Chapter Summary: This tried and true standard recipe can be made all new again by leaving out just one classic ingredient. Blend Time-Lord-in-Leather with Pink-and-Yellow-Companion in the standard plot. Do not add lemon. Use any available exit.
Jack was up to something; of that the Doctor had no doubt. First of all, upon arriving at their destination, the Doctor had found Jack talking, apparently to himself, in the console room. Normally, it might not be such a suspicious thing, but this was Jack and he was a terrible, absolutely awful excuse for a conman, and he was standing there smelling guilty as all hell when he spotted the Doctor.
Jack had been asking, for some unfathomable reason, if it was his turn. For some even less fathomable reason, the TARDIS had been laughing at the boy. All in all, the Doctor, being a genius, knew perfectly well that something was being plotted by someone... well, by Jack, to be specific.
So, the Doctor immediately left where they had been, claiming urgent business elsewhere. When Rose arrived dressed for their original destination, in an attractive, if fluffy, parka, her pretty face blooming from the center of a circle of white, the Doctor almost regretted it. Nevertheless, as much as he hated disappointing Rose, he enjoyed frustrating Jack, so he had to call it this way, this time. Besides, what she changed into was still pretty, but more form-fitting, which the Doctor absolutely did not have any comment about (if only because he didn't want to be caught drooling).
Thus, they had arrived on the planet Erapenta. The Doctor hadn't been aiming for Erapenta, but Jack couldn't have possibly even heard of Erapenta, so it couldn't have been through his machinations. There was absolutely, positively no way whatsoever that Jack could be responsible for anything that happened after that.
The Doctor had to keep reminding himself of that point, because if he didn't, the fact that Jack was definitely up to something would be a perfectly acceptable excuse to pin this whole unholy disaster on him. Jack, however, aside from not being responsible for this, was also not present, in fact was missing.
"I just wanted help finding a bloke," Rose tried to insist.
The Erapentan priest bobbing in front of Rose hummed back in a cheery, light-hearted sort of way. The Doctor shook his head, just waiting for her to try to explain that one.
"Well, yeah, he's a bloke, sure," she allowed, "but I didn't mean that sort of 'find'."
The Doctor couldn't help but think this was a vast improvement over last month's "I mean men". He was actually male in Rose's estimation at last, which fact, despite everything, cheered him enormously. The priest's hum turned into a lecture at Rose on the niceties and proprieties, and how nothing good ever happened to lings who did not stick to them.
Erapenta was inhabited by two species of large, sentient birds, and they called themselves Groundlings - for the taller species that rather resembled giant kiwis - and Airlings - for the species of enormous hummingbirds. They called all beings a word that translated as "lings" for short. This priest was an Airling - they usually were, as the Groundlings had different concerns, and tended to leave the more mental exercises to the Airlings.
Rose sidled up to the Doctor, snapping him out of his thoughts as the Erapentan priest flitted off to do something the Doctor hadn't caught. "I told him I'll need Jack before I can go through with this," Rose said.
The Doctor frowned, feeling decidedly putout. "Why Jack?" he demanded grumpily, even though he knew. Of course she wanted Jack. Just because she'd finally figured out he was male, the Doctor supposed she didn't have to also think he was an interesting male. He was old, and it was one hell of an age gap; Rose had said so herself. Also, he wasn't even remotely pretty and Rose preferred them pretty. Next to Jack's movie star good looks, the Doctor couldn't figure out why he was even asking.
"If a girl's gonna get married without her mum," Rose said, her tone very flippant and amused, "she's at least gotta have her maid of honor!"
She what? The Doctor stared at her. She... did she... was she going to...? "Your what?"
Rose chuckled. "Well, I couldn't very well have said my space slut of honor, could I? Feathers is a priest, and besides, there's no telling what their language would make of it!"
The Doctor was probably never going to stop grinning. "Probably earn you another lecture at the least," he agreed.
Rose rubbed her ears and lowered her voice to a tiny whisper. "Definitely want to avoid that. Is it just me, or is this hummingbird language of theirs one of the most annoying sounds in the whole universe?"
The Doctor allowed himself a shrug. "Just be glad you don't actually understand them," he said.
"Why?" Rose wondered.
"The TARDIS tempers down the sound field. It's actually..." Rose was giving him that tongue-in-teeth grin of hers and the Doctor rolled his eyes. "Well, either that or it's me ears," he admitted with dark humor.
