As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. Brand new September challenges have been issued for your entertainment, education, and inspiration. If you'd rather do August's, instead, please feel free to do so. Thanks to all those who have participated thus far - I've REALLY enjoyed all the results. The new challenges will run through the end of September. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.
This story is my gift to Gamine Madcap who probably didn't mean to end up with this sort of thing written. Nevertheless, well, let's just say I couldn't resist a bad cliche. Also thanks to Olfactory Ventriloquism because she's always right and always brilliantly helpful.
The Scenario and the Solution
Part One: The Scenario
The Doctor stared at the blobby yellow aliens defiantly. Rose had no idea what was going on, as she could only understand his side of the conversation. Whatever language the blobby things - she couldn't even pronounce the name for them - were speaking, it wasn't something that would make sense to her, even translated, apparently. Or, for some other reason, the Doctor had asked the TARDIS not to translate. She didn't know, couldn't guess, but she was nervous, because the only other time since she'd met him that she'd not understood was with that Nestene thing and the Autons and that had been bad.
"No! Absolutely not!" the Doctor proclaimed fiercely. His blue eyes were blazing with powerful fury and he held her hand tighter, almost so tightly it hurt. She returned the strong grip, determined that she would do whatever she had to do to get them out of this predicament. Whatever the hell it was.
The biggest, blobbiest alien said something squishy and weird and the Doctor made a face. "Yes, I admit that," he said. "But no."
Whatever it said next drained his face of color. "Forget it," he responded, coldly.
The aliens came toward them with the electric sticks they'd used to herd them this far, and the Doctor backed away, tucking Rose behind him as he moved.
The blobby alien said something else, a gurgling, squashy, wet sounding command. The Doctor nodded. "Then lock us up," he said. "But it won't change my decision and when we escape, I'm coming after you."
Rose wondered if the aliens had any idea what they'd just summoned down on themselves as she and the Doctor were prodded and guided off toward the customary dungeon accommodations.
"So?" Rose asked him. "What are they? Dictators, terrorists, power mad conspirators, what?"
The Doctor slumped on his bench across the cell from her and glowered at the guard alien. "No, they're scientists," he said, grimly.
"Oh," she said, admittedly surprised. "So they want to dissect us or something?"
"No," he answered. Nothing else. God, sometimes it was easier to get the truth off the Council than to get a word off the Doctor. Rose leaned back against the wall, watching the Time Lord fidget. He was looking for an opportunity to use his screwdriver, she knew that, and he didn't want it taken away before he got round to it.
"What do they want?" she asked, coming up to lean over him, deliberately fitting into his personal space so she could block the guard's view.
He grinned at her and pulled out the screwdriver, then started talking loudly. "Well, you know, the usual threats, of course. Get threatened a lot, me, so I'm used to it." He used the screwdriver while he was talking, scanning around quickly and reading God alone knew what. Whatever it was it made his face fall. He leaned back a bit so she turned and he scanned the bars. "You know, the 'Do what we want, or die,' that sort of thing."
"Yeah, we do get that a lot," she agreed, loudly. "Hardly seems very original."
"Well, yeah, this one's a bit cliche," he agreed. He shook his head and stuffed the screwdriver in his pocket.
She sighed and went to sit back down on her side of the cell. So much for an easy escape.
When they changed guards, there was a bit of confusion. During that, he quietly explained that the bars were made of a kind of metal stone that was impervious to the sonic, due to the acidic nature of the aliens' skin. It also explained why he wouldn't let them touch her. He could take it, a little bit, but she would be horribly burned by even the lightest touch of their hands.
Hours passed. "Gotta tell you, Doctor, you sure do pick the best holidays."
He grunted and stretched out on his bench, looking weary and a bit resigned.
More hours passed and the aliens came back and threatened the Doctor some more. He ignored them for the most part, so she did her best to ignore them as well. However, at one point in the conversation, the alien sounded like it was cajoling rather than threatening and the Doctor's ears turned pink. He barked a fierce, angry retort in some language that wouldn't translate - probably because of rudeness, this time - and the alien went brighter yellow and squished off in high dudgeon. Rose giggled and settled back on her bench, thinking of having a nap.
She was woken from her sleep by another half-sided conversation. The alien had what looked like a medical kit with it this time. The Doctor was looming against the bars, looking a lot like he was going to triplicate the flammability of something with his furious eyes alone. The alien was gesturing at her and the Doctor said nothing but, "Don't even think about it."
The alien stalked off again, and Rose thought it was starting to look a little frustrated. "What do they want?" she asked blearily.
