A/N Ok, I have no idea where this is going, but here it is. Much thanks to Orion Lyonesse for beta and her and HPattskyn for the title and support, and RR_GR for the prompt. Be gentle with me, this is the biggest thing 9th Doctor I have ever written and it is coming slowly. It started as a drabble, grew to a ficlet and now I am very much afraid it is at least a short story. Please read and review.
Spring is in the air
Something wasn't right, the Doctor could feel it even before they stepped into the main square of the apparently average little planet. Spring Festival, the local they had asked had said when they had inquired. The name of the planet had meant nothing to him but then his memory wasn't what it had been before the war. It was the nature of a time war really. Places he remembered or didn't, some changed, some never existed at all or did in a form so different from the one he did remember as to make no never mind. Of course he would never tell his companions that. The people were humanoid at least, the couple they had seen though their skin was paler and their hair colour ranged farther than was common at least where Rose came from. The Doctor just put a bland look on his face and wondered privately what the TARDIS was playing at. At least no one looked at them as if they were at all unusual so they must have some contact with outsiders. "Spring festival?" he asked.
"Sounds good," Jack said with a shrug, looking to Rose.
"Spring Festival, yeah. Maybe I can find something for Mum's birthday." The Doctor looked heavenward over her head as Rose slipped her hands into theirs and Jack laughed, a full, happy sound. It was good to hear, the Doctor thought, allowing Rose to drag them both down the path indicated. Meant the lad was relaxing and settling in. There was still a sadness in him, probably those missing memories. He'd meant to look into that and he would, he promised himself. Maybe later, now that he was more comfortable with them and them with him.
The Doctor looked round. The people in the square, some at tables, many lounging on large cushions placed in groupings under some kind of canopies or tents, had stopped at the sight of them, but there was no hostility. Something's not right, he told himself. Then it hit him, pheromones, so strong he was surprised even Rose couldn't smell them, taste them, even feel them. But one look told him that while she couldn't consciously sense them exactly, her cheeks were starting to flush and her heart rate had increased.
"Doc?" Jack questioned. There was definitely both caution and awareness in his eyes. But his 51st Century senses were enhanced and he put out his own particular blend of pheromones that could be quite distracting.
"Think maybe we ought to skip this one," the Doctor said. It wasn't affecting him, not much anyway, and he could control it.
"Yeah," Jack said slowly. The people were still looking at the newcomers, at least some of them, though others had gone back to their own pursuits. They still didn't look hostile, not at all, if anything they looked friendly, maybe even a little too friendly in the Doctor's opinion. Spring festivals, when would he learn, usually they were just a excuse to get pissed, eat too much, and shag like mad. But this was different, it felt wrong, artificial. He opened his mouth and breathed in deep, trying to sort what it was.
"Uh, Doc," Jack said uneasily. Several people were heading toward them with bright eyes and flushed cheeks. Rose was looking a little confused; she had tightened her grip on both of them to almost bruising intensity. "I think maybe we should go now." The Doctor shook his head, obviously it was getting to him a bit more than he thought as well.
"Hello," he said to the people in front of him. "Think we've got the wrong party, nice to meet you." He had one of his manic grins. With a firm grip on Rose's hand and the certainty that Jack had the other, he started backing away.
"But you must stay." The voice came from a woman moving toward them quickly. She had flowers strung through her long blue hair and more garlanded round her throat and seemed to be in charge.