the Brigadier's daughter rather quickly. "You were there for centuries on your own, weren't you?"
"There were the natives," The Rani muttered.
"But they wouldn't have counted - not to you," Kate pointed out perceptively, "You were alone for all that time. You're barely used to human - well, humanoid - interaction, let alone having professional or friendly relationships."
"I never cared for them on Gallifrey, it made no difference."
"Everyone needs to interact with other people." Kate paused and stared at the woman across from her with a frown. "Even you."
"I am...right now," The dark haired woman pointed out. "Science always made more sense to me."
Kate had to smile curiously at that, and it didn't immediately occur to her that she also didn't spend enough time socially with others outside of her work. "In what way?"
"Science is predictable if you're knowledgeable enough. Even with experiments, you know most of the likely outcomes. People are complex and temperamental, ruled by their current mood and their inherent personality. All different, all difficult."
"I thought humans were supposed to be all the same, and hence predictable?"
The Rani rolled her eyes. "Most are, as are Time Lords. But the few that aren't are difficult."
"But as you said, Rani," Kate recalled, "It simply requires more time to understand every singular person." There was a hint of teasing in her tone, to her own surprise. When exactly had the Rani become easy to tease? It just suddenly seemed so normal to be doing.
The reaction she got - a tiny eye roll - only made it more obvious. The teasing didn't even annoy her - if anything, she seemed to like having someone challenge her. Not that the Rani ever gave off even the slightest indication that she felt challenged, most likely because of her confidence in her own abilities and beliefs would not allow it or did not render it necessary.
They sat in silence for a little while, having exhausted the topic, and eventually the pair of intelligent grey eyes in front of Kate moved to the television.
"You said it would pass time?"
And so they ended up at opposite ends of Kate's - not particularly large - couch. Their discussion began with simple inquiries from the Rani about the different varieties of programmes and movies available on the television. Kate informed her of: soap operas, dramas, science fictions, game shows, news programmes, reality television, movie channels, documentaries, and anything else she could think of. But somehow, of all things...they ended up watching The Bachelor.
"And this is…reality television?" The Rani asked thirty seconds into the show. "This is actually something that 27 women signed up for?"
"Well, yes, but it's almost entirely fake."
"Then why is it called reality television?"
"Because they pretend it's real, and people are moronic enough to believe it." At the same time, they looked at each other, somehow knowing that they had both heard just how much Kate had sounded like the Rani when she had spoken. "...it's true, the people who watch this are moronic," Kate said rather defensively, pointedly not looking at her guest, who smiled crookedly.
"We're watching it," She reminded Kate.
"But we're not invested in it, thinking that it is real."
The Rani lifted an eyebrow. "So we're watching it ironically?"
Kate paused before nodding. "Yes, exactly. It's a chance to mock and laugh at humanity, I'd have thought that you would be pleased."
"I don't believe that I complained."
The two of them shared a look of understanding and a matching small smile, before turning their heads back to the screen.
Now, for real, next time will have teh femslash. :P
Thanks for reading, reviews are very much appreciated!