"Never mind," said the Doctor, and came over to sit beside her, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She smiled up at him, then laid her head down in his lap. He stared down at her in bewilderment. "Thanks," she said, and turned a little, trying to get comfortable. Hard muscle made a better pillow than hard bench, but he would keep twitching, pretty much every time she breathed. "Hold still," she complained, putting her hand on his thigh next to her face and trying to soothe him.
He lowered a hand to her waist, as if he was afraid she'd explode on contact. She sighed contentedly and closed her eyes.
She woke a few more times, once to the sensation of his fingers threading comfortingly through her hair, once when he shrugged out of his jacket to drape it over her shoulders and once because the Time Lord she was using as a pillow was snoring rather impressively. All three times she was eased back into sleep by the steady presence of the Doctor, the knowledge that he could solve all of this and get them back to the TARDIS and back to the stars where they belonged.
"Don't talk," the Doctor ordered the alien who had arrived first thing the next morning. "You'll wake her." The alien muttered something at him and burbled off.
Rose smiled. He was so protective of her. She turned over, having momentarily forgotten where she was lying. His hands snagged her before she fell, one catching her arm in a strong grip, the other firmly planted on her bottom. She knew he was going to kill her for that and her eyes flew open.
She breathed an explosive breath of relief at having been caught. He twitched again. Her eyes widened and she forced them to concentrate on his belt buckle and nothing else in front of her face. Might kill her for this, too, she realized. She dared to peek up at him, taking in the lovely view of his jumper clad torso on her way up. His eyes were dark blue and the expression in them stopped her breath.
Before she could give it a name, he shifted his hold on her and eased her into a sitting position. "You all right?" he murmured. His voice sounded strange.
"Yeah," she agreed. "Sorry 'bout that."
"No worries," he pronounced and bounded to his feet. He muttered a small complaint, probably his back was hurting him from the position he slept in, and then reached over and snagged his leather jacket back from her. He held it in front of him and rifled through the pockets until he produced a single banana. "Breakfast, I'm afraid," he said ruefully.
She gaped at him. She was starving, hadn't eaten since breakfast yesterday. Her stomach grumbled a small protest.
The Doctor smiled at her apologetically and handed her the banana. "You have it, I'm fine," he said.
She snorted. She'd seen him eat. Nevertheless, she peeled it and broke it in half. He shrugged and took the half she offered, stuffing it in his mouth in maybe two bites and pacing the cage, looking for all the world like a panther in a zoo.
Since it was all she had to eat, she leaned back against the bars and savored it. Bananas were pretty good, after all, and she was hungry enough that she didn't care that it was a bit sticky on her fingers as she nibbled at it.
She looked up to admire the Doctor pacing again, but he wasn't. He was leaning against the bars opposite her, and his eyes were carefully watching the aliens. His hand was clenched into a fist, the other stuffed into his pocket. He looked like he was about to chuck the sonic screwdriver at the aliens rather than try to use it to escape. His eyes, as well as she could see them, were blazing.
She turned her attention back to her meal and he made a small noise of exasperation. Those aliens had better let them out or he was gonna blow this place up.
She started sucking at her fingers to get the sticky bits of banana off and the Doctor snapped, "Don't do that," at her. She looked up at him, startled. Hadn't even realized he was paying any attention to her.
"It isn't sanitary," he said quickly, and brought over a clean handkerchief from somewhere.
"Is there any water?" she asked, her mouth suddenly dry.
He shook his head, his eyes apologetic as he knelt next to her and handed her the handkerchief. He was close enough, she could just... He stood back up and walked across the room. When he turned away, she sighed.
He was being so nice to her, and she really needed to get over the mad ideas in her head, the ones that often kept her up nights in the TARDIS. Whatever he felt for her, it was completely platonic. She'd realized that a few weeks back, after Downing Street. With the things he'd said, and the way he'd said them, she'd been convinced he would take her back to the TARDIS and shag her rotten, but he didn't. She just needed to give it up and get over it.
She leaned back against the bars and silently wished for water and other impossible things.
The hours crept by. Some time during hour two, the Doctor pulled a Duncan Imperial out of a pocket and began doing tricks with it. She watched him in fascination, guessing after he pulled one particularly impossible variation that there was something funny about that yo yo - or possibly the Time Lord playing with it.
When he got bored with it, he offered it to her, but she waved him off apologetically. She got the string tangled just playing with the things. He rifled through his pockets and produced a Rubik's cube. She grinned at it and set to playing with it, thoroughly scrambling it after only a few minutes. Then, she couldn't get it back to save her soul. The Doctor came and sat beside her, taking it from her hands. A few deft twists and he had it back to solids.