Rose snickered at him. He poked her in the side, just to watch her squeal. He had to distract himself now, absolutely had to do. Otherwise, his brain would go off in directions it had no business going.
Every adult on Erapenta was married. It was imperative to them, how their entire society functioned. The only lings released from the stipulation were ones in religious orders, and not even all of those. They didn't mind off-worlders, the Erapentans, but they absolutely expected, and insisted, that aliens at least make a demonstration of following their rules. The Doctor remembered all of that, now.
However, he hadn't remembered it in time to warn Rose when they'd landed. He hadn't even remembered later, when they'd been lingering on the edge of a wedding in the same sunny field they'd first landed in. They were looking for Jack, who'd disappeared as usual, when Rose happened to mention she wanted an outdoor wedding when she got married.
The priest had pounced, and now Rose and the Doctor were going to be getting married, because that was the done thing on Erapenta. The Doctor supposed he could object, maybe even should, but the truth was, he'd gotten to the point where he could only think of a single circumstance in which he'd object to marrying Rose.
And then, the honeymoon! a gleeful, triumphant, wicked little thought went parading through his skull. All right, it wasn't a little thought. It was a great big thought that came complete with a bottle of champagne, a dozen roses, a chamber orchestra, and understated lighting. It also, on occasion, came with chocolate sauce.
He'd gotten abysmal at ignoring it, the Doctor had, and it had already gone well past the point of being televised in technicolor even on his best (worst) days. Other days, the only thing for it was cold showers.
At the moment, he was opting for risky behavior instead, laughing and tickling Rose while she squirmed in his hold and tried very ineffectually to get away. In his best "railroad track villain" voice, the Doctor proclaimed, "You'll never escape me, Miss Tyler, never!"
Rose squealed and giggled and writhed in his hold and the Doctor bit his lip over a gasp. "My Doctor will save me!" she proclaimed proudly, then burst into peals of laughter as she fell off her high-heeled shoes. She tangled her legs in the Doctor's and brought him down with her, and the Time Lord wondered if it was Christmas somewhere and he'd been deemed to have been very good this year.
"Oh, I say!" exclaimed a supercilious voice from somewhere above them.
The Doctor frowned and pulled his face out of Rose's cleavage. If it was Christmas, he was about to get his lump of coal. "Yes?" he grumbled.
Rose tossed him a lazy wink and hooked her leg around the back of his knee when he went to move. Did she actually have no idea what she did to him? He'd known Rose had some trouble believing she was attractive, but this was a little ridiculous.
"Well, honestly," the humming bird voice proclaimed, and the Doctor realized it was the priest whom Rose had dubbed 'Feathers'. His real name sounded sort of like that, actually, the parts that Rose could pronounce, anyway. "Are you sure you need to wait for this friend of yours? I've sent out a message to all communities asking them to direct him here, but you two look like you'd... well, I don't like to say, but your actions seem a tad... erm... intimate. Why don't I just marry you now, and you can have another ceremony with your friend at your convenience?"
The Doctor looked down at Rose where she was effectively pinned under him. "Wanna make a run for it?" he offered.
Rose gave him a look that made their position make perfect sense, her dark eyes blazing. The Doctor sincerely hoped he wasn't going to have to make a sonic screwdriver joke. "Nah," she said, in a voice that would steam up his cold shower, "let's just go through with it." She licked her lip.
There was no way she didn't know. No one was that innocent, not in the 21st century, possibly not ever. He frowned, wondering if he should do something about this, and if so, what.
"You don't mind, do you, Doctor?"
No, he couldn't possibly mind, since his mind had departed the scene, the result of his brain being rendered bloodless. He was fighting with everything in him to keep from giving himself away, from pouring everything into her. In about two seconds, he was going to lose that fight, snog the hell out of those pouty lips, and clue her in on the secrets of Time Lord anatomy.
"Well, that's settled then," said the priest, and the very next thing the Doctor knew, he and Rose were standing hand-in-hand, saying vows that made no logistical sense to an alien god they'd never before heard of. He rather thought it was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
Being birds, the Erapentans didn't have a kissing tradition as part of their marriage rites. The Doctor had given very deep and serious thought to going with the human tradition anyway, as Rose had been watching him the entire ceremony with this look in her eyes that set his hearts thundering. She was standing on her toes, her eyes dark and challenging, a dare the Doctor didn't even want to refuse.
