A/N: One-shot written as a warm-up for the next literary project. I'd almost forgotten how to piece together sentences. To the two souls who asked me to write something nicer than my usual, I hope this comes close to what you were hoping for.
The scraping, clattering, clanking noises underneath the TARDIS grating halted and a sigh emerged from the depths.
"Can't you get rid of them?"
Rose shook her head, peering down into the hole where the Doctor had ensconced himself to tinker with the mechanics of the machine. Her body spasmed briefly as a suppressed hiccup shook her.
"Have you tried holding your breath?"
She rolled her eyes and pointed at herself. If the gesture didn't get the message across, the redness of her face did. She released her breath and sucked in another, again closing off her throat in an attempt to strangle the hiccups.
"Spanner," the Doctor said into the mass of wires in his left hand, holding out his right expectantly. Rose placed it in his hand and he set to work with it, brow furrowed.
A minute passed, interrupted only by the sound of Rose's torment.
"Have you tried drinking lots of water?"
She let out the breath. "Y— hic." She sighed. "Yeah."
He handed her back the spanner and she set it down on the pile of tools next to the low stool on which she sat.
"It's been ages," she said miserably, wrapping her arms around her abdomen and slumping. Another hiccup rocked her and she grimaced, letting out a growl of frustration.
Still peering into the mess in front of him, the Doctor shrugged. "Time Lords don't get hiccups. Superior diaphragm."
"Well aren't you special," Rose grumbled, the words punctuated by yet another hiccup.
"Yyyep." He popped the p.
She shifted on the stool. Half an hour ago when it had begun she had thought little of it. Now it was tiring and it pained her abdomen and she wanted to be done with it. "If you're so superior, tell me how to get rid of them, then." Legs crossed, foot jiggling, she waited for an answer.
Distracted, the Doctor banged on something in the hole. The sound reverberated around them. "Fancy a scare?"
"A scare. Isn't that what you humans do, you scare each other to relieve diaphragm spasms?"
Rose stared at him. "No. God, no. I mean yes, but—no. Not from you."
"What? Why not from me?" He paused again to look at her.
"Because," Rose said slowly, "anything you—hic—anything you deem 'scary' is bound to be genuinely terrifying."
He lifted his hands in surrender. "Alright, I won't scare you," he said.
The two of them lay reclining in one of the many sitting rooms, the Doctor engrossed in a thick book written in an unintelligible text, Rose flipping through a stack of CDs.
"Singultus," he murmured.
"Hm?" She looked up from a CD cover featuring an orange-skinned woman with flowing white hair.
"Singultus. It's Latin for sobbing. Also for one's breath catching while sobbing. Fancy word for hiccups."
She raised her eyebrows. "Is that what you're reading?"
"About hiccups, you mean?" He raised the book so she could see. "No. Harry Potter, translated into Middle Venusian. The translation errors are brilliant. 'Harry waved his branch and shouted, "Horsemeat!"' I love it, I've got goosebumps, look."
"Horsemeat!" the Doctor declared, pointing an imaginary wand at her. "Singultus begone-icus!"
The only response she could muster was a prolonged, incredulous stare.
"You're not Harry Potter," she said flatly.
"I do my best. I just need a magic branch."
"Read your book."
Half an hour later, Rose found herself seated in the TARDIS kitchen, a heap of various food items piled on the table before her. Sugar, peanut butter, glasses of water, plain bread, ice cubes, hard candies…any home remedy she could think of that had ever been rumored to cure a case of the hiccups. So far no luck with any, but she hadn't yet tried the peanut butter….
Scooping up a glob of peanut butter with a spoon, she regarded it before placing it in her mouth.
"Did you know," the Doctor said, popping his head around the door and startling Rose, "that in certain Earth folklore it's believed that hiccups arise from someone thinking of you?"
Rose glared at him and reached down to pick up the spoon, which had clattered to the floor in her surprise.
"V—" Rose grimaced as another convulsion racked her. "Very helpful."
The Doctor grinned cheekily. "All you have to do is get whoever's thinking about you to stop thinking about you!"
"Get out, then!" Rose shouted, throwing a banana at his head and missing by several inches.
He whipped his head back out of sight and she heard him call cheerfully to her as he disappeared down the corridor, "Not thinking of you!"
Rose turned a corner along the endless corridors in the TARDIS, making her way to her bedroom. A left. Then a left. Then a left. Somehow in the TARDIS, no matter how many left-hand turns you made, you never seemed to end up going in a circle. Something about dimensional this or that, she was certain.
She paused. Something felt strange. Some small noise, a prickling on the back of her neck. She shook it off. Just the TARDIS, making an in-flight change in pressure or taking a reading or adjusting their altitude as they meandered through the Void. The machine had many such noises.
She resumed her path, striding along the passageway. And stopped.
Peering around her, she saw nothing out of the ordinary, but that sound definitely wasn't one of the time machine's usual clicks or hums. Rose held her breath, cursing her hiccups, and turned around.
There was nothing there.
Slightly perturbed, Rose wasn't about to forget the time a small herd of flesh-eating, interstellar space fish had inexplicably made their way into the TARDIS and terrorized the two travelers.
No use turning back to where she had left the Doctor in the console room, though; her bedroom door was just ahead. She stepped forward, arm outstretched, curled her fingers around the doorknob, and-
She screamed, jumping a foot into the air, and spun around.
What she said next would have made a nun blush and a sailor proud, though the only person around to hear it was the Doctor, who stood before her in a horrible mask with a gaping mouth and long, jagged teeth.
"You—hic—idiot," Rose shouted, lashing out at him with open palms and smacking whatever she could reach. He giggled, nimbly hopping this way and that and managing to evade approximately half of her attacks.
"Take—hic—take that bloody—hic—that bloody thing off!"
The Doctor snorted and drew off the mask, revealing eyes glistening with mirth. He drew a hand over his eyes, wiping at the wetness, and nearly collapsed with laughter at the sight of Rose's face. As it was, he had to lean against the wall for support as he shook with silent giggles.
"I—said—don't—scare me!" Rose said, emphasizing her point with slaps to his upper arms and chest. Still unable to speak and incapacitated as he was by his laughter, the Doctor could only raise his arms in an effort to defend himself against her wrath.
"It didn't work!" he managed to choke out, grinning broadly. She ceased her attempts to maim him and settled instead for giving him the foulest look she could manage.
Naturally, this sent him right back into hysterics.
"Nice, cozy planet. No stress. No scares. Nothing to get rid of those hiccups," the Doctor said mildly, smiling at the mountainous view before them.
"Thought you said the oceans here were amazing," Rose said.
"Did I? I meant the mountains." He tugged his earlobe and scanned the countryside.
"You're sure you landed us on the right planet?" she asked. Her shoulders jumped with a silent hiccup.
"'Course I'm sure! Ye of little faith."
"You're sure we're in the right place on the planet, then?"
"Yep. Yep," he responded in a slightly higher voice than usual, continuing to peer around at their surroundings.
A chilly wind blew around them and Rose crossed her arms and stuck her hands in her armpits. The Doctor sniffed and slipped his own hands into his coat pockets.
"Tell you what, let's go head over to that hill there, see if we can get a better view." He nodded towards a minor bump on the landscape and Rose gave him a sideways look.
"Get on top of a hill to see the mountains?"
"They're very nice mountains."
They set off towards the hill, the wind tugging at their hair and chilling their faces. It was a bleak planet; no settlements in sight, no trees, and the cold was making its way into every gap in their clothing. Not, Rose thought, someplace she would choose to return to for a vacation. The mountains were average and undiscernible from Earth mountains but for their light pink hues, and there was no reason to believe that they were about to do or see anything particularly spectacular.
"Not one of your best," Rose said, turning her face toward him.
"Oi, cheeky," he told her.
And then he froze.
Momentarily alarmed, Rose followed suit. "Doctor?" He didn't respond, eyes wide and staring at something she couldn't see in the distance, and she nervously touched his upper arm. "Doctor?"
"Rose," he said quietly through lips that barely moved. "Get back to the TARDIS."
"Get back to the TARDIS. Now!" He threw his hand out and grabbed hers, wrapping his long fingers around it and tugging hard, pulling her off balance as he leapt into motion. She stumbled but he didn't stop for her to regain her footing. His face was wild, his jaw set, and he could give her no time to pause. They were, she knew, in terrible danger, for nothing else could cause him to flee like this.
Still bolting across the plains, hands enjoined, his longer stride uncaringly pulling her forward, he snapped his head back to look behind them and she imitated his action. What she saw terrified her. Three dark forms, animalistic, four-legged, frighteningly huge even from this distance, bounding towards them at a fearful speed.
They weren't going to make it. The TARDIS was too far away, she could see it and it was too far, much too far.
"Faster!" the Doctor cried, and somehow they put on a burst of speed though their legs ached and the cold air in their lungs burned.
The TARDIS was close. It was so close. But the creatures were, too.
Rose didn't dare look behind them again. She couldn't risk slowing them down. She didn't want to know what they looked like, only to escape them and go somewhere far, far away from this planet. A snarl tore from the throats of one of their pursuers and Rose moaned, knowing that if they were caught they would be torn apart. She didn't need to look to imagine the long, sharp fangs and terrible claws. The Doctor panted beside her and the TARDIS was twenty meters and then it was ten meters and then she had thrown herself against the doors and flung them open, tumbling inside and falling to her hands and knees on the grating. The Doctor slammed the doors behind them and slid to the ground with his back against them, both of them breathing hard.
Rose gulped air and looked at him, her chest heaving and her whole body shaking with exhaustion and residual terror. To her absolute bewilderment, he burst into laughter.
He cackled all the harder, shaking his head and squeezing his eyes shut.
"What, what's so funny? Doctor, we almost died. Those things were gonna kill us, they—"
Realization struck her, a cold, angry realization, and she abruptly closed her mouth. "This was a scare," she said, her eyes widening. "This was a scare! You did this as a scare!"
"How are those hiccups?" he asked, wheezing as he tried to control his laughter.
"They're gone, you complete arse!" she snapped. "Congrats!"
"I told you, didn't I, that you humans just have to be scared a bit to get rid of them," he pointed out triumphantly.
"A bit? I thought we were gonna get torn apart by ravenous monsters!"
"We didn't, though. I'll have you note that we did not get torn apart."
"We could've been!"
"Nah, I asked them to do that an hour ago while you were busy doing something in your bedroom. They were harmless. Big softies, actually. Lovely chaps."
Rose rolled her eyes. "So me specifically tellin' you not to scare me meant nothing? God, you are such a bloke." She got to her feet and headed down the corridor. "You can apologize to me tomorrow!" she shouted back to him without turning her head. "An' it better be a really good apology, because that was not funny!"
He watched her leave, feeling foolish and more than a little regretful. "Paris?" he called after her meekly from the floor.
"Paris and chocolates!" came the distant reply. "And you're payin'!"