"How'd you do that?" she asked.
"Genius," he replied smugly.
"Then get us out of this cell," she demanded.
"Working on it," he assured her, and pocketed the Rubik's cube.
She stuffed her hand in after it, but it had gone into the God-knows-where space that was the bottom of his pockets. "What else you got in there?" she asked.
"Depends on which pocket," he said. She tugged playfully on the jeans pocket nearest her, and he pulled out the screwdriver again. "That's it." He put up a hand to show it was otherwise empty.
She sighed and, bored out of her mind, laid back down on the bench, wishing for water and maybe some nice, hot chips.
Then the aliens turned back up, with the medical kit again. The Doctor was apparently being offered the medical services this time. He shouted them down, chased them off, and then walked to the back of the cell and proceeded to kick the wall.
Rose scrambled from the bench and went up beside him, putting a soothing hand on his arm. He turned to look at her and she saw something beyond what she had ever seen before. His eyes were wild and full of star-fire, burning, blazing, very nearly out of control. He had never, ever looked quite so alien, not even when he stood there and coldly pronounced judgement on Cassandra and watched her die, not even when he'd tried to blow up that Dalek. Suddenly, she understood something she hadn't really understood before. His feelings weren't unlike human feelings, but they were so much bigger than human feelings. His joy was like sunrise, like the first dawn of the first day, and his rage was like that fire storm across the sky, like the flash frozen seas of ice on Woman Wept.
She shivered and, feeling like she was taking her life in her own hands, leaned in closer to him. She could watch him like that for the rest of her life, just let that raging storm of his emotions burn around her and through her, consuming the rest of her days with an endless dance through the thunder and the lightning that were his eyes and his heart beats and his life. She moved ever closer, unable to resist, drawn in, feeling like she belonged there, in his wonder and his orbit, inside him, within him.
He blinked, briefly, and then the completely alien look was gone from his eyes and he leaned against her. "You shouldn't have had to see that," he said, the closest thing to an apology she had ever heard from him.
"Don't," she said, and he looked completely startled while she shrugged. "What's wrong?" she said, instead of going into her feelings about what he had revealed to her.
"This is completely beneath your dignity," he said. "Never mind mine."
"Oh, yeah, because your Time Lord dignity is so much more important than my stupid ape dignity," she said, half teasing and half insulted.
"Well, yeah. Enormous dignity, most Time Lords. Coulda bruised and banged it up turning corners, some of them."
She smiled. This was the most he'd ever said about his people before. She could keep teasing him, or arguing with him, whichever, but it was risky territory and a subject she knew it was necessary to avoid at all costs. "You never did say what they want," she said, instead.
He still clammed up and fell silent.
The aliens came by two more times and the Doctor and Rose did their best to ignore them. They played a few hands of poker on the floor, but it wasn't the best game to play with two people and no chips. The Doctor rattled on about the origin of playing cards and, when she got bored with that, taught her a very complex solitaire.
Rose sat quietly in between his fits of trying to entertain her. When they got out of here, she was going to drink the TARDIS dry. She was reasonably certain that would take a while, but at the moment she was willing to give it a go. Her lips were dry and feeling chapped, her mouth was dry and feeling parched, and her stomach was rumbling periodically. She was beginning to think that maybe she could eat a whole steak, too, one of those large ones the Doctor liked to go with his chips in restaurants.
Mind, if she didn't get to go to the loo, soon, it wasn't going to matter, because she was going to die of embarrassment and wouldn't be around when there were steaks and chips and water a plenty.
The aliens came by one more time after Rose had pretty much had it. She was sweating and miserable and felt disgusting and hungry and quite a lot like she was starving of thirst. Nevertheless, she was also certain her eyeballs were floating and she hardly dared move from the pressure on her bladder. If she at least knew what was going on, she could endure anything, she was sure, but this was beyond any sort of explanation, and she was fed up.
The Doctor, looking rumpled and furious and every bit as miserable as she felt, still seemed to have it in him to pick yet another fight with them. She listened to the one-sided conversation as he threatened and complained about their conditions and spat words like "Shadow Proclamation" and "sentient experimental subjects". When the aliens decided they'd had enough Time Lord raging, they zapped him a few good times through the bars with their electric sticks and then squashed away, looking menacing this time.
She knelt carefully next to where he had crumpled on the floor, scared to death that they'd hurt him. She didn't have any way to help him, here, and if he was injured, she wouldn't understand what the aliens were saying, and couldn't get them out of this.