The Doctor seriously considered giving Feathers a free trip to the Erapentan moon when the alien priest interrupted their holding pattern, and the only thing that saved the ling from learning to fly at half the speed of light, was that he interrupted to suggest they retire. "It is a wedding night tradition," Feathers said, slightly amused and slightly scandalized. "We provide you with the finest accommodation, and all the finest amenities to help set the mood."
Rose's look blazed higher and the Doctor had to stuff a hand in his jeans pocket. Right, that was it, it was time they did something about this constant stasis of their relationship. All the hot longing looks and wild fantasy couldn't be any kind of match for the night her eyes were promising now.
He took Rose's hand and firmly led her off to the mentioned suite. Maybe they should just go with this, too, and indulge a night of carnal bliss, wrapped in each other and sweaty sheets. At this point, the Doctor was at least willing to consider shagging her against a wall if he could only figure out how to relieve them of their clothes. Rose kept shooting him looks that suggested that she didn't actually care about the clothes as long as they could just get on with the shagging.
The honeymoon suite was just ahead. A group of happily chirping Groundlings stood in front of it, a salute to the newly weds to wish them well. The door was opened, the Doctor and Rose were passed through, the door was closed and locked behind them.
"This looks promising," Rose said, and the Doctor couldn't believe he'd never known before that her voice could do all this. She moved over toward the bedding they'd been supplied - an enormous puddle of comfortable looking cloth. However, the second she left the shallow entranceway, Rose froze.
"What is it?" the Doctor asked, and stepped up beside her, concerned and alarmed and almost certain reality had just reasserted itself. He wondered if it was possible to regenerate from disappointment, and then he realized the exact manifestation reality had chosen.
They'd set the mood. So, of course there was special bedding, special lighting, and special music. And, while the bedding could work as fantastic fun for humans, the lighting was already resulting in tearing in the Doctor's eyes. He looked down at Rose and she was sniffling and swiping at her cheeks, a distinctly aggravated expression on her face. He started rifling through his pockets for her sunglasses.
Unfortunately, even if he fixed the lights, there was absolutely nothing he could do about the sound. A soothing, inspiring noise to a flock of high-pitched birds was almost excruciating in human or Time Lord ears. He snagged Rose's arm and tugged her back into the narrow entry where the sound was softer and the lighting not as apparent. "All right?" he asked.
She glared at the door. "Fantastic," she said sarcastically.
The Doctor pulled out the sonic screwdriver to try to adjust things, but they'd apparently deadlocked the controls for reasons the Time Lord was absolutely certain he did not want to know. "So, the light's bad, the music's impossible, the bed's a pile of fabric in the floor, did I miss anything?"
"Running?" Rose suggested grimly.
The Doctor refused to sigh in disappointment, flicked the sonic at the large bay window at the back of the room instead. "Running," he agreed as the window slid open.
Rose's glee as they slid down the drainpipe might have made up for all of this if he'd at least been allowed to go first.
"I can't believe you guys," Jack said, laughing and shaking his head at the same time. He was sitting in the jumpseat with one heavily bandaged leg propped on the console and the Doctor was more surprised than he could possibly explain. The TARDIS usually didn't let people - even injured ones - use her as a foot rest.
Rose finished explaining the rest of the story with so much humorous detail that even the Doctor couldn't help laughing in spite of his defeat. "You're the unbelievable one," she finished. "You go out and sprain your ankle before you're hardly out the door, and we still miss you coming back?"
"I'd been out a bit longer," Jack defended with a sort of sulky humor.
The room got quiet for a moment, before Jack decided to jump in again. "Look, guys, I know it might not have gone so well for your first wedding..."
"Third," Rose cut him off.
"Fourth," the Doctor corrected.
"Fourth?" she asked, blinking a question at him.
"Uffalla," he said.
Rose gave him a dreamy grin. "Oh, right, fourth."
Jack gaped at them for a moment, sputtered, and then finally continued, as if he was marshaling an argument even he wasn't sure how to apply any longer. "Well, even if things didn't go so well for your fourth wedding, that doesn't mean you can't... er... try again?" He rolled his eyes as he realized that sounded ridiculous even to him. "Hell with it," he grumbled. "Just go have the honeymoon anyway!"
"Gotta get you patched up now," Rose said. The Doctor was almost certain he wasn't imagining the deadly threat implied by her tone of voice. It was fascinating to find Rose every bit as suspicious as he was. She normally spoiled their friend outrageously.
"What?" Jack demanded. "No, don't worry about me!"
"You'll be fine, Captain," the Doctor promised in the most sinister tone he could manage. "We'll take good care of you."