Guess what? I still have not received my shares of Doctor Who. I'd complain to the management, but it turns out to be in flux...
The Doctor stared at the console as the TARDIS curled into the Vortex, singing welcome and vague threats at him simultaneously. Actually, it was mostly threats.
'...and if you ever so much as step out of my range again, I will come find you and when I do, I will make you wish to Rassilon's ghost that you'd never left my sight. Never left Gallifrey with me at all, in fact...'
It was amazing, really, how similar her voice sounded to Jackie Tyler's when she was in a mood like this.
He tuned her out, because he honestly could hardly believe he'd done it. He'd jeopardized the entire history of Earth jumping through that mirror like that. Yes, he had to save the time line that Reinette was a part of and yes, he had to save her life, but what if he had been trapped there? He'd have had to move on the very next day, no matter how much Reinette wanted him to stay, because otherwise, France would have been invaded within forty-eight hours. He would have had to keep moving until he either stole a passing space ship or managed to hitchhike a lift from one of his earlier selves. That would have been beyond embarrassing, on top of everything.
And who's to say he could have gotten back in time to Rose? He could have aimed for the right time and the right space ship and missed it by wide enough that he'd've landed in the middle of a star-bound tribe of little, inbred Rose/Mickey descendants who had never seen a planet before, who all behaved exactly like Leela, and whose religion had only one tenet - to murder the Doctor when he showed up.
That would have been so not fun.
Quite aside from the pain of losing Rose to Mickey the Idiot.
Reinette stood at the console next to him, fascinated. Her heavy, expensive perfume was fragrant in the air. He thought he might suggest a bath but wasn't sure how to go about it without offending the new companion. She was from a time period when bathing was something still done infrequently and practically only as a penance. It wasn't that her hygiene was particularly questionable. She was a trained courtesan and one of her rank would always keep particularly clean for the time period. But in the sterile air of the TARDIS, heavy French perfume smelled extremely strong and quite a bit out of place.
"What will my duties be whilst I am here?" asked Reinette, softly, placing a hand on his arm.
He grinned at her, trying to show how excited he was about everything. "You're a guest, Reinette, a traveling companion, a fellow trouble-maker and trend-setter! All you have to do is enjoy yourself. Oh, and I suppose, well, other duties as assigned, right, 'cuz stuff always happens. Right. Rule One - no wandering off. You can here, of course, but not outside, not unless I say so. But I'm sure, as long as you obey Rule One better than, say, our resident pink-and-yellow trouble magnet, I expect you'll be perfectly safe." His grin widened. "Or not. But I try!"
She smiled fondly and cupped his bicep with a graceful hand. Not as dainty as Rose's, but they were slender and lovely. Strange, she didn't seem to want to hold his hand - arm, elbow, and certainly his lips, but not his hand... hum. Have to think about that.
"I meant my duties to the..." She paused as if searching for a word, then beamed as if she'd found it. "...household, my Lord."
He thought about that. "Hum. S'pose we are a sort of... well... I guess a household. Albeit a very dysfunctional one." He sighed. "I don't do domestic, Reinette, don't worry about it."
She sighed, too, now. "I shall go ask Rose," she said quietly.
"Yeah," he agreed, wondering what he was supposed to do about that. "She should be in the kitchen by now. Three doors down, left hand corridor, it's the big room at the end." Hopefully Mickey was there to keep Rose from acting ridiculous.
Rose was sitting at the table, her head bowed over a cup of tea and her eyes closed. She wasn't sleeping though, far from it, and all she was really feeling was a deep seated sort of numb. Followed by more numb, with a bit of numb on the side.
When they'd first arrived back on the TARDIS, Mickey had brought her here, made her a cup of tea while doing something he referred to as an "I told you so" dance, and then left. Apparently, the look she'd shot him at the end of the "I told you so" dance was murderous, in the same way that the single eyestalk stare of a Dalek was murderous. Fatal, lethal, homicidal, deadly, and generally terminal.
