"'m not eating that," Rose declared. She sat at the small dinette in the TARDIS kitchen, one finger pointing at the objectionable item resting on her plate.
"Now Rose," said the Doctor, "you won't know if you like it until you try it." His tone was the same placating one used by adults everywhere to coax small children into eating their nasty vegetables and enjoying them. "On the planet Queelux, the prion is considered a delicacy and only members of the royal family are allowed to consume it. I'm feeding you like royalty."
Rose grimaced, but picked up her fork nonetheless. Approaching her plate as if it were a rabid skunk, she carefully scrutinized the Doctor's offerings. If she had to describe it, she would say it looked like a woodlouse, only green and ten times the size of anything she had seen scuttling under a rock on Earth. She tentatively poked the prion with her fork. The prongs slid smoothly across its hard shell wedging beneath its belly. Pulling up on the fork flipped the prion over onto its back.
Rose jumped away from the table staring in horror at all the tiny legs wiggling back and forth. "It's a bug! And alive!" She rounded on the Doctor and poked him hard in the chest. "You're trying to make me eat BUGS!"
"It's really not that bad, Rose," he said. "I will admit it does have some bug-like qualities, but really it is quite delicious. The royal family insists they have to be alive in order to get the true experience. In fact, some say that the wiggly feeling as it goes down reminds of them of eating lomans from the planet –"
Rose's arms crossed over her chest as the Doctor started to ramble, but she finally decided she had better cut him off mid-rant if she had any hope of getting some real food. "Fine then, if it's such an honor to eat that thing, you do it."
"Go on then. If it's such a delicacy, let's see you eat it."
The Doctor stared at the wiggly thing on her plate, one hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. "Well," he started, "you see, Rose, the thing about prions is that Time Lords are extremely allergic to them. Rather like a human having an allergy to shellfish. Under normal circumstances I would be more than happy to eat any morsel provided to me by the local populace, but as it currently stands…"
His words trailed off as he got a good look at Rose's face.
"And you're not buying any of this."
"Ah, well…" The Doctor once again scrutinized the prion. It had managed to flip itself over and was exploring the table. "I suppose we could keep it as a pet."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Look you, the only reason we are in this mess is because you forgot to stop on Earth long enough to get groceries. And there is no way I'm eating that thing. So unless you want me to start eating the TARDIS, I suggest you take me somewhere with real food."
The Doctor seemed lost in thought for a moment, but then his eyes cleared and he beamed Rose one of his widest grins.
"Oi, I just want some chips! I'm too hungry to run for my life!" Rose's shout ended with a wail.
"Oh, Rose!" he said, practically skipping from the kitchen into the console room. "I've got something much better than chips in mind!" His hands flew over the controls putting the time rotor and his manic plan in motion.
Flipping the last lever with a little flourish, he turned and looked at Rose. "Oh no, that attire will simply not do. To the wardrobe with you!"
"But where –"
"No arguments. The TARDIS will show you what to wear."
"I suggest you get going. You won't get anything to eat in those clothes."
Giving up, Rose huffed out of the console room and headed straight to the wardrobe. There, in easy reach, were the clothes the TARDIS had picked. Rose pulled them off the rack and then stared in disbelief.
"He can't be serious!"
A low humming from the walls around her seemed to indicate that oh yes, he was entirely serious.
Rose turned, determined to march back into that console room and give the Doctor some well deserved pokes, but stopped when her stomach gave a loud growl.
An answering growl emanated from the walls of the TARDIS.
"Very funny. You could have reminded him we needed groceries you know."
The TARDIS did not deign to answer her this time, and Rose changed in silence.
The TARDIS materialized out of the time vortex with a bump. Rose instinctively gripped the railing as she returned to the console room.
"Oh," the Doctor said softly. "Look at you."
Rose couldn't stop the warm blush from rising to her cheeks. She shifted uncomfortably under his intense gaze. How could he possibly look at her like that when she was dressed like this? Perhaps tent-like garments were a Time Lord turn-on?
The dress provided to her by the TARDIS was very tent-like, indeed. Yards and yards of a drab colored fabric enveloped her from toe to neck. Even her hair was pinned up and encased in some sort of bonnet with ruffles along the edge. The only bits of skin showing were on her hands and face. Rose failed to see how the Doctor could find something this ugly appealing.
"Doctor," Rose began, "want to tell me why I'm dressed like I stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie?" Her question was accompanied by another loud rumble of her stomach.
The rumble snapped the Doctor from his stupor. "Little House on the Prairie? Great show. You are close, Rose!" said the Doctor with a manic grin. "Well, when I say close, I mean within a few centuries. Well, two centuries, so it really isn't a very good guess after all, but kudos for making the effort."
He caught Rose's glare.
"Er, right. Not westward expansion Rose. No, you are dressed like a Puritan. We are in 1621 at Plymouth Rock."
Rose looked at him blankly. "Plymouth Rock? Like the colonies?"
"Oh yes, indeed. And not just the colonies but the very first American Thanksgiving." He glanced at her to be sure she was listening. When he saw he had her entire focus, he puffed up, prepared to deliver an impressive speech.
"The Americans got it wrong, you know," he continued. "Thanksgiving wasn't just a day. No. It was three days of non-stop feasting and brotherhood building! Wild turkey, pork, venison, pumpkins, corn, okra, and let's not forget the pies…. Rose?"
