Title: Table Manners
Rating: G
Characters: Nine, Jack, Rose
Summary: Dining out can be dangerous. Especially if you're on an alien planet. Prequel to Don't Pass the Salt.
Author's notes: Written for a person at my journal who asked for 'two or so hours before Don't Pass the Salt'.


Rose stood behind her chair at the large, donut shaped table that filled the room. It had a small opening near the top of it to let people seated on the inside get to their chairs. Otherwise it was completely round – probably so that there was no head of it.

Ding. Ding.

A delicate sounding bell rang and everyone in the room promptly took their seats. Rose and Jack were a beat behind, but the Doctor moved with the rest of the guests. No one moved and no one spoke. Rose followed suit.

Dang. Dang.

Another delicate bell rang and the room came alive with the sound of people talking and moving.

"Lady Rose," the man on her right addressed her. She glanced down at the name card in front of his plate. It read 'Lord Sir Danii'. "May I call you Lady Rose?"

"Of course," she said.

"Thank you," he said. "Would you like some lortus?"

He gestured to the large platter of something resembling lavender jelly that was in front of him.

"Yes, thank you," she said. She'd been warned by the Doctor that she should not refuse anything offered to her. Apparently the Stafarians were an extremely polite people.

Lord Sir Danii spooned some jelly onto her plate. Across from her, Jack was getting slices of some sort of meat placed onto his by the young woman next to him. A quick look up and down the table informed her that everyone seemed to be serving something to the person next to them. Lord Sir Danii was shifting restlessly next to her and she got the hint.

"Lord Sir Danii," she said, hoping she was pronouncing his name correctly. "May I call you Lord Sir Danii?"

"Of course," he said.

"Thank you. Would you like some..." the platter in front of her seemed to have green mashed potatoes on it, "of this?"

"Yes, thank you," he said.

She served him some. He thanked her again and turned to the woman on his right to offer her some lortus.

"Lady Rose," the Doctor said. He was grinning at her. "May I call you Lady Rose?"

"Of course you may, Lord Doctor," she said, grinning back.

"Would you care to trade the franj," he gestured to the green mashed potatoes. "For the roast snarltooth?" He had a platter of the meat Jack had been served.

"I would love to, thank you," she said.

They traded platters. For the next ten minutes, dishes were traded, offered, passed around and served until it seemed everyone in the room had everything they needed. Another bell rang and people began to eat.

"This is mad," Rose said to the Doctor, under her breath.

"Yep," The Doctor said, cheerfully.

"I feel like I'm having tea with the Queen," she said.

"Worse than that," the Doctor said. "The Queen is much more forgiving. Well, your queen. Lizzie. Some of the others..."

Rose ventured taking a bite of the franj. It was very sweet, like marshmallows, and had a fluffy, candy floss feel to it. It wasn't bad. The lortus was extremely salty and tasted like old lady perfume smelt. She found if she combined the franj and the lortus, she got something neutral enough to swallow.

Across the table, the young woman sitting next to Jack was growing increasingly pink in the cheeks as he made conversation with her. She kept nodding and looking down at her plate, then realizing that was rude and looking him in the eyes. At which point she would grow pinker.

"What did I say before we left the TARDIS?" the Doctor muttered to Rose.

"I don't think he can help it," Rose said.

The Doctor made a noise in his throat that seemed to be both annoyed and anxious.

"If you're so worried about it, why did you accept the dinner invitation?" Rose asked.

"I had to. Refusing would have been rude," the Doctor said. "We never would have made it off the planet alive."

Rose almost laughed before she realized he was serious. "Isn't killing people for being rude a bit rude?"

The Doctor nodded. "But they won't realize that for another thousand years, when Sargon the Ill-Mannered stages a polite coup."

"How do you stage a polite coup?" Rose wondered.

"I think it goes something like, 'oh, would you mind terribly if I took over the country?" the Doctor said, mimicking the very upper-crust accent all the Stafarians seemed to have.

"And then the king, or whoever, says, 'why of course not, good man, go right ahead,'" Rose said.

"'Here, I'll dust off my throne for you,'" The Doctor picked up.

"'Would you like my crown?'"

"'I'll have the royal guards escort me out.'"