She should have known. He'd promised, only last week, that he would never leave her behind. She honestly should have seen this coming.
Still, beyond that promise, she had no hold over him, no commitments had been requested nor offered. He was not her husband, her lover, or even her on-again, off-again boyfriend, as Mickey seemed to think he was. Actually, as Mickey seemed to think they both were, tell the truth.
Rose resisted the urge to bang her head on the table only through an expenditure of effort she would not have believed herself capable of this morning. Of course, she was Rose Tyler. She was bloody unbreakable, and when she set her will to something, it happened eventually.
She remembered the conversation with the TARDIS over whether or not she was going to get into the console that time when he had sent her home.
The smell of the perfume, that all-encompassing, nostril-flaring, held-still-too-long-in-a-department-store reek hit her delicate nose and brought her head up slowly, warily. Reinette was sitting across from her, an inquiring expression on her flower-like face.
Rose smiled, a wholly faked but (she hoped) welcoming smile. "Hi," she said, politely.
"I was afraid you were sleeping and didn't wish to disturb your rest," Reinette said.
Even her voice was pretty, dammit.
"Did you need anything?" Rose offered because, for all that she had been dragged up on the Council Estates by Jackie Tyler, she would be damned to seven hells before the (admittedly beautiful and accomplished) painted doxy in front of her would get to call her rude. "I can help you find a room or show you to the wardrobe so you can change." (Or the bath so you can wash off the bucket of Chanel #5 you swam in this morning, she didn't add.)
"A room would be lovely, yes, thank you."
Rose got up from her chair so Reinette wouldn't see any look of relief or vague triumph that managed to get past her mask and led the older woman out into a corridor. So at least she wasn't planning to set up camp in the Doctor's room. (Not that it would do her much good, since the silly sod only slept when it was either that or fall down. She didn't blame him, of course. If she had nightmares like that every time she closed her eyes, she'd never sleep again.)
They opened several doors along the corridor where Rose's own room was located, but only found a large assortment of variations on the whole "broom cupboard" theme. Rose tried the next corridor, but it was suddenly full of music rooms, junk closets, and the occasional free-standing shower. She shook her head and tapped the wall firmly the first time they'd found that last, but by the third time, she was smiling. Reinette, who had never even seen such a thing before, had no idea what was going on.
"The TARDIS has a bit of a mind of her own," Rose said. "Sorry." She led Reinette into a third corridor, the one where Mickey had eventually found and claimed a space, and the door just past Mickey's opened up on a beautiful but simple suite. There was, Rose noticed, an enormous bathroom off to the side. It was impossible not to notice this, actually, because the door was hanging wide open and clean, soapy water beckoned invitingly.
"She must like you," Rose said gently. "She's set you up a bubble bath and everything."
"It's lovely," Reinette said, taking everything in with wide, incredulous eyes. "Thank you so much. I hardly knew what to expect from a space ship, but this is so very kind."
"I'll try and show you how things work," Rose said, managing, almost against her will, to feel sorry for the woman.
"A moment of your time, first," she said. "I needed to inquire about my duties while I am here."
Oh God, thought Rose. Wrong freakin' century. "You don't have to do anything, honest. Well, except pick up after yourself." She smirked as a bit of fellow feeling occurred to her. Here was another woman. Ok, so the cow wanted to get her hooks into the Doctor, but they could still share jokes, as she had with Sarah Jane. Hopefully. "Oh, and if you can manage a completely vacuous expression while the Doctor's rambling a mile a minute, that would be good. I've been working on mine, but I always seem to mix up 'vacuous' with 'vacant' and he thinks I'm not listening."
The look Reinette gave her in response to this was splendidly bewildered.
"Not bad," Rose said. "He loves to answer questions, and if you don't know what to ask, just looking clueless usually works. Don't just say 'what', though, or he'll look at you like you've... erm... spilled your soup or something."