The Doctor blinked. Rose had been standing in front of him a minute ago. Where did she go?
He whirled at the sound of feet hitting the TARDIS grating in rapid succession. Rose had stopped listening after "pork" and rushed for the door.
The Doctor stood still for a moment, pouting. "I didn't get to finish being impressive." He stood still, staring at the now open door for a moment longer. Then his eyes widened and he made his own headlong rush for the door. "Oi, Rose! Wait for me!"
"Doctor?" Rose said as he joined her outside the TARDIS. "This don't look like a party to me."
"No," said the Doctor surveying their surroundings. "No, it really doesn't." He stuck his nose in air and took a large sniff. "Something seems…off."
The TARDIS was parked behind a large tree, its large trunk helping to camouflage the blue box. Rolling hills stretched before them, cradling large tracts of farmland. It was fall, and the trees crowding the hills were a riot of color; oranges, yellows, browns, and even some stragglers still sporting green. The farmland was brown and muddy, showing the signs of a recent harvest. And off to the left from where they stood was a large cave, its mouth dark and foreboding.
Rose found herself fixating on the cave, memories of another creepy and dangerous rock formation flitting through her mind. She was certain that any minute now the Doctor would declare that if ever there was a cave in the universe that screamed "investigate me!", it would be that cave. Any minute now, he would clasp her hand and lead her into a situation that would no doubt require running, empty stomach or no.
She prepared herself when she felt his hand slide into hers, hitching up her skirts with her other hand. If there was running to do, she didn't want to trip, and she was suddenly very glad she had eschewed period footwear and donned her trainers instead.
The Doctor tugged on her hand and Rose moved forward…in the opposite direction of the cave. Confused, she followed his lead clumsily, her trainers slipping on the dead leaves that covered the ground.
"There was a big cave over there."
"Yes, I know. I saw it."
Rose continued walking behind the Doctor as he led them deeper into the foliage. Batting at stray branches that caught in her voluminous garments and trying not to get her feet caught in her hem did not stop her from raising an eyebrow at the back of the Doctor's head.
"Aren't we going to explore it?"
He turned and looked at her. "You want to? I thought you said no running without food?"
"I did! I meant it! It's just…"
"A little odd, you turning down a giant creepy place to explore."
The Doctor looked at her and smiled, his thumb giving a small caress to the base of her palm. "I've got my priorities," he said softly. Rose felt the blood rush to her face and she stared at him in confused wonder.
In the pause that followed, Rose heard the distinct sound of a stomach rumbling. It wasn't hers.
"Right!" said the Doctor turning on his heel and tromping through the foliage at a hurried pace. "Food first, then explore! Time can't expect us to save the world on empty stomachs. Bodies need fuel for all that running!"
The Doctor pulled Rose through the last bit of the foliage and waved his free arm at the ground like he had just done something clever and was waiting for his due praise. Rose finished picking a few leaves off her dress and then looked where he pointed.
"Yes! A road! And a road means civilization can't be that far behind." He beamed at her.
Rose returned the smile, playing along. "It could lead anywhere!"
"It could," said an unfamiliar voice behind her. "But it actually just leads to my house."
The Doctor and Rose whirled around and plastered on their best "first meetings with strangers" smile.
"Hello!" said the Doctor, one hand rummaging in the pockets of his coat. "I'm the Doctor and this is Rose Tyler, and we're here…"
"I suspect I know why you are here," said the man, "though I'm surprised news of our family trouble would have reached as far as England."
He was an older man, his hair graying and unkempt. He leaned heavily upon a cane clutched in his left hand, and his limbs visibly trembled with the effort of remaining upright. His clothes hung loosely upon his frame and his face was gaunt, the eyes dark and sunken clearly indicating a man who had been ill for some time. Clutched in his right hand, though, was a flintlock pistol.
The Doctor eyed the gun warily as he pulled the psychic paper from his pocket and waved it at the man. "Well, you know how news is. When its good, it takes years to travel. When its bad, everyone knows about it within the hour."
The man glanced at the psychic paper and then clumsily tucked the gun into the holster hanging at his hip. "Well, I see you have some expertise in this area. Perhaps you can provide answers where others have not." He extended his hand. "Welcome to Adams, Tennessee Doctor and Mrs. Tyler. I hope you won't regret coming."
"Oh," said Rose, "we're not –" The Doctor stopped her with a firm squeeze on her hand. She looked at him confusion, and then looked down at the psychic paper which the Doctor was waving at her. There it was, clearly written – "Doctor and Mrs. Tyler from the Paranormal Institute in London."
She looked up at the Doctor, but he was studiously looking everywhere but at her. To her knowledge the psychic paper had never before declared them to be married, and her mouth twisted with puzzlement.
"We're not unhappy to be here at all." The Doctor picked up from where Rose had abruptly left off.
"That will change," said the man, "once you realize she won't let you leave."
"Who won't?" asked Rose.
"You'll find out soon enough," was the reply.
The trio continued walking sedately down the road, a farmhouse just coming into view. Rose glanced at the Doctor noting his furrowed brow and intense gaze at the man now taking them to his house.
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor suddenly, "I don't believe I caught your name."
The man looked up in surprise. "No, I suppose I forgot to give it. Forgive me." He turned and faced them as they reached the front stoop of the house. "My name is John Bell."