Rose giggled. Everyone within hearing distance froze and the Doctor widened his eyes in warning at her. She broke off her laugh into a fake coughing fit.

"I'm extremely sorry," she said, to those around her. "Please, excuse me. I beg all your pardons."

Everyone was very quick to accept her apology and within a few moments, half the room had forgiven her.

"Do not make me laugh," she hissed to the Doctor, once people had returned to their food.

"I'm extremely sorry," the Doctor said. "Please, excuse me. I beg your pardon."

Rose bit her lower lip hard and kicked him sharply under the table. He grinned smugly at her.

The feast went on, with a bell ringing every once in awhile to indicate a course change. Rose managed to find something edible in every course, enough to be polite about it. Even the Doctor was eating and she rarely saw him do that. By the fifth course, the young woman next to Jack was looking ready to die. He either didn't notice or was enjoying making her blush.

"Sir Captain Jack," Rose said, hoping to give the woman some relief. Jack excused himself and directed his gaze to her, throwing a dashing smile her way. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Are you enjoying your meal?"

"You bet, Lady Rose," Jack said. "Lady Rii and I were just discussing how good the handac is, weren't we?"

The young woman nodded. "Yes, it's lovely. Are you enjoying yourself, Lady Rose? May I call you Lady Rose?"

"Of course," Rose said. "I'm having a wonderful time, aren't you Lord Doctor?"

"Wonderful," The Doctor muttered, giving Jack a warning look that the Captain seemed to ignore.

The woman next to the Doctor made an odd sound. She was eyeing what looked to be a salt shaker but was probably something more exotic and alien than that.

"Would you like the..." Jack began, the first to catch on. "Er,...salt, Lady Kalan? May I call you Lady Kalan?"

"Of course," Lady Kalan said, primly. "And thank you, Sir Captain Jack. May I call you -"

"Absolutely," Jack cut her off. He reached over to push the salt shaker towards her, but the sleeve of his coat snagged on a spoon, sending it flying out of the bowl and into Lady Kalan's lap. She shrieked as though it were a poisonous snake. "Whoops! I beg your pardon, Lady Kalan. Please forgive me."

He winked.

It was a simple, Jack-like gesture that Rose accepted as part of his mannerisms, the same way she expected the Doctor to grin or her mother to touch the arm of the man she was talking with. In this situation, however, Rose knew instantly that this was not an acceptable gesture.

Lady Kalan leapt to her feet, huffing in outrage. All the men in the room were quick to get to their feet as well, except for Jack and the Doctor.

"I am..." Lady Kalan sputtered. "You...That is not polite!"

The room gasped as one. The guards that had been stationed along the walls rushed over from every direction. Two grabbed Jack, gently, and proceeded to politely read him some sort of rights that began with a profuse apology for having to arrest him. He was charged with reaching at the table, playing with his food and making rude gestures to a lady.

"You have got to be kidding me!" Jack said. "Doctor?

The Doctor couldn't help, since he had gotten himself arrested for arguing with Lady Kalan and the guards. He looked panicked, shooting a desperate look over his shoulder as the guards began to haul him and Jack away.

"Wait," he said. "Wait. May I speak with Lady Rose for a moment?"

"Of course," one of the guards doing the hauling said.

He released the Doctor, who hurried over and crouched by Rose's chair.

"When you can get away, go back to the TARDIS," he whispered, urgently. "Don't try anything silly. Finish your meal and be polite. We'll meet you back there when we're released."

"What if you don't get released?" Rose asked.

The Doctor gave her one of his best manic grins. "No prison cell can hold me. Stay safe and I'll see you soon, yeah?" he said.

Rose nodded. The Doctor chucked her under the chin and stood up, thanking the guards for giving him the time. Then both he and Jack were hustled away.

The guests got back to their meal, the buzzing dying down quickly. Rose kept her eyes on her plate and tried not to draw attention to herself. 'Don't try anything silly'. She really wasn't 'a don't try anything silly kind of girl', was she?

With a decisive motion, she pushed her chair back and stood up. All the men in the room followed suit. She rolled her eyes and excused herself from the table.

"Warden Filii," she addressed one of the guards, with a glance to his name tag. "May I call you Warden Filii?"

"Of course," the guard allowed.

"Thank you," Rose said. "Take me to your leader, please."