He groaned miserably, so she eased his head into her lap and soothed him with a hand stroking his dark, short-cropped hair. He tilted his face into her hand, eyes scrunched closed, looking like he was in an awful lot of pain. "Doctor," she whispered. She wasn't calling him, really, just talking. "It's ok, Doctor. You'll be all right, soon." She shushed him softly when he jerked his head. "My Doctor. We're safe, we'll be fine. Hush now, just relax."
He moaned softly, stopped fidgeting, and finally stilled. "That's nice, Rose," he murmured after a moment.
"Are you awake then?" she asked quietly.
"Obviously not," he said.
She had no idea what to make of that. "Don't worry, Doctor. You'll get better soon and get us out of here, I know you will."
His eyes snapped open, meeting hers with an expression that looked like considerable shock. "Where am I?" he demanded.
"Lying on the floor," she answered.
"Right," he said and, taking in her angle, realized where his head had to be. He bounded again to his feet, took a single, ginger step, only to crumple up again, hissing in pain.
Rose knee walked over next to him. "Don't move," she ordered. "You'll hurt yourself."
"I'll be fine," he grated out through clenched teeth.
"Stop it," she snapped as he tried to get away from her. "Lie down, lie still, let me help you."
"No," he protested.
That did it. She exploded. "What the hell is going on here, Doctor? 'Cuz, I've got to tell you, I've had enough."
He stared at her, blinked, said nothing. His mouth had compressed to a hard line and she was beginning to think he would never speak again. That was pretty unlikely, but it didn't look that way at the moment.
"Fine, you won't tell me, I'll just sit here. If I make a puddle on this floor, you're not allowed to say anything ever about it and if the dehydration gets me before the embarrassment does, you've got to go tell my mum. I'm hungry and I'm filthy and I'd give just about anything for water right now, and I'm not an oh, so impressive Time Lord, so I can't take it. No superior biology or whatever the hell it is you got, all right? So you'd best just tell me what the hell they want so I can give it to them and get us the hell out of here."
He blinked at her in astonishment and watched her right hand, as she brought it up to rub her face, in something that looked very much like horror. Maybe he was wondering if she hit as hard as her mum. Well, if he didn't tell her, he was going to find out.
"I'm waiting," she growled.
He sighed. "Theywanttoseeourreproductivepractices."
"Sorry? Can you do that in English? I don't speak 'scared whinging'."
"Shut it," he grumbled, and took a deep breath. "They want to see how Time Lords procreate."
She stared at him. He glowered back at her. She started to laugh. He gave an angry chuff and jerked himself up, using the bars as hand holds. She tried to climb to her feet, couldn't quite manage it, had to stop laughing before she really did make that puddle on the floor. She leaned on her hands and knees and tried to breathe, tried to stop, but one quick glance at his stormy, furious gaze set her off worse than before.
He leaned over, his beautiful, daft grin now trying its damnedest to fight its way onto his face, and very gently lifted her to her feet, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. She was shaking hard from trying not to laugh, and she leaned in to him, listening to his chest rumble with that chuckle that had finally escaped him. "This is ridiculous," he commented.
"Damn right," she agreed, and breathed deeply, inhaling the scents of leather and him and loving every minute of it. He guided her back to her bench and sat with her, his arm still wrapped comfortingly around her shoulder. She just leaned into him and wondered why he had to make such a production of everything.
"So, it's pretty much shag or die," she said.
"Yup," he agreed after a moment. "Told you it was a cliche: exactly the sort of things you daft apes come up with in your aliens in space shows on tele."
She thought about it, head in her hands, fighting a blush. OK, yeah, so she watched Star Trek, and knew exactly what he was talking about. Stubborn alien with interesting ears.
She started giggling again, just thinking about it. Poor Doctor, trapped with a whole bunch of alien scientists who wanted a demonstration of his reproductive methods. Like it was something they'd never...
She felt like one of those cartoon characters, like a blindingly bright light bulb had just come on over her head.
"What?" the Doctor said.
Rose smirked at him.
"What?" he repeated, sounding a bit nervous now. "C'mon, Rose, I know that look. What're you thinking?"
She leaned in very close to the nearest interesting ear and, in a halting whisper, told him exactly what she was thinking. He gaped at her, his eyes wide and startled and slightly confused. "Really?" he asked.
She nodded, chewing nervously at her bottom lip.
He grinned then, and cupped her face in his hand. "Fantastic!" he announced.
Rose nodded again, and sighed as he pulled away and bounded to his feet. "Just... just gimme a mo," he said. "I think... yeah, fantastic."