Reinette's expression cleared then and she smiled. "He prefers to be the wise guide."
Rose snorted. "Wise guy, you mean, but it'll do. But he don't ask anything of us while we're here."
"But you and I both know I must be expected to have some responsibilities?"
Rose eyed her cautiously. "You'd have to ask the Doctor."
Reinette's smile, if Rose was any judge, seemed to be both kind and condescending. A wiser older woman to a young, inexperienced one, a bit too catty for Rose to trust, but utterly honest in all her other body language. "Your manners are admirable, and your discretion does suit a Lady of quality, but Rose, you do not have to be cautious with me. I understand these things. For all that you appear to have been other than a gentle woman in your youth, you have accepted your role with enviable grace."
"Sorry," said Rose, "but I've no idea what you're on about. I'm not in it, at all."
"You will not know this, of course, as you are young, and the men are never privy to such secrets we keep amongst ourselves, but it is not uncommon for us to work these things out between us and leave them none the wiser. When will I be required to attend him... personally?"
Rose really, really didn't want to even think about that. Mostly, it was because she expected you'd be able to see the steam roll out of her ears if she did. "You'd have to ask him," she mumbled, again.
"Now, dear Rose, let us not be coy. It is not uncommon for such needs to arise. You are a well brought up lady, I can see that, though you're not of gentle birth. It means little. Men are known to have needs that a gentle woman could not be expected to tolerate."
"What?" Rose breathed, softly, incredulously.
Reinette appeared to be getting a bit annoyed with her now, but she still plodded on, a patient teacher with a very slow, dull pupil. "I would prefer to make myself available to him when it is more convenient for you. It would put less strain on our relationship and allow you and he to maintain yours with greater equanimity. Please do not think poorly of yourself, dear girl. As a consort of a great man, you will have to come to understand that these things are caused because they are men, and not by any failure on our part as women."
Rose thumbed through that speech idly, her brain gibbering in the corner of her skull, trying to direct her attention to one word. "Sorry?" was all she managed to get out.
"My dear, you will always be his wife. I am merely a token of his great station, something expected of him."
Rose burst out laughing. "His... what?"
Reinette sniffed, mortally offended. "What is the jest, then?"
Right. So where'd she get that idea? Rose thought about it until Reinette's expression grew thoroughly annoyed and, since she couldn't piece it together in her head, she said, "How'd you find out I was his... consort, then?"
"I saw inside his mind. It's so vast, in there, within his thoughts, but so many turn to you, the lonely angel's shining goddess. I didn't recognize you at first when we met because your image in his mind is... different. But when you spoke about the monsters, and you spoke so kindly, I realized who you were."
Oh, so that was why Reinette went on and on about how 'they' loved him and 'they' knew he was worth the monsters. She'd got some weird, half-arsed idea from somewhere inside the Doctor's skull and thought she was seeing a reality.
"Look, Reinette, I don't want to hurt your feelings, or anything, but whatever you saw, it wasn't real. Maybe some random fantasy he had for a minute before he changed or something, but not really me, ok? We're not married, he doesn't love me, and if he did want me, he wouldn't have to have a mistress for whatever it is you think."
As Reinette continued to gape at her, the other woman's expression quite dubious of Rose's sanity, she decided she had no choice but to clear it up once and for all. "Seriously. He's my best friend, honest, and I'd do anything for him, already have, actually, but he's not my lover or nothing. If he was, he could have me bent over the console or swinging from the chandelier in the library, I couldn't care less. So trust me when I tell you that isn't what any of us are here for, s'far as I know. And have a bath."
And she turned and left the room, breathing heavily, hands clenched into fists. The only thing bottling the tears inside her was the titanic, thunderous rage that clenched her throat tight shut. She stormed up the corridor to her bedroom and, to her supreme gratitude, found it waiting for her just past the juncture.
At least the TARDIS